Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Kir Royale Cocktail

Kir Royale Cocktails with lemon twist garnish

Crème de cassis livens up this festive champagne cocktail

Looking for a drink that screams celebration? Then you should meet the Kir Royale—a gorgeous mix of champagne (or sparkling wine) and crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur).

This classy concoction makes the perfect pre-dinner drink for a big holiday meal. Or serve it as a sipper when you’re getting together for drinks and snacks with the gang.

Even better: Serve it to your sweetie—when it’s just the two of you. What a way to toast the holidays!


Kir Royale Cocktails with lemon twist garnish

Recipe: The Kir Royale Cocktail

You may already be familiar with the Kir—a cocktail that combines white wine and crème de cassis. Substitute champagne or sparkling for the white wine, and you have a Kir Royale. It’s one of the tastiest (and easiest) drinks to make.

There are only two ingredients in this cocktail, so you do want to use good quality. But no reason to break the bank. You can get perfectly decent sparkling wine in the $10 to $20 range—and you can often find quite acceptable Spanish cava for $8 or $9. More on ingredient choices in the Notes.

This cocktail takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves one.

Ingredients
  • 5 ounces of champagne or sparkling wine (see Notes)
  • ½ ounce of crème de cassis (see Notes)
  • twist of lemon peel for garnish (optional)
Procedure
  • You don’t really mix this drink. Instead, you “build” it in the serving glass: Pour the sparkling wine into a champagne flute. Then add the crème de cassis. Garnish with a twist of lemon, and serve.
Kir Royale Cocktails with lemon twist garnish

Notes
  • If you prefer, you can reduce the amount of champagne to 4 ounces. You might want to use a touch less crème de cassis in that case. I’ve seen recipes that call for only ¼ ounce of crème de cassis—not enough IMO, but you may disagree.
  • The best crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) comes from France, especially the Burgundy region. There are many brands of crème de cassis available, but most liquor stores carry only a few (ask which they recommend). You can find decent French crème de cassis at prices ranging about $12 to $25 a bottle (those $12 bottles will be on the small side—probably 500 ml; but that’s enough for quite a few drinks).
  • In the US, you’re also likely to see domestic brands of crème de cassis (in my area, Hiram Walker is popular). Use it if you must—but the French stuff is better.
  • The Kir traditionally is made with white wine from the Burgundy region of France. So the Kir and the Kir Royale are among the most “French” drinks you’ll encounter.
  • The Kir cocktail—and the Kir Royale—are named after Félix Kir, a one-time mayor of Dijon (in Burgundy, where else?), who helped popularize the white-wine version of the drink.
  • Some people like to substitute Chambord liqueur for crème de cassis. Chambord’s primary flavoring is black raspberries, so the taste is a bit different (though the color is very similar). When you use Chambord, the drink is technically a Chambord Kir Royale (or a Chambord and Champagne, as the makers of Chambord like to call it). In any case, it’s quite good. So if you have Chambord on hand, feel free to substitute away.
  • Both crème de cassis and Chambord will keep much longer if stored in the refrigerator after you open them.
  • Under European law, only sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of northeastern France (and is bottled under certain conditions) can be sold as “champagne.” 
  • Champagne gets its characteristic bubbles because it undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle—a technique called “méthode champenoise.” By European law, that wording can now be used only to describe sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region. Other sparkling wines made in the same way must use the nomenclature “méthode traditionnelle” or “fermented in the bottle,” or the equivalent.
  • It’s difficult to find true champagne in the US for under $30 a bottle. But most of the decent sparkling wines made in the US (and all the cavas made in Spain) are fermented in the bottle. Many of these sparklers rival champagne in flavor.
  • For an American sparkling wine that’s inexpensive, I suggest Korbel brut or  Domaine Ste.-Michelle. Both cost in the low to mid-teens. If you can spend a bit more, Mumm’s Napa offers good value.
  • Spanish cavas can be even less expensive, often selling in the $8 to $9 range. Cordorniu and Freixenet are two brands that can be found in most grocery stores.
  • My favorite un-champagne in this price range is Saint-Hilaire (the full name is Saint-Hilaire, Blanquette de Limoux), which is made in a Benedictine Abbey in southwestern France. This wine actually predates champagne and is in fact France’s oldest sparkling wine. Thomas Jefferson loved it, and served it to guests when he was president. It typically costs $13 or $14 in the US (though friends tell us it can be had for $10 at Costco).
  • Lots of options here. My advice? Since you’ll probably be dropping by your liquor store anyway to buy the crème de cassis, ask the sales people what “champagne” they recommend for a Kir Royale (in the price range you prefer). They’ll usually have several good suggestions.
Kir Royale Cocktails with lemon twist garnish

Sparkling Celebration

“Gorgeous drink,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “And I never turn down champagne!”

“Which is why we always have a bottle of bubbly in the refrigerator,” I said. “Usually two. That way, you never have to practice restraint.”

“Interesting observation,” said Mrs K R. “Especially from a guy whose motto is ‘No cookie left behind.’”

“Touché,” I admitted. “Anyway, this cocktail really is beautiful—the color is so vibrant.”

“And it’s perfect for celebrating a special event,” she said.

“Like today?” I asked.

“Well, now that you mention it.”

Happy Birthday, Mrs K R.

You may also enjoy reading about:
French 75 Cocktail
Seelbach Cocktail
Classic Champagne Cocktail
Bellini Cocktail
Mimosa Cocktail
Cocktail Basics
Or check out the index for more

100 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Hi Lizzy, cheers to you! Mrs K R thanks you for those birthday wishes, and thanks for taking time to comment.

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  2. Definitely it does screams celebration. I am in the mood to party already. Btw, I really cannot master the art of twisting a lemon peel like that. I'm still working on it haha...
    Happy Birthday to Mrs. KR. <3

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    1. Hi Malou, tightly twist the lemon peel around a chopstick or something like that, and hold it for a couple of seconds. At least that's how I do it. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Yum! It definitely looks like a great celebration drink! Cheers! :)

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    1. Hi Lilly Sue, cheers to you! Thanks for the comment.

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  4. This looks so pretty and so very festive. I love this drink - it really gets you into the party mood. I've had some Champagne cocktails where the sugar cube is put at the bottom of the glass but I don't like them as much as this - too sweet! xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, the sugar cube one is the Classic Champagne Cocktail. Good drink, but this is probably a better one. Thanks for the comment.

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  5. Oh my gosh, I must have served a million of these during my bartending days in the 80s. They are delicious and have celebration written all over them. I think these are a must for Christmas Eve. Thanks for the inspiration.

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    1. Hi Karen, these are perfect for Christmas Eve! Enjoy. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  6. Hi John,

    I think you have captured the wonderful moments of these fizzy cocktails very well. The little bubbles look very pretty!

    Zoe

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    1. Hi Zoe, isn't this a pretty drink? Who can resist those bubbles! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Hi John , First and foremost , a very happy birthday to Mrs. K R , the cocktail is almost to pretty to drink ... :D kidding , gimme one . they are lovely and thanks for sharing :)

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    1. Hi Nee, Mrs K R appreciates those sentiments! And these are fun to look at, but much better to drink! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  8. Oh, how nice. Happy, happy birthday, Mrs. KR! Mine is approaching much too quickly. Had to go to the drivers license office today! Luckily, I can still pass the vision test! I love your choice of libations! Creme de cassis and chambord are both in my cabinet. Have a great evening!

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    1. Hi Abbe, gosh, so nice of you to wish Mrs K R a happy birthday! You definitely need to try this drink both with crème de cassis and Chambord. I think the former is better, but would be delighted to have it with the latter! Thanks for the comment.

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  9. Not a cocktail gal and never have been, BUT love Kir on special occasions and have never regarded it as such :) ! Actually agree with the French 'requirement' of nomenclature, but Down Under has some very well made 'champagnes' - at the same time I do buy the 'real' creme de cassis! For me it is 'ladies' and 'lunch' and the beginning of a decadent afternoon :D !!

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    1. Hi Eha, I think the French are absolutely right with their insistence on nomenclature; but it just causes a problem for the rest of us who want to call anything with bubbles "champagne: - simply because we avoid linguistic gymnastics that way. I have no solution, and I do often misuse the word "champagne" simply in order to be clear (not the best excuse, I grant you). Anyway, isn't this a wonderful drink? Hope you have the opportunity of a decadent afternoon sometime in the near future! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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    2. Don't worry! I very much 'misuse' or 'abuse' or whatever also . . . but on a somewhat fun occasion methinks this is just great . . . as long as everything is of the 'dry' variety matters can just go upwards!! Oh, DO have yourself a very merry little Christmas, won't you !!!!!!!

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    3. Hi Eha, I'll definitely have a very merry Christmas! And I hope you do the same. Thanks.

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  10. Happy birthday to Mrs. K R!

    BTW Your cocktail and drink photos rock!

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    1. Hi Raymund, Mrs K R thanks you for those kind thoughts! And I thank you for those kind words, and for taking time to comment.

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  11. A very happy birthday to Mrs KR!!! And an absolutely gorgeous celebratory drink! Love the photos. Hope Mrs KR had a lovely day.

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    1. Hi Nazneen, Mrs KR thanks you! As do I for your comments. Isn't this nice? A really great drink.

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  12. What a beautiful drink. Very fit for a celebration :) Anything with champagne makes me smile. And happy birthday to Mrs. KR!

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    1. Hi Monet, isn't champagne great? And this cocktail is truly lovely. Thanks for the B Day greetings for Mrs KR, and, of course, for taking time to comment.

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  13. Now, that is a celebratory cocktail. I feel like I should be wearing a glamorous gown, just looking at it! ;)

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    1. Hi Carolyn, gosh, I always thought you wore glamorous gowns on your visits to all of those great San Francisco restaurants! :D This is great when you're wearing jeans, too - ask me how i know! Thanks for the comment.

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  14. This is super festive John! A few years back, my husband and I went out for NYE dinner and this drink was their aperitif cocktail. I always think of Kir Royale as a holiday cocktail. Thanks for sharing this one. Have a great rest of the week my friend!

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    1. Hi Anne, I always think of this as a holiday drink too - mainly because I so love its color! Thanks for the comment, and I hope you have a great week too!

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  15. I've never heard of the kir cocktail....I guess I have been missing out!!

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    1. Hi Ashley, you have been missing out! But easy enough to remedy that. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  16. yes....this drink loudly screams celebration and merry times....we have never seen a more beautiful cocktail...outstanding and super good,thanks so much for sharing :-)

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    1. Hi Kumar, isn't this nice? Such a festive drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  17. A Belated Happy Birthday to Mrs KR...Have A Wonderful Time To You Both :)

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    1. Hi Kumar, Mrs K R thanks you for those birthday greetings!

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  18. Oh no, I missed Mrs. K.R.'s birthday! Please wish her a Happy Birthday for me, John:)

    I'm sure this gorgeous looking drink was the perfect way to celebrate. Heck, it isn't even my birthday and I wouldn't mind sipping it for breakfast! My liquor store list keeps getting longer and longer and I'm not even having company!

    Thank you so much for sharing, John...

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    1. Hi Louise, Mrs K R thanks you for that greeting! We have a ridiculous number of liquor bottles (different varieties, and some different brands of the same variety) and we don't even drink that much! But we keep making all sorts of new cocktails, so we gotta buy the ingredients. After all, we owe it to our readers. :D Thanks for the comment.

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  19. Lovely! So festive and fun. Will give it a try.

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    1. Hi Asmita, isn't this nice? I love the way it looks! Thanks for the comment.

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  20. Oh, this is totally my kind of cocktail! Sparkling with a hint of sweetness. I'll be toasting with this next Christmas, for sure!

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    1. Hi Georgia, this one is worth waiting for! Really a nice drink. Thanks for the comment.

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  21. I love both cassis and champagne! I have so much trouble finding high quality cassis though . . . such a bummer, because it's so good!

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    1. Hi Laura, you might ask at one of the better liquor stores if they can order some for you - they're often very accommodating. Thanks for the comment.

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  22. Love this! One of my favorite celebration cocktails. beautiful photos :)

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    1. Hi Alyssa, isn't this so nice? I love the flavor! Thanks for the kind words, and for taking time to comment.

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  23. Replies
    1. Hi Caroline, it's a really nice drink. Tastes good and looks great - so festive! Thanks for the comment.

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  24. Lovely holiday and celebration drink! Love the beautiful color!

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    1. Hi Pamela, isn't the color of this fantastic? And the flavor is great, too! Thanks for the comment.

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  25. What was that recipe that Ina made that had a nice good helping of crème de cassis? Oh I'm drawing a blank. But it was something decadent just like this drink.

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    1. Hi Dawn, I should search for that - she usually does good stuff. And speaking of good stuff, this drink definitely is! Thanks for the comment.

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  26. Replies
    1. Hi Debra, isn't this nice? It really is a great looking drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  27. This is one of the most beautiful cocktails I have ever seen. Great job on taking those clear shots. The Kir Royale sounds truely amazing and I'll have to add it to my list. Happy birthday to Mrs. K R!!

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    1. Hi Yi, I agree this is a gorgeous cocktail. And it drinks better than it looks! Thanks for those birthday greetings for Mrs K R, and for taking time to comment.

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  28. Love it! But I fear it might be a little too tasty to drink and that I'd have a tendency to over indulge!

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    1. Hi Amanda, this is indeed tasty. I'll but you off at two. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  29. Happy birthday to Mrs.K.R.!
    The Kir Royal is the shining star of all sparkling drinks. Al most too beautiful to drink and soo good:)
    The presentation is outstanding with a perfect light for a perfect pic.

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    1. Hi Daniela, isn't this a wonderful drink! Thanks for the birthday greetings to Mrs KR, the kind words, and of course the comment.

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  30. I don't drink but your cocktail is beckoning me ;-) Love the first pic.

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    1. Hi easyfoodsmith, this is one cocktail where it's as much fun looking at it as it is drinking it! Thanks for the comment.

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  31. Aww, I missed the birthday! Happy Birthday Mrs. KR and I hope you have another one of these on Christmas eve. How festive it looks.

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    1. Hi Maureen, trust me, there will be more of these served. ;-) Mrs K R thanks you for the birthday greeting, and I thank you for taking time to comment.

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  32. A fabulous cocktail! That's the only way I can drink champagne...

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Hi Rosa, isn't this nice? And I'm totally in love with its color! Thanks for the comment.

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  33. A Kir Royale is one gorgeous cocktail but your photos make it even more appealing. It truly is a celebratory cocktail and a birthday is the perfect setting. It's another post to be pinned, John, and a very Happy Birthday to Mrs KR!

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    1. Hi John, isn't this a great drink? Perfect for a celebration! Thanks for those birthday greetings for Mrs K R, and for taking time to comment.

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  34. This drink completely says holidays with that beautiful color. The girls in the family love champagne. This is a must make. Have a wonderful Christmas holiday. I'm looking forward to seeing what you're serving for the New Year!

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    1. Hi Kristi, isn't this a nice drink? The color alone is outstanding, but the flavor is there too. I hope you have a terrific Christmas holiday, too. And I do have some good stuff planned for next year! Thanks for the comment.

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  35. Gorgeous, John! I love especially the pic with black background. Merry Christmas!

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    1. Hi Denise, isn't this a pretty drink? And so tasty, too! Merry Christmas to you, and thanks for taking time to comment.

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  36. Yes! You totally get me! Ok, don't laugh, but I love serving red and green drinks at our holiday parties. Thank you so much for this idea!! Definitely must try. :)

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    1. Hi Tina, happy to help you out with the holiday drinks! You really do need to try this - it's totally delish. Thanks for the comment,

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  37. I love the red for Christmas - it is so festive and it sure is a classy-looking drink.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, isn't this such a pretty drink? It really is festive. Thanks for the comment.

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  38. YUM!!!
    Is 11.00am too early for a cocktail :)
    I have been road testing a few for Christmas but this looks so festive!!!

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    Replies
    1. It's just past 6 PM here, so no, it's not too early. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  39. Gorgeous! This is the way to toast in the New Year!

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    1. Hi Liz, isn't this nice? Totally love this drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  40. You are the drink KING! These look perfect, I would love these come New Years!

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    1. Hi Cathleen, this is perfect for New Year's! Thanks for those kind words, and for taking time to comment.

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  41. BEAUTIFUL cocktail! Oh man, this would be perfect for a holiday party… happy to read another drinks-central post of yours, John!

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    1. Hi Irina, this is perfect for a holiday party! Or just a nice weekend drink. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  42. Back from vacation I can see that I've missed a lot of your cookies and cocktail series. I can see serving your lemon-almond glazed cookies with this gorgeous cocktail! Believe it our not, New Mexico makes an award winning sparkling wine. If you ever see a Gruet sparkling wine, give it a try. It's really good! I still haven't had a chance to try crème de cassis, but the holidays aren't over yet. :) Great post John!

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    1. Hi MJ, welcome back! Hope you had a great vacation. We actually had some Gruet the other night - quite enjoyable. Do try it with crème de cassis - it makes a nice Kir Royale (ask me how I know!). Thanks for the comment.

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  43. This sounds great. It most certainly looks like a drink that you would have for a celebration.

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    1. Hi Dawn, isn't this nice? And you're so right that it's a great celebratory drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  44. I love the fact that this drink requires no cocktail shaker or anything else prior to enjoying it. Stunning, gorgeous photos and a delicious flavour combination. Happy birthday Mrs KR indeed!!

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    1. Hi Laura, isn't this a pretty drink? And so easy to make! Mrs K R thanks you for the B-Day greeting, and I thank you for the comment!

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  45. Very happy birthday Mrs. K R! Very festive and love the color and small bubbles - so gorgeous looking! Hope you had a nice birthday celebration. :)

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    1. Hi Nami, Mrs K R thanks you! Isn't this a nice drink? We had a great celebration! Thanks for the comment.

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  46. Christmas eve was so darn hot here (98º), it was hard to get into the spirit. But then I found a bottle of artisanal cassis liqueur, and kir royale was my drink for the night! Beautiful pics! Have a great beginning of 2014!

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    1. Hi Paula, we used to live in Florida, where it was always warm for Christmas (although not quite that hot!). So I know what you mean. Still, you can't go wrong with this drink. Have a great New Year!

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  47. Love this one, John! Kir Royales are such pretty, festive cocktails. I keep bubbly in the fridge, too, so we may have to have some post-holiday celebrations. I hope Mrs K R enjoyed a wonderful birthday! Cheers and happy 2014!

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    1. Hi Hannah, Mrs K R had a wonderful birthday! Had plenty of bubbly. ;-) I hope your new year is wonderful, and thanks for the comment.

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  48. I'm French and prefer by far to have kir royal as an apéritif for lunch, esp. when I go to a restaurant for lunch.

    For festive events, birthdays, Christmas, New year's eve, I much prefer to have simple good champagne for apéritif and after the meal (with good wine during the meal itself) ; not having the money for Dom Perignon, I have a personal favorite : Vranken.

    Regarding the use of other sparkling wines, I simply hate your substitute of choice, blanquette de Limoux, known all over France as a very low-quality and low-budget sparkling white, on the same level as the infamous clairette de Die, but still a notch or two higher than the hideous, disguting Kriter, the most horrible sparkling wine imaginable in my country ; try it once for fun, nothing can be more awful.

    If you want a good substitute to Champagne, try "crémant' ; these are exact replicas of champagne, only there are grown in surrounding regions and don't have the right to be called champagne ; there are two crémants, Alsace crémant and Bourgogne crémant, and both can be delicious, depending on the seriousness of the producer ; I tend to prefer Alsace crémants personally.

    Anyway to create a Kir "Royal" out of blanquette de Limoux, or some other piss-poor sparkling white wine, is murder.

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    1. Hi ericmarseille, sorry you don't like Saint-Hilaire (or is it just sparkling wine from Limoux in general?). I do, so obviously our tastes differ. And seriously, making a Kir Royale out of Dom Perignon? Delish, I'm sure, but a waste of great champagne. Anyway, really informative comment -- thanks so much.

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