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!
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.
- 5 ounces of champagne or sparkling wine (see Notes)
- ½ ounce of crème de cassis (see Notes)
- twist of lemon peel for garnish (optional)
- 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.
- 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.
“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.
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