Kir with a Kick Recipe

classic kirUn Kir, Sil Vous Plaît!
Not sure how to kick off a dinner gathering? You can't go wrong with a kir(rhymes with "beer" but is much more enchanting to drink). I've enjoyed it often in homes of families I've dined with, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a café or restaurant in France that does not serve this unofficial French national apértif. The drink was named after Félix Kir, a priest and hero of the French Resistance, who became mayor of Dijon after World War II and was said to have served the popular Burgundian drink at official gatherings.

To make a classic kir, pour a teaspoon or two of créme de cassis (black currant liqueur) into a small, stemmed glass, then fill the glass with chilled white wine. Rarely served in a copius portion (about 4 ounces of wine will do), the drink offers a gleeful little lift that chases away any lingering funk your guests might have brought with them from their day.

The wine traditionally used to make a kir is Burgundy's Aligoté, a white that's much less distinguished than the more famous white Burgundies made from Chardonnay. In fact, some sources say that the kir may have been invented as a way to put this otherwise unimpressive wine to its best possible use. Hence, there's no reason to seek out Aligoté to make a kir. A good, lightly citrusy dry white, such as a California Sauvignon Blanc, works nicely. If you can't find an imported créme de cassis (most domestic versions are, I'm afraid, lackluster), use a raspberry liqueur, such as Chambord.

But experiment. There are creative spins on the kir all over France (I'm dreaming now of a rosé wine-based kir, spiked with a liqueur made from a local berry, that I once savored in the village of Thueyts in the Ardéche). And of course, if you're feeling really splashy, clink glasses with a kir royale - a kir made with Champagne or sparkling wine instead of white wine.

Cognac adds virility to the classic kir royale, which is made with Champagne and black currant liqueur. It's a dashing way to kick off the evening.

For each cocktail:
3/4 ounce Cognac
1/4 ounce créme de cassis or Chambord
Chilled Champagne or sparkling wine
1 raspberry (optional)

  1. Pour the Cognac and the créme de cassis into a flute; fill the flute with Champagne. Garnish with a raspberry, if you like.
Recipe courtesy of The Bonne Femme Cookbook by Wini Moranville

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