What Is Kir?

Vicky Denig By Vicki Denig, Editor 22.09.2022
What Is Kir?
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Creme de Cassis

Crème de cassis

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If you’ve traveled to France over the last century, you’ve most likely seen the words Kir or Kir Royal splashed across apéro chalkboards nationwide. So what exactly are these mysterious little apéritifs? Crafted from white wine and fruit-flavored liqueur, these simple-yet-satisfying cocktails play a serious role in French culture and history. Intrigued? We’ve got all the answers for you here.  

What Is Kir? 

Kir is a common French cocktail made with white wine and blackcurrant liqueur (crème de cassis).  

Where Does Kir Come From? 

Kir finds its roots in France’s Burgundy region. 

How Do You Make It? 

Most Kir cocktails are made with approximately a 9:1 ratio of white wine and crème de cassis, that’s to say, 3 oz of white wine for every ⅓ oz of blackcurrant liqueur. However, not all white wine is created equal here. Kir cocktails call for Aligoté, a specific (and locally-produced) white wine from Burgundy. 
If you can’t find any Aligoté, we recommend seeking out a crisp, high-acid white from Burgundy (think Chablis). For a sweeter rendition of the cocktail, simply add a bit more liqueur, but do so slowly and with caution.  

How Do You Serve Kir? 

Simply add the creme de cassis to the bottom of a Champagne flute (or white wine glass) and top off with white wine. Yes, it’s really that easy! 

What Is the History / Cultural Significance Behind Kir? 

The Kir cocktail, formerly called the blanc-cassis, was named after Félix Kir, the former mayor of Dijon. The drink became quite popular during World war II, as it was often served to international guests at meetings and gatherings. Not only was Mayor Kir being hospitable in offering visitors a beverage – he was also promoting two local products while doing so!  
Kir also became popular during and after the war, as most of Burgundy’s red wine was confiscated by the Germans. It’s been said that Kir was formerly made with red wine, though with a surplus of regional white juice on hand, the locals adapted and created this delicious, flavor-packed cocktail.  

What Are Some Famous Variations of the Classic Kir Cocktail? 

The most popular variation of the Kir is the Kir Royal, which subs out still white wine for Champagne. Although originally made with blackcurrant liqueur, Kirs are now commonly enjoyed with a variety of flavored syrups, including raspberry (Chambord) or peach.  
Another popular variation is the Kir Breton, which replaces the recipe’s white wine with cider. Add a splash of Calvados and you’ve got yourself a Cidre Royal! 

When and How Is Kir Best Enjoyed? 

Kirs are usually enjoyed as an apéritif prior to a big meal. Common snack pairings include quiches, gougeres, and other local Burgundian specialities. 

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