Last Updated on 1st May 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
Originating in Burgundy, or Bourgogne as it is so-called in French, Kir is a French cocktail that’s said to have roots dating back to the mid-19th-century, and perhaps even earlier. Nowadays, there are predominantly two popular versions of the beverage; one with a base of Crème de Cassis topped with white wine (Kir), and the other with the blackcurrant liqueur topped by champagne (Kir Royale).
Burgundy itself is located to the East of France and is characterised by its stunning architecture, myriad of beautiful towns, and endless vineyards producing world-famous wine. Highlights of the historic French region, which was for centuries governed as an independent state in its own right by the Dukes of Burgundy, include the mustard city of Dijon, the churches of Auxerre, and the pastel hues of Mâcon. All in all, once you’ve explored the glittering lights of Paris and the azure tones of the French Riviera, Burgundy should be next on your bucket list!
A History of Kir and Kir Royale
With the exception of Bordeaux to the West. Burgundy is the French region which is most synonymous with wine production. After all, it’s from a little vineyard close to Nuits Saint Georges in the heart of the Route des Grands Crus where the most expensive wine in the world is produced. It’s also on the fringes of that very same time, where one of the most famous Crème de Cassis factories, Le Cassissium, is to be found.
And so it should clearly come as no surprise that one of the most famous French wine-based cocktails, Kir, too, originates here. Typically consumed as an aperitif with a snack or meal, this beverage first rose to popularity following the mass production of Crème de Cassis during mid-1800s. At this time, Kir was known as Blanc Cassis (no guesses for wondering why!).
The popular drink is now named for Canon and French Catholic Priest, Félix Kir. And there are several theories or stories as to why that was. You see, Félix Kir was the Mayor of Dijon from 1945 – 1968 (until his death at the age of 92) and was greatly revered as a hero member of the French Resistance.
One theory suggests that one year, when the wine quality was not quite as good as in previous years, Kir added Crème de Cassis to make the dry white wine more palatable! Though a wonderful tale, what is perhaps more likely is that this drink was popularised during delegations.
The Dijon Mayor was one of the main proponents for the twinning system. And if you’re not familiar with the term, then you’ll likely know what this is: sister/ twin cities are cross border towns and cities that form legal, cultural, and social agreements- you know, the twinned names you see of town plaques across Europe.
At receptions, when entertaining guests, Félix Kir would showcase the region’s drink, thus propelling it to world-fame. Today, the drink is ever popular and is usually consumed during special events, but also makes the perfect drink to enjoy during an apero hour cocktail!
How to make the perfect Kir cocktail
For those wondering exactly what Crème de Cassis is, and how it’s made, the alcoholic liqueur is made by fruit brandy, blackcurrants, water, refined sugar, and the buds from the cassis fruit. Though there are a number of Kir variations, the Kir Royale is the most famous.
Other alternative drinks include the Cidre Royal (made with cider instead of wine), Kir Breton (made with Breton cider rather than wine), Kir Bianco (made with Vermouth rather than wine) and Kir Impérial (made with cherry liqueur as opposed to Crème de Cassis).
Finally, contrary to what you may believe, the perfect Kir is not as deep a colour as rosé wine, but more of a blush shade. As such, be sure not to add too much Crème de Cassis. After all, the perfect Kir shouldn’t be too sweet, unless, of course, that’s your preference…