It's true this post should be tomorrow in honour of the return of Thirsty Thursdays, but today is Bastille Day, so it seemed fitting. July 14, La Fête Nationale, or Bastille Day, is France's big national holiday, which takes place on the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris during the revolution in 1789. Its a pretty big deal and there is usually lots of grand military parades, air shows, music and plenty of celebrations as the whole country takes the day off and parties like its 1789. Surely all of this along with lots of good food and drink.
Those who know me, and if you've been a regular reader, know that I have a particular soft spot for France. Its people, art, food, way of life, language, even its quirks and idiosyncrasies, all touch me where I live. I been so lucky to have spent quite a bit of time there as a curious tourist, spent some time with locals, DG has worked there, and we've come to adore the country. So much so that the last time I entered the country, after a magical 3 weeks in Italy, I got a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye, simply from the overwhelming feeling of coming home. This is a place that I would call home, fairly easily if the chance ever presented itself.
In honour of Bastille Day, I'm sharing with you a classic before dinner drink. A Kir is a simple melange of wine and Cassis and a common aperitif. Its old school and while some people might think it old fashioned, I happen to love it and order it frequently both at home and abroad. While most commonly made with white wine, although a version made with red wine is called a Kir Cardinale, Kirs come in many shapes and sizes. Some are made with Peach liqueur, called a Kir Peche, or with Raspberry liqueur, called a Kir Framboise, and then there's the Kir Violette, a sexy number made with a brilliantly purple violet liqueur from the Loire Valley. When in a festive mood I would suggest a Kir Royale, using Champagne in place of the white wine, or its equal cousin, the Kir Alsace made with the lovely sparkling wine of Alsace, called Cremant.
The Kir originated in the area of Dijon, in Burgundy, on the Eastern side of the country. This town is known for its Dijon mustard, of which not a jar is made anymore - sadly a victim of large scale food production- and Cassis, the blackcurrant liqueur not to be confused with the light and fruity wine made of Cassis in the Riviera. Its named after Dijon's wartime Mayor, Felix Kir, who popularized it by serving it frequently to visiting delegates in the period following WWII. Traditionally it would have also been made with the local fruity white wine, Aligote.
I had my very first Kir in Dijon some 5 years ago on our first
trip to France. It seemed appropriate. And of course I left that city with
not only the requisite Dijon mustard, but a bottle of Cassis as well, and returned home making it until every drop of that tasty, inky, sweet liqueur was gone.
I love this drink for its simplicity as the perfect pre dinner drink. I always have Cassis in my liquor cabinet and inexpensive white wine around. Its lighter than a cocktail, but a little more special than a simple glass of wine. While I have frequently made it mixed with some of my homemade Framboise, the classic version is what I make the most and in winter a Kir Cardinal is the perfect way to cover up a bottle of disappointing red wine I've opened on a previous night. In fact I dare say the making of a Kir in this house often follows a bottle of wine we simply cant be bothered to drink by itself again. A cloak of rich Cassis nicely covers up a bland wine.
I'll be likely having one of these tonight. Sante to all of the lovely French people I've met over the years and a country that feels a lot like home.
I'm giving you the formula for the classic, which is what I recommend starting with. Once you come to love this one, you'll likely stray once in awhile depending on what lovely fruity liqueurs are in your possession, but I suspect, like me, you will come back to the classic.
Resist the temptation to use too much Cassis in your Kir. While obviously this is a drink made to taste, it should have just a touch of Cassis and appear no darker than Rose wine.The Cassis should lightly flavour the wine, but not dominate.
Inexpensive, unoaked fruity white wine, chilled
Creme de Cassis
For each glass, pour in 1 Tbsp Cassis and top with wine, pouring gently. Do not over fill the glass, it should be about 4 oz worth. If you pour gently enough the Cassis and wine will not mix, which is a desired effect, but one I find difficult. Add a touch more Cassis if desired, keeping in mind Cassis is quite sweet.
For a Kir Royale, use a sparkling wine and serve in a Champagne flute.
For a Kir Cardinale, replace red wine for the white wine.
optional substitutions for the Cassis:
Creme de Violette
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