Saturday, December 2, 2023

Shades of Red for the Holidays


These very light-colored Kir Royales had only a teaspoon of Cassis

Hello, December!   This article is the first in the month's trio of "Seeing Red" in honor of the traditional red color of the Holidays.  December's blog will cover Spain's neon-red piquillo peppers, as well as two popular scarlet red liqueurs, Cassis and Chambord.   Today's posting is about the red colored liqueur made of black currants from the hills of Burgundy in France.  Commonly called Cassis, it's proper name is actually Creme de Cassis.

             Typically a Kir's ratio is 1 part of Cassis to 4 parts of white wine for a much deeper red

Open a bottle of Creme de Cassis and you'll find it's like dipping your nose into a jar of berry jam at a farmer's market.   Sip a taste and you'll find that Cassis is sweet, but not cloyingly so.  With an alcohol level of 15% (not much higher than wine), Cassis is now a popular ingredient in aperitifs and cocktails.  In fact, two of France's most famous pre-dinner drinks use Cassis: both Kir Royale (made with Champagne) and Kir (made from a still white wine), contain Creme de Cassis.

                                    Priest Kir was an active participant in the French Resistance

Kir and Kir Royale are named after the inventor of the drinks, a priest who was mayor of Dijon during the Nazi occupation of France.  During this period it was required that Burgundy's top wines be handed over to the Nazis which left little available for the locals.  The step-sister white Aligote wine wasn't wanted by the Nazi.   Mayor Kir came up with the brilliant idea of mixing Aligote with Creme de Cassis (the Nazis didn't want it either).  The "kir" drink pale red color mimicked the color of Burgundy's purloined Pinot Noir.  And, as they say, the rest is history. 

                                    The hills of the Cote D'or are the Rodeo Drive of Burgundy

Creme de Cassis has been made in Burgundy for nearly 200 years.  While some of the world's most famous wine (think Romanee Conti) is produced in Burgundy, the higher elevations of the legendary Cote D'or ("hills of gold") is black currant territory.  The recipe for Cassis is simple:  black currants are macerated with an odorless and flavorless alcohol and a little sugar is added.   

Wine-Knows will be visiting Burgundy during the September grape harvest next year.  We still have 3 spaces available.  Why not join the group and have a Kir Royale at its birthplace?

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