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Friday, October 5, 2012

Kir and Kir Royale the Unique French Aperitifs. The Aperitifs of Burgundy.

Kir and Kir Royale; the quintessential French Aperitifs.
Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman


A Kir Apéritif.
Photograph by courtesy of Stuart Webster.
Apéritifs are the before dinner drinks that you will often be offered, for payment, in French restaurants. Kir or a Kir Royale will rarely be missing from any list of apéritifs offered anywhere in France.

The recipes for Kir and Kir Royale originated in Burgundy: A true Burgundian Kir will be served in a wine glass with a taste of Crème de Cassis, which is a 40% alcohol sweet blackcurrant cordial, over which a dry white wine, the Bourgogne Aligoté AOC will be gently poured. 
 A Kir Royale pictured with a royal cat.
Photograph courtesy of Kellyoyo.
The recipe for a genuine  Kir Royale aperitif still requires the home grown 40%  alcohol black currant, Crème de Cassis; from outside Burgundy a brut, dry, sparkling Champagne replaces the  stillAligoté white wine. The Champagne makes for a more interesting, though more expensive option; however that change made the Kir Royale  the aperitif  of choice at Burgundian celebrations.  Kir Royale is always served in a Champagne flute or coupe.   Today a Kir Royale is often made, in Burgundy, with a dry Crémant de Bourgogne AOC; the Crémant de Bourgogne AOC is Burgundy's own, excellent, sparkling wine. Outside Burgundy Champagne or another Cremant may be used. For more on France’s wonderful, sparkling, and inexpensive, Crémant wines see the post:  Crémants are the best value in French sparkling wines.
 Kir is named after Canon Felix Kir, a priest who, earned fame in the French resistance in WWII and was later elected Deputy Mayor of Dijon. According to tradition while Canon Felix Kir was the Deputy Mayor of Dijon he exclusively served this, his favorite apéritif, at all official receptions; the Canon did not invent the drink, but he certainly made it famous and unwittingly immortalized his own name.
Cremant de Cassis de Bourgogne.
Photograph courtesy of

Kir and Kir Royale are equally popular outside of the région of Burgundy and outside France; a cold Kir or Kir Royale is always a refreshing apéritif.   Only a few real purists demand Burgundy's Crème de Cassis  and the Aligoté AOC white wine anyway.  A decent dry white is important and though I may be baned from Burgundy for saying so there are many better dry white wines, also from Burgundy, than the original Aligoté AOC.
Crémant de Bourgogne .
Photograph courtesy of
   The good Canon Felix Kir passed on in 1968 and so he probably never considered the Burgundian option of using a Crémant de Bourgogne instead of Champagne for  Kir Royale; the Crémant de Bourgogne only reached the market with its AOC in the 1970's.  Outside of Burgundy  other excellent Crémant sparkling wines will be used, while the traditionalists will continue to use a dry Champagne.  For more on Champagne and its history see the post: Champagne the most famous sparkling wine in the world.

    Kir Breton and Kir Normande  are the Bretagne, Brittany and Normande, Normandy, way to honor Canon Kir’s name.  These two régions grown no wines, but they do have wonderful still and sparkling ciders.  There the local Kir aperitifs may be made with a dry, still, or dry, sparkling cider, their ciders replacing the white wine or Champagne.  These local Kirs will be served cold and make an interesting change, though I quickly return to the originals when I am outside those two régions.  For more on France’s ciders see the post: The Magnificent Ciders of France.

    If you decide to make Kir at home never use more than two tablespoons of crème de cassis for each glass, and only use a dry wine. I speak from experience, as too much Crème de Cassis and a wine that is not dry enough may produce liquid sugar! For a Kir Royale the same limit on the creme de cassis is true; the Champagne or cremant used must be ultra brut, very dry, or brut, dry. Use too much creme de cassis or a sweet Champagne or cremant and the result will be sugar shock!
Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
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For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman