History and Recipe of the Kir Cocktail

This drink consists of just two ingredients, Sreme de Cassis liqueur and Bourgogne Aligote chilled white wine, bottled on top. The key to creating a balanced drink is in the liquor and wine proportions. Simom Difford does not recommend adhering to the classic ratio, which claims 1/3 part liqueur and 2/3 part wine, because the result will be an excessively sweet drink. It offers a liquor to wine ratio ranging from 1:5 to 1:7.

The origin of the cocktail goes back to far 1904, when at Cafe George in Dijon, France, a waiter before the name Faivre was the first to suggest the idea of mixing white wine and Creme de Cassis. His drink became known as Classic Blanc, but today it is known under the name Kir in reference to a promo campaign by Felix Kir, a flamboyant politician and hero of World War II resistance. During his tenure as head of the city council, he sought ways to promote local produce, including Creme de Cassis liquor and Bourgogne Aligote wine. Their mix was first called Kir’s aperitif, then Father Kir’s, and after the name simplified to Kir.

Bourgogne Aligote is a white wine from Aligote grapes growing in Burgundy, protected by a certificate of authenticity of origin (Fr. Appellation d’origine controllee, abbreviated AOS).

Many sources indicate that the use of white wine is due to the lack of red Burgundy wine caused by the German army’s confiscation of most stocks. Or the reason for this may be the poor quality of white wine that year, and the liquor thus became a disguise and concealed the shortcomings of bright blackcurrant sweetness.

Using champagne and other sparkling wines combined with Creme de Cassis gives us a variation called Kir Royal. It is important to consider the variety of sparkling wine. To maintain the balance of sour and sweet you need champagne brut nature and ultra brut.

In 1951, when Kir became widely known, Roger Damidot (owner of Lejay-Lagoute – a brand of Creme de Cassis liquor, the largest producer in the region) suggested Felix Kir to secure the author’s rights to use the name Kir. This may have flattered him incredibly, and on 20 November 1951 the following letter came to the French National Assembly:

“Canon Felix Kir, Member of Parliament and Mayor of Dijon, gives Lejay- Lagoute, led by Roger Damidot, is the exclusive right to use his name for blackcurrant liquor for promotional purposes, in the form he deems appropriate.”

Armed with this letter, Lejay-Lagoute Company patented the brand under the Kir name in March 1952.

Years later, seeing a rise in the popularity of the cocktail as an aperitif, Felix wanted to offer other producers of Creme de Cassis liquor similar privileges, but the ownership of the brand was already assigned to Lejay-Lagoute, and it was too late to change anything in this matter. Numerous trials secured the referral of the case to the French supreme court, ‘Cour de Cassation, where exclusive trademark rights were confirmed on 27 October 1992. Following their triumph, Lejay- Lagoute registered and began production of Kir Royal – a pre-prepared mixture of liquor and sparkling wine.

If a cocktail is created using cremant or cava wines, it is called Kir Petillant (from fr. petillant – sparkling).

The best known variations are:

  1. Kir Royal – with white wine swapping for champagne.
  2. Kir Imperial – with the replacement of blackcurrant liqueur with raspberry, and champagne wines.
  3. Communard/Cardinal – with white wine swapping for red.

Leave a Comment