Easy Crème de Cassis Cocktails

William S. Shepard, Wine Editor | Tuesday, Jun 30th 2020
creme de cassis cocktails

Here is an easy Crème de Cassis cocktail, somewhat inspired by Casablanca:

You’ve seen the movie often. It’s 1942, and “Casablanca” is playing. Humphrey Bogart is opening Ric’s Café for an evening’s entertainment. Ingrid Bergman has entered the room, on Paul Henreid’s arm. The café swarms with German soldiers, local riffraff, and others who are trying to make it to Lisbon, and safety. Henreid spots a member of the Resistance and joins him for an aperitif. Sitting down, he orders Champagne Cocktails.”
It is the most sophisticated moment which we would all like to emulate. But you can’t just copy Henreid. Something different and sophisticated is required.

Crème de Cassis Cocktails

When you enter your favorite cocktail lounge, order a “Kir ” instead.
  • KIR: 
    • a shot of Crème de Cassis (blackcurrant liqueur)
    • topped off with Chardonnay wine.
    • The drink is named after Canon Felix Kir, a Roman Catholic priest, with – like the fictional character played by Paul Henreid in “Casablanca” – distinguished service of the French Resistance.
    • Canon Kir did not invent the drink. But he did popularize it, as Mayor of Dijon, France. Burgundy was awash with inexpensive Chardonnay, such as Bourgogne Aligote, of no particular distinction. What it needed was the bracing addition of a liqueur, and the sweet and flavorful Crème de Cassis was perfect.
    • If instead of white Burgundy you substituted champagne, you would have a Kir Royale.
    • Some would say that it must be champagne. I would differ from that opinion. Sparkling wine not grown and made in Champagne is a Crèmant or Petillant and an excellent buy. What do you care if purists would say that you have created a Kir Petillant – Sparkling Kir – rather than a Kir Royale?
    • Just add fine Sparkling Wine to Crème de Cassis and offer a toast to Canon Felix Kir as you do so.

Other Versions to Consider

Crème de Cassis cocktails make for tasty aperitifs. And you may find that you share the French view that it is preferable not to start your dinner with a strong drink based on gin, scotch, or bourbon. They may overwhelm the flavor of the light white wine that you serve with the first course of your dinner. Now there are other cocktails based on the Kir formula.
  • The Kir Berrichon for example is served at Chateauroux in the Berry region of central France where I taught English for a year, and where Pierre Bernasse, co-owner of French Wine Explorers, is from.
  • It is made with red wine and crème de mure (blackberry liqueur).

Next time you are at a bar, order some creme de cassis cocktails for friends. They may well be looking for a light, flavorful cocktail with a pedigree, and memories of the Resistance. Paul Henreid would approve!