Last night at the Governor’s holiday party, I was delighted to be offered a Kir Royal, a bubbly cocktail of sparkling wine and black-currant liqueur. I had not had a Kir Royal—or its non-bubbly cousin, Kir—for years, and I’m going to make an effort to bring them back into my boozy repertoire. First of all, Kir and Kir Royal are great ways to neutralize lousy white wines. Second, they’re pretty. And third, they’re good conversation starters. Last night, for example, the crimson-hued cocktail temporarily diverted a room full of media and lawmakers from questions such as “Does the state need a $4 million underground party room?” and “Who considers food critics to be media?” to the more pressing query of “Why’s my champagne pink?”
The answer to the last question is crème de cassis. A liqueur flavored with black currants, crème de cassis was first reportedly mixed with white wine by Félix Kir, the mayor of Dijon, after World War II. Kir married cassis with white Burgundy and served the combination to out-of-town guests as a way to showcase two regional products. (Using that logic the governor might consider introducing a cocktail of Jack Daniel’s and meth. Beware if anyone ever offers you a Bredesen.)
The recipe for Kir is simple: Pour a small amount of crème de cassis into the bottom of a glass and fill the glass with white wine. The more elegant variation, Kir Royal (pictured in this photo swiped from Drinkalizer.com), substitutes sparkling wine and often adds a lemon twist. The result is a bubbly, colorful and slightly sweet concoction that goes down smooth enough to make you beer-goggle a Republican. And if a Kir Royal looks as festive as it did last night, under the flickering fluorescent lights of the third-floor meeting room in the Tennessee Tower, just think how glamorous it would be at the governor’s 2009 holiday party in a $4 million underground bunker.