Kir, alternatively referred to as vin blanc cassis, is dry white wine mixed with blackcurrant liqueur. The drink is named after Canon Félix Kir, a priest and hero of the Burgundian resistance during WWII, who then went on to become the mayor of Dijon. My research indicates he became a hero when he organized a gang to derail a Berlin-bound train to rescue barrels of wine stolen by German soldiers.
During his tenure as mayor, this drink became the official aperitif of town hall receptions. Why the combo of white wine and blackcurrant liqueur? Both products are local – the Côte D’Or is an important grower of blackcurrants and the typical base wine is Aligoté. It’s possible that war-time wine wasn’t the best and that a little dollop of a sweet liqueur would make it more palatable. Perhaps Kir was an early locavore. He may have known about the high vitamin C content of blackcurrants. The best guess may be that he just liked to drink.
Recipes vary – I’ve seen everything from 1/2 oz. crème de cassis to 4 oz. of wine to 1/3 cassis to 2/3 wine to 1 part cassis to 5 parts wine. It boils down to personal preference and the quality of your starting ingredients. There’s discrepancy when it comes to the serving vessel, too, but I think a wine glass is best. Apparently, if you ask for white wine with cassis (as opposed to crème de cassis) in France, you may end up with some berries floating in your glass.
This aperitif has inspired others:
Kir Royal(e) – sparkling wine rather than still wine
Communard – use red Burgundy wine as the base
Cardinal – mixed messages here – some say base is Beaujolais and others say red Bordeaux
Kir-beer or Tarantino – use lager or a light ale as the base
Kir Médocain – base is rosé
Kir Normand – base is a Normandy cider. If you add a shot of Calvados to the mix, you end up with a Cidre Royal
If blackcurrant’s not your thing:
Kir Mûre – blackberry liqueur
Kir Peche – peach liqueur
Kir Lorrain – mirabelle plum liqueur