Thursday, April 25, 2013

Monthly Mixed Drink: The Kir

Sorry I dropped off the face of the earth! I have been working on securing a new job and winding down things at my old job to prepare for my departure and that has taken up quite a bit of my blogging time, but now I am back. I've missed you.


Once upon a time I was at a little hipster coffee house with Donnie seeing a show and they had a very short specialty mixed drink menu. I am a sucker for house specialty mixed drinks because sometimes they are the best part of a meal. My favorite so far has been the grapefruit and jalapeno martini, aptly named Cool Heat, that I had with Laura at Watershed. I salivate over memories of it. Anyway, this night I had a drink that contained white wine, St Germain, and a couple of other minor ingredients. It was delicious and the intrigue of mixed drinks containing wine was born. Being the Francophile and wine lover that I am I chose a classic French mixed drink this time: The Kir.

A Kir is an aperitif, which is an alcoholic drink enjoyed before a meal. I find the idea of an aperitifs and digestifs so romantic and sophisticated that I am considering indulging in them more often. In the United States the social more is that the consumption of alcohol is typically reserved for sporting events, special occasions, and college. In copious amounts; otherwise, not at all. This is probably due in combination to our post-Prohibition era and religious indoctrination, especially in the Bible Belt where I am from. In Europe it is just a part of the meal like appetizers and dessert.

Blackcurrants via Wikimedia Commons.
Aperitifs are served before dinner as a means to stimulate the appetite. They are usually dry and light so they are refreshing without overwhelming one's taste. Champagne and white wine are popular choices. Europe has a very slow-food social mentality about mealtimes and I think that serving an alcoholic drink as the first course is also intended to lighten the atmosphere of the event. The Kir is a popular aperitif and was originally called blanc-cassis, named for its ingredients of blackcurrant liqueur and white wine, but became more commonly known as the Kir in the mid-20th century after Felix Kir. Kir was a French parish priest who joined the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation of France. He is highly revered for assisting the escape of more than 5,000 prisoners of war from the Nazi prison camp in Longvic, eastern France. Following the war he was elected mayor of Dijon in the Burgundy region. He began to serve the blanc-cassis as his signature drink at engagements, which was necessitated by the red wine shortage following the Nazi confiscation of local Burgundy. Sounds like a cool guy, right?

The Burgundy region of France via Wikimedia Commons.
The ingredients in the drink are creme de cassis and white wine. That's it. It seems pretty straight forward, except there are lots of different types of white wine and they range from very dry (Sauvignon Blanc) to very sweet (Moscato). Since this drink originated in the Burgundy region of France and aperitifs are commonly made using a dry wine, I decided to go with a white Burgundy, specifically Chablis. BUT the grocery store had other plans. I think my local grocery store prides itself on the wine selection because it is very large and visible with tons of signage. It is also seemingly extensive, a visual marketing trick to fool the less connoisseurial wine enthusiast, because there was not a Chablis in the bunch. In my disappointment I ended up going with a cheap Chardonnay, the more common of the Burgundy whites, which in this case was made in California, not France. Womp Womp.

I chose this Creme de Cassis because I thought it looked a little more artisenal that your typical Dekuyper. Are you sensing a disconnect in this pairing? An expensive liqueur and a cheap wine. I'll admit that I can tell very little difference between a cheap wine and a top shelf supermarket wine. They're all good as long as they aren't Turning Leaf.
Luckily, my blackcurrant liqueur was actually made in France using "a traditional French Family Recipe..." What exactly is a French Family Recipe All Caps? Surely the recipe does not belong to the French Family of France? Or is there a standard recipe of this name commonly used in the making of blackcurrant liqueur? I noticed a few places on their website where it seemed a little got lost in translation, so maybe that is what happened on the label as well. At any rate, it compares well with other liqueurs of this type and I liked it.
The label Up Close.
I recently read an article in Mother Earth News about making your own (illegal) fruit liqueurs and I found it actually pretty fascinating. Did you know that a distilled fruit wine is called an eau de vie, which translates to "water of life?" Doesn't that sound enchanting? Maybe I'll revise my goal to make my own beer or wine to make my own distilled fruit liqueur? The cursory instructions included in this article make it seem pretty easy. I do have dreams of one day growing dwarf orchard trees at the back of my property and if I can get Donnie to comply maybe I'll spend my summers making homemade jams and eau de vie. But I digress.

The Kir

1. Pour a small amount of creme de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) into the bottom of a wine glass.
Don't mind the diaper in the background.
2. Top with white wine.
Like so.
3. Enjoy.

The verdict: No wonder one is supposed to use a dry white wine! Blackcurrant liqueur is hella sweet. This article calls creme de cassis "jammy" and that it spot on. Donnie thought this drink was too sweet, but I thought it was refreshing as long as one did not overdo it on the liqueur. And it feels like a festive, celebratory summer drink, like it should be drunk* at picnics or, dare I say, Independence Day gatherings. Undoubtedly my impression of this drink was influenced by my new found knowledge of its history. I drank it for a few days before I tired of it, so I'll probably enjoy it every now and again. 

*My inclination here was to type "to be drank," but then I wasn't sure if that was correct. Lo and behold it was not. Drank is the past tense of Drink and nothing else. The passive infinitive of Drink is to be Drunk. In some dialects (read: my dialect) Drank is commonly used this way, but it is still incorrect. If you are wondering, as I was, what a Southern dialect is officially called by linguists: General Southern matches the borders of southern states that seceded during the Civil War. The fact that the South is still pretty linguistically definitive is interesting to me and the theory is that we tended to not move around much on account of our agricultural heritage. The manufacturing and prospecting histories of other US regions have caused them to become more linguistically homogeneous. My specific region is Southern Coastal. Yes, we do say catty-corner.

**This Wikipedia article on Southern American English kind of blew my mind. It is ALL true and even though I consider myself to be grammatically correct most of the time, I did not know that all these dialectical uses were not correct. Like Dove for past tense of Dive and Drug for the past tense of Drag. I use these but the correct terms are Dived and Dragged. Noted.  

No comments:

Post a Comment