Every cocktail has its origin story, but the Kir and its bubbly cousin Kir Royale (pronounced kur roy-AL), might be the most dramatic.

According to legend, both cocktails were named for Canon Felix Kir, a Catholic priest and hero of the French resistance during World War II.

The story goes that when the Nazis marched into his hometown of Dijon, Burgundy, he not only stayed behind to help prisoners escape from a nearby camp but also worked to keep locals’ spirits up when the Nazis stole their cherished red wine.

As a true ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ tale, the priest nearly turned water into wine. He took the local dry white wine, Aligoté, and added creme de cassis, a local blackcurrant liqueur, to it. Why? Well, when you mix the liqueur with white wine, it looks almost like red wine. Townspeople were thrilled to have a substitute that they could, at least, pretend was their beloved Burgundian red wine.

Kir’s actions, including the incredible cocktail ingenuity, earned him a Legion d’Honneur (akin to a U.S. military Purple Heart Medal) in France. He also served as Dijon’s mayor from after the war until his death, twenty-three years later.

Today, you don’t see the Kir (white wine and blackcurrant liqueur) on cocktail menus, but Kir Royale (Champagne with blackcurrant liqueur) has remained a favorite around the world. With its pretty, pale plum color and effervescent nature, the Kir Royale is usually a special occasion drink, especially in Europe.

For a twist on the traditional Kir Royale, you can swap out the cassis liqueur with a raspberry, peach, or grapefruit liqueur. And the variations go on: a Cider Royal is cider plus cassis, a Cardinal is red wine plus cassis, a Tarantino is beer plus cassis.

Kir Royal cocktail with orange slice and ice cubes

Kir Royal

Kir Royal

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz. Champagne Chilled
  • 1 oz. Crème de Cassis or Chambord

Preparation: Add Champagne to a flute. Top slowly with crème de cassis.