History of the Kir Royale Cocktail

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If there is a classier, more elegant classic cocktail on offer, then we are yet to discover it. The Kir Royale is the ultimate champagne cocktail – simple, sleek and sophisticated. The best thing about it is that it is incredibly easy to replicate at home or in the bar, making it even more popular amongst contemporary cocktail drinkers. Ideal for those that like the idea of champagne, but find it slightly too dry, the Kir Royale is sweet, fizzy and incredibly moreish. Who knew it had such an amazing history behind it?

Who Created the Kir Royale?

The original cocktail was created by a Catholic priest in Dijon, France. His name
was Canon Felix Kir and he actually made two cocktails at the same time. The
first was the Kir, a delicious combination of white wine and Lejay Cassis. The
more sophisticated followed shortly afterwards, upgraded to include champagne
rather than wine.

His cocktail creations were part of his resistance to the Nazi invasion that was happening at the time. Kir was considered to be quite a hero in his country, helping to rescue many prisoners of war from a local concentration camp while other residents fled the town. The Nazi’s confiscated all the red wine in the area, so, in an act of defiance, Kir invented his cocktail using whatever white wine he could get hold of.

Kir was awarded the honour of Mayor of Dijon from 1945 until he died in 1968 and was included in the country’s Legion d’Honneur as recognition of his efforts. He has an important place in both the history of World War Two and the history of cocktail drinking.

So, when you drink a Kir or Kir Royale cocktail, you can sip in the knowledge that you are consuming a drink that tastes great and was made with the intention of sticking two fingers up at the tyrannous Nazi invasion!

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Variations of the Cocktail

The finest Kir Royale will still include the traditional Lejay Cassis in many bars. Some
places substitute it with another brand of Crème de Cassis, while cheekier
establishments will use blackcurrant juice. This is fine for a student wanting
a taste of luxury, but not for a cocktail connoisseur looking for an elegant

More adventurous variations include the Cidre Royal, which substitutes cider for the white wine, and the Hibiscus Royal which uses peach and raspberry liqueur instead of blackcurrant. If you are looking for a virgin version, replace the white wine with apple juice.

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Bartender's top tip

Serving your cocktail in a chilled glass can greatly enhance its enjoyment, keeping it at the optimal temperature for longer. Simply fill the glass with ice and water to chill it while you prepare your drink, and then dump it out just before straining your cocktail into the glass. This is especially important for stirred, spirit-forward drinks like Martinis or Manhattans.

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