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Though the French still tend to stick to the term vin blanc cassis (or blancass for short), the name kir has spread the fame of this blend of dry white wine and crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) far beyond the borders of France. It comes from Canon Félix Kir, a Second World War resistance hero and for several years mayor of Dijon, who developed a particular brand of the drink. As the Dijon connection suggests, it was originally a Burgundian speciality, and the classic formulation is a glass of the rather sharp white wine made from the local aligoté grape, with just enough sweet crème de cassis to take the edge off the wine's acidity and give it kir's distinctive pink colour. (Crème de cassis too is a noted product of Burgundy—the Côte d'Or heads the league table of blackcurrant-growing départements in France—and should on no account be replaced by blackcurrant cordial or other inauthentic substitutes.) Over the past two or three decades kir has achieved considerable popularity in Britain and elsewhere as a summer aperitif (it can now be bought ready-bottled in supermarkets), and a more luxurious version made with sparkling wine has been developed, known as kir royale (in French kir royal, kir being masculine).

Those who prefer it can substitute red wine for white; the resulting drink is known as a cardinal. And numerous permutations of liqueur are possible, of course; crème de framboise (raspberry) and crème de mure (blackberries) form the basis of delicious drinks, and in Provence myro—white wine with a dash of crème de myrtilles (bilberries)—is a combination of long standing, said to have been originally a shepherd's drink. But whatever the ingredients, the wine/crème mixture seems to have a beneficial effect on the health: Canon Kir died in 1968, having achieved the impressive age of 92.

Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.

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