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Monday, August 22, 2011

Briottet Crème de Cassis - classic French blackcurrant liqueur

Crème de cassis is a quintessential French liqueur which was developed in the early 1800s. Most of it's produced in Burgundy, with Dijon being the epicenter of high quality cassis production. Cassis is produced by macerating blackcurrant berries in alcohol and then adding sugar which seems relatively straightforward until you've tasted good and poor quality cassis and recognize that the devil is the details (type of berry used, how it's processed, etc.). Colored a beautiful deep purple-red, cassis has an intensely sweet taste with a lovely tartness to the finish.

Avoid buying the cheap cassis and go for a quality producer like Edmond Briottet or Guyot. The bottle can last a long time, so you may as well be sipping the good stuff rather than choking down cough-syrupy alcohol. Crème de cassis is only 20% alcohol, so it's imperative to refrigerate it once opened to preserve it. While some say it's only good for 3 to 5 months once opened, I've kept a bottle in the fridge for a year or more with little noticeable difference in the taste.

Besides sipping and pretending you're Hercule Poirot, Crème de cassis is also great for getting rid of that cheap bottle of champagne someone left at your last New Year's Eve party. The two most famous cocktails that are made with Crème de cassis are Kir and Kir Royale, both essentially the same recipe except that Kir uses white wine and Kir Royale uses champagne.

Kir or Kir Royale
1/2 oz Crème de Cassis
Wine or champagne to fill a typical wine glass. Adjust amount of wine as necessary depending on if you want it sweeter or dryer.

It's best to use a dry white wine with high acidity. A Frenchman once said to me that Kir must be made with Aligoté,  but since it's hard to find that type of wine in Washington, a crisp, dry wine works fine. For champagne, any dry or Brut champagne will do.

The Briottet Crème de Cassis is mostly found at the better Seattle liquor stores (4th Ave, University Village, Queen Anne).

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