This week we’re highlighting one of our favorite French liqueurs, the inky black currant flavored Crème de Cassis de Dijon. These sweet little bottles of crème de cassis are made in Burgundy by Briottet, a company run by the Briottet family in the town of Dijon since 1836.
Briottet makes their crème de cassis with only “Noir de Bourgogne” black currants. The word “crème” signifies that the liqueur is made from macerated, real fruit rather than flavorings and, the addition of the name Dijon means that the currants (“cassis”) used were grown only in the commune of Dijon. These currants are picked quickly at their peak ripeness and are immediately immersed in alcohol where they macerate for 3 months. Sugar is then added to balance out the tart flavor of the currants – it also makes the liqueur syrupy. Upon completion, crème de cassis has about the same alcohol content as port.
The most famous use of crème de cassis is in a cocktail named Kir. It is made up of 1 part crème de cassis to 3 (or more depending on your taste) parts crisp white wine. The Kir is named for the Canon Felix Kir, a priest who helped 5,000 prisoners of war escape from a Nazi camp during World War II. He became mayor of Dijon in 1945 and made a point of offering the drink (previously known as the Blanc-Cassis) to all visiting delegates. This was a boon to local liqueur producers who struggled throughout the war and eventually the name of the drink was changed to honor the beloved mayor. (The drink was also popular locally partially due to Nazi seizures of red Burgundy – lots of white wine kicking around.)
There are several ways we enjoy our crème de cassis. We make our Kir the traditional way – with chilled Bourgogne Aligoté, a crisp white perfectly suited for the cocktail. Sip yours with a nibble of a fruity Comté dabbed with Arraya or Raphaël‘s cassis confiture. For special occasions, replace the white wine with prosecco or cava for a Kir Pétillant, or with the real deal, Champagne, to make a Kir Royale. Pair either drink with Brillat-Savarin, a triple-crème cheese that works well with bubbles. I have yet to try the red Burgundy variation, known either as the Cardinal or the Communard, but it sounds good.
We also like to mix up a little crème de cassis with a dry Dolin Vermouth and top it off with soda water to make the Pompier (aka the Vermouth-Cassis), a cocktail published by Charles Baker, author of The Gentleman’s Companion. If you can keep from drinking it all, Briottet Crème de Cassis can also be used in delicious ways with food. A drizzle over fresh, sweet melon is lovely, or add to a sauce for chicken or duck (especially with hazelnuts and a bit of cream). Even better are desserts like poached pears over vanilla ice cream topped with crème de cassis or little sponge cakes soaked with the stuff. One of our bottles will keep for 3 months in the refrigerator after it has been opened, so you have some time to experiment.
From Green Street Grill’s Wednesday taco night. Another great way to use Creme de Cassis in a cocktail. (By the way, if you haven’t been to taco night at Green Street, you’re missing out.)
1 ½ oz tequila
½ oz crème de cassis
Pour the tequila and crème de cassis into a highball glass over ice and top with ginger ale.
Briottet Crème de Cassis de Dijon is available at Formaggio Kitchen South End and Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge. Our South End location also stocks Briottet’s Crème de Framboise (raspberry) and Crème de Peche de Vigne (wild peach) liqueurs.
Julie Cappellano is the General Manager and wine buyer at Formaggio Kitchen South End, Boston.