Voilà, le kir!
I stopped at Lou: A Wine Bar in Hollywood one night to meet some friends for an aperitif. At the bar, owner Lou Amdur convinced me to order a kir royale. "I've got this great organic crème de cassis from a Beaujolais producer," he told me.
Usually, kir are too sweet for me. But Amdur has it just right. He uses a scant 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) in the bottom of a glass and then pours in a sparkling Crémont d'Alsace rosé, which he describes as "a pale, bone dry rosé of Pinot Noir." Voilà: the best kir this side of Dijon.
Originally known as blanc-cassis, kir, a French friend noted, is named for Félix Kir, a priest and French Resistance fighter, who was the mayor of Dijon from 1945 to 1968.
I forgot all about it and then just last week I was driving by K&L on Vine Street after the Hollywood Farmers Market and remembered they carried that wonderful, fresh-tasting organic crème de cassis. I made a u-turn, pulled into the parking lot and sure enough, they still had it. The label is Pierre-Marie Chermette Domaine du Vissoux, sold in a 375ml bottle for $13.99. (Note: crème de cassis doesn't have a vintage date, so when buying it, hold the bottle up to the light to make sure the color is still vivid. If it isn't, the bottle is too old.)
I served the kir last night. No Bourgogne Aligoté (that's the traditional wine for a straight kir) in the house, but someone had brought a Muscadet, another bracing, high-acid wine, this one from the Loire Valley, and it was perfect. Be a little stingy with the cassis until you get the balance right. But the right wine is also just as important. Use a fruity white or one that is off-dry and the result is cloying. The wine doesn't have to be expensive, just very dry and tart. To make a kir royale, pour a lesser Champagne or some other sparkling wine that's not too fruity.
Lou: A Wine Bar, 724 Vine Street, Hollywood; (323) 962-6369; www.louonvine.com. Kir royale, $12.
K&L Wine Merchants, 1400 Vine Street, Hollywood; (323) 464-9463; www.klwines.com.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Photo by S. Irene Virbila