We’ve drunk a lot of Kir whilst in France, and our recent trip to Paris was no exception.The mixture of low-alcohol fruit liqueur and light white wine (we rarely opt for the posher Royal which uses Champagne) Is our go-to aperitif during our trips across the channel (whereas in Italy it is the Spritz Aperol or Negroni). We find it the ideal drink to sip whilst people watching from the comfort of your prime street-facing cafe table.
However, much as we will order a Kir in whichever bar we happen to be passing at “apero” hour, finding somewhere that does the right ratio of syrup to wine has been difficult. Fortunately, being the troupers we are, we’ve done extensive research and think we’ve discovered just the balance that works for us, and I wanted to share it with you in the hope of making your next Kir as good as it can possibly be.
We tend to visit France, and therefore drink Kir, in the autumn and winter months, and as a result find that the slightly spicier richer flavours of Kir Mures (blackberry) are to our taste, but we’re also partial to a summery Kir Peche (peach) and I think the formula for the perfect balance works for either.
They key, (at least for us) is two-fold. Firstly you need the right wine. What I’ve found works best is a light wine, that is not overly acidic or mineral. If it has too much sharpness or minerality there is a mis-match between the wine and the sweetness of the fruit; you want to off-set some of the sweetness without losing it completely. A Sauvignan Blanc such as Sancerre works well. If you don’t mind pushing the boat out a little further an aged Chablis that has a richer mouthfeel, but with the acidity softened by ageing is really rather special.
Of course once you’ve picked the wine type, you need to pick your liqueur. As I’ve touched on we tend to lean towards blackberry in the winter months and peach in the summer, but you can get many different types (I’m rather fond of grapefruit in summer too) and the most common in France is Cassis, or blackcurrant. In any case, it’s not the fruit that is the most pressing issue, but how much you use of it. We’ve found that the secret to Kir perfection is in the merest dash of syrup. Just enough to ever-so-slightly colour the wine to indicate you’ve got a cocktail in front of you.
Why is so little fruit the answer? Because of the way the drink works in your mouth. I’ve found that with the ideal Kir you should get the fruit flavour at the front, but still allow for the wine to take the finish, otherwise you end up with cloying sweetness and completely miss anything from the wine. I like to have fruit, then fruity-wine, then wine in my mouth, which leaves me wanting the next sip to repeat the process.
And finally, now you have the perfect aperatif, what do you serve alongside it? I find something as simple as lightly salted popcorn is all you need. Nothing too brine-y (olives) or spicy (nuts/crisps), just something to round out the flavours in your mouth and soak up the afternoon booze!