Last year, I visited Cassis Monna & Filles, a wine cellar and gourmet foods boutique. Located on the Île d’Orleans, an agriculture island right outside of Quebec City, they make an incredible assortment of products made from blackcurrant/cassis including wines, liqueurs, jams, syrup, vinaigrette…if you can make it out of cassis, they probably sell it there. (PS – if you’re in Canada, you can order from them online!)
I left with a bottle of crème de cassis, or blackcurrant liqueur, and it’s been staring at me in the cupboard ever since, just begging me to cook with it.
The blackcurrant berry is known both as blackcurrant and cassis, but it’s the same plant. It’s native to Europe and parts of North Asia, and grows well in cold climates. Europe still produces and consumes nearly all of the blackcurrant sold today. In the United States, commercial production of the berry was actually banned in 1911 because they were a rust fungus vector and a threat to the logging industry. As a result production and consumption of black currants in not wide in the US. In fact, the ban remains legal in several states even today! The berry is starting to make a resurgence, so if you’re eager to try it, they are currently grown in the locations listed here.
Lucky for me, they also grow it in Canada, at least on Île d’Orleans. My suspicion is that this arrived with the French, as crème de cassis was first produced in the Burgundy region of France, and is still widely consumed there today. The blackcurrant liqueur has a low level of alcohol (19.5%) and is used in many cocktails as well as other dishes and I’m still exploring more possible recipes to use. It tastes sweet, fruity, and tart at the same time. One of the most common uses is Kir, a mixture of white wine and crème de cassis.
Kir is a French cocktail. I like this recipe because it’s quick, refreshing, and slightly sweet. It feels fancy but doesn’t require expensive ingredients. Use a dry white wine, preferably one that is neither too fancy nor too cheap. I prefer it chilled. I also added some frozen blackberries as a garnish and to keep the drink cold.
Makes 2 cocktails
- 1/4 ounce crème de cassis
- 3 ounces dry white wine
- Berries for garnish, to taste
- Wine glasses
- A shot glass for measuring (optional)
- Add the crème de cassis to the glass first, then add the white wine. Garnish with berries as desired.