Friday, August 17, 2007
A Crème de Cassis Tasting & Five Cassis Cocktails
August 15th marked one month since I’d set aside my blackcurrants with vodka, sugar, and a little cinnamon to steep and hopefully become Crème de Cassis in time for me to enjoy a homemade version of my favorite summer drink, the Kir. To read my post about the history of this Burgundian liqueur and of the Kir itself, click here.
On August 16th, I took the jar of decadently purple pulp from the sunny spot on our living room floor it’s been occupying for the past 4 weeks (dinner guests be damned), strained out a tentative draught along with a control glass of my favorite Trénel Fils Crème de Cassis, and sipped.
And I have to say, I’m thrilled with the results. Both are warming when drunk neat, but while my beloved Trénel Fils is so deeply purple that it’s almost brown, the homemade liqueur is shamelessly violet-magenta and flecked with blackcurrant pulp despite a good straining. The entire batch needs to be squeezed through several layers of cheesecloth before being bottled.
The nose on the homemade Cassis has much more alcohol in it, but it’s bright and mouth-wateringly fruity, as is the simple burst of flavor, while the syrupy Trénel Fils is smoother and smells as alluringly and mysteriously “hedgerow-ish” as blackcurrants should. The Trénel Fils flavor is rich and almost smoky, with an unexpected herbal note, while the homemade liqueur has far more red fruit and just a breath of cinnamon.
Once mixed with cool white wine to assess Kir potential, the homemade Crème de Cassis turns the whole thing riotously pink – a color evocative of strawberries – while the more elegant Trénel Fils predictably produces a more subtle cocktail. The Trénel Fils also really stands out – completely recognizable as it hums through the white wine. Though equally cooling and calming in a Kir, the homemade Cassis melds with the wine more. After all, it is a far less complex and sophisticated liqueur.
But I love it for that. I wouldn’t dream of replacing my Trénel Fils altogether, but I’m ecstatic to have this honest, punchy, ruby Créme de Cassis in the liquor cabinet too. To help you enjoy your Crème de Cassis to its fullest, there are 5 cocktail recipes below: 3 rustic and 2 more complex, but all authentically French. In addition to cocktails, the Cassis will be delicious over ice cream, folded into whipped cream, soaked into trifles, and even drizzled into pan sauces once game season really kicks in.
Blackcurrants are still being harvested around these parts, and you can find my Crème de Cassis recipe here. As always, check Local Harvest’s Farmers’ Market Finder if you’re not sure where to search for blackcurrants.
Pour 2 tbsp Crème de Cassis into a wine glass. Top up with 4 oz. chilled white wine.
Pour 1 tbsp Crème de Cassis into a champagne flute. Top up with your normal pour of champagne.
Pour 2 tbsp Crème de Cassis into a wine glass. Top up with 4 oz. Pinot Noir. Perfect for autumn.
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 ½ oz. brandy
1 tbsp Crème de Cassis
twist of lemon peel
Pour the first 3 ingredients into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Shake well, and strain into a martini or rocks glass. Garnish with the twist of lemon peel.
¾ oz. gin
2 tbsp Crème de Cassis
¾ oz. vermouth
Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Stir well. Strain into a martini or rocks glass and garnish with a single ice cube.