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The story of the classic Kir Royale

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1945 | Dijon, France

This inspiring story of a twist that became more popular than the original begins in 1891, when young Canon Félix Kir first entered the seminary at Plombières-lès-Dijon, on the Côte-d'Or.

Having taken his orders in 1901, Félix served as a parish priest until the occupation of France during the Second World War. Unlike many of his colleagues in this trying time for his country, this brave man of the cloth actively participated in the Résistance, helping more than 5000 prisoners of war escape from the concentration camp at Longvic. The success of the operation resulted in his arrest and sentencing to death, but his priest status stopped the executioners – and Félix was allowed to live.

In 1945, after the end of the war, Kir was made a knight of the Legion d'honneur and elected mayor of his native Dijon. According to legend, all of the region's red currant crop was confiscated by the German occupation, and the local white wine didn't have the distinguished taste demanded by visiting delegations. Félix then invented a brilliant cocktail that simultaneously solved two problems. Blanc-Cassis, as its creator called it, included the region's main delicacies: white wine and blackcurrant, which accented its taste. After a hundred or so official receptions, the cocktail took the name of its creator: Kir.

Burgundy's experience and success was co-opted by Italian vintners, who became the world's leaders in production of sparkling wine created through the Charmat method – in other words, quick-and-dirty. Thanks to this, the world-famous KIR ROYAL was born. Today, waiters ask their guests over and over whether they like their Kir with blackcurrant or blackberry and, of course, with which wine – even in France.

See the recipe


Historian: Vladimir Zhuravlev
Illustrations: Mine
Journalists: Sara Davis, Samantha Johnson

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