What Is Cassis And How Can You Use It In Your Next Cocktail?

Are you always on the hunt for the next addition to your ever-expanding cocktail bar? Crème de cassis might be just the thing you're looking for. For those who are lactose-intolerant, worry not! Despite the name, there is no dairy at all. A crème liqueur is a flavored alcoholic beverage with a high sugar content. Cassis, the French word for blackcurrant, is made with just that. Dark red in color, this berry-flavored liqueur showcases sweet and tart flavors, along with a subtle bitterness. The complex balance of flavors makes this liqueur a popular choice over other more simplistic fruit liqueurs.

Crème de cassis can enhance classic cocktails, become the base for original creations, or simply be drunk over ice as a digestif. Let's take a look at the cocktail that helped bring it to the forefront: the Kir. A combination of white wine and a dash of crème de cassis, this classic French apéritif boosted the popularity of cassis and birthed a whole family of simple wine cocktails.

For a twist on a classic cocktail, use cassis instead of other fruit liqueurs-slash-components or add it to drinks in need of an extra push. Substitute it for grenadine in the classic tequila sunrise, add a splash into your gin martini for a fruity edge and bright color, or even throw some into a whiskey sour! But add the liqueur sparingly, as a heavy hand can take a drink from complex, fruity undertones to cloyingly sweet.

The popularity of cassis

Crème de cassis was created in Burgundy in the middle of the 19th century. It quickly became a hit with the French people and slowly gained international recognition. Production took off after World War II when the French started promoting the Kir cocktail as a means to neutralize the high acidity of the low-quality Burgundian wine available after the war. The victory also resulted in the Kir Royale, a celebratory take on the classic Kir that swapped the white wine with Champagne.

Despite its popularity in Europe, blackcurrants hit a wall in the U.S. after the turn of the 20th century. The fruit was known to carry white pine blister rust, a fungus that could potentially ruin the lumber industry, causing the government to ban it from being grown. The prohibition lasted for over 50 years before a disease-resistant strain was introduced and the ban was delegated to state governments, some of which have legalized growing blackcurrants. Luckily, this was around the time that the Kir cocktail was sweeping Europe, and the U.S. was able to hop on the bandwagon and spark interest in the liqueur.

In recent years, cassis has finally started gaining some more traction. Bartenders everywhere are starting to reach towards crème de cassis for their modern cocktail infusions and you can find it flavoring desserts like macarons and improving boxed chocolate cake. So what are you waiting for? Grab a bottle and prepare to join the crème de cassis fan club.