There are a few moments in my life that I remember with a fair amount of precision. Most of them–the birth of my children, coaching my basketball team in the Final Four, winning my first bike race–are fairly momentous and therefore worthy of valuable memory space. There are others, though, that are far less “glamorous” but still, for some reason, remain etched in my rather convoluted brain: when I got my passport stamped for the first time, changing my son’s diaper for the last time, getting a root canal from a student at the University of Michigan Dental School.
I am not sure into which of the above two categories I would place it, but I also remember very distinctly my first Kir Royale. I had just arrived in Strasbourg, France to start my junior year abroad program and on the eve of the first day of classes, all the foreign students were invited to have dinner with the president of the University. As I walked into the room in my still rather wrinkled pleated khakis and rather hideous sport coat, I was handed a flute containing a deep red, bubbly liquid.
Growing up in the midwest in a family that thought Red White and Blue (the budget beer made by Pabst–if you want a chuckle, read some of the reviews for the beer HERE) was a quality quaff. I don’t think there was ever any fermented fruit product in our house growing up (unless one counts the apple cider we inadvertently left on the counter one July when we left for a week to visit my grandparents), much less any sparkling wine. Thus when I was handed the colorful sparkling beverage, I did not realize that it would be the first time I would consume wine of any kind in my life.
And I loved it.
In fact, I loved it so much that I had several that evening (I lost count after eight), and spent the latter half of the dinner in the restroom, making that ugly sport coat a little uglier (and a lot stinkier).
Despite that rather auspicious beginning, I remain a lover of the Kir Royale today. Traditionally made with one part flavored liquor and five parts sparkling wine (I found out on one of my many subsequent trips to France, that a “true” Kir Royale is made with Crémant de Bourgogne and Chambord liqueur, but that is just the French being, well, French), it remains the standard cocktail in our home.
We have expanded past Chambord (a raspberry liqueur that is, frankly, not as good as it used to be), and have made Kir Royales with all sorts of liqueurs and syrups. Recently, I was sent a couple of bottles of my favorite Prosecco, Nino Franco, and two bottles of flavored syrup from Root 23 simple syrups to make Kir Royales–a perfect cocktail for this time of year.
The first we tried was the Root 23 Cherry Almond:
The combination was delightful: fruity and sweet, but still plenty of tartness, bubbles, and freshness. Outstanding.
Next, we followed the same process (or “recipe”) with Nino Franco Rustico and Root 23’s Maple Cinnamon:
The Root 23 Maple Cinnamon adds a decided holiday or Christmas flair to the Kir Royale, and gets my vote for a perfect dessert substitute this holiday season. Again, Outstanding.
While this experience, with Nino Franco Rustico and Root 23 syrups was decidedly more “mature” than my first encounter with Kir Royales however many years ago in downtown Strasbourg, the act of creating cocktails with sparkling wine inevitably takes me back to that first night in Strasbourg, and the excitement of starting a new year.
I did not know it at the time, of course, but that first Kir Royale (and not necessarily the subsequent seven), was the catalyst to start me on a path to wine appreciation and enjoyment. I always marvel at how seemingly inconsequential events can alter one’s path. I wonder if Red White and Blue has ever had a similar effect….