Cassis is the French name for the fruit we know as black currant. Crème de cassis originated not in the charming village of the same name on the Mediterranean coast, but in Dijon, the capital of Burgundy and one of the culinary meccas of Europe. The black currant plant thrives in this part of France.
The original cassis liqueur was invented by French monks as a cure for ailments as diverse as snakebite and melancholy - which basically amounts to an invitation to drink the stuff any time you darn well feel like it. (Certain monks were known to keep a couple of snakes handy, just for good measure.)
Today, this delicious liqueur finds its perfect expression in the cocktail known as the Kir, named for Félix Kir, a former mayor of the town of Dijon. Add 1 ounce of Gabriel Boudier Crème de Cassisto 5 ounces of dry white wine, preferably a good white Burgundy. Finish with a twist of lemon peel. The Kir Royale substitutes champagne for white wine. Incidentally, the Gabriel Boudier won a silver medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
ELISIR DU DR. ROUX ($24)
France has a great tradition of herbal liqueurs. In previous centuries, monks invented such classics as Benedictine and Chartreuse, both touted as elixirs of long life and good health.These famous concoctions are still around in pretty much their original form.
Elisir du Dr. Roux is a relatively new entry in the field. There are 14 different herbs and aromatics in this potion, created by Michel Roux, who himself is a bit of a wizard in the area of spirits marketing. Many of the ingredients are derived from purportedly energy-enhancing plants that are common to the landscape of Provence, some of which are illustrated on the eye-catching bottle.
This stuff is a gorgeous transparent green in color and shockingly full of flavor. Taken straight, it’s definitely an acquired taste, but it works magic in my Green Envy cocktail. Use one part lime juice, one part Elisir du Dr. Roux, and one part dry vermouth. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.