The classic kir is made with four parts chilled Aligoté, a crisp white from Burgundy (where it's an underdog grape in the land of Chardonnay) and one part crème de cassis, but you may change either or both ends of the equation. For the wine, any light, dry, fruity and preferably inexpensive white wine will do. For the fruit liquor, you may substitute blackberry, raspberry or peach liqueur, all varieties offered in the kir royaux served at the swanky Paris restaurant Le Violin d'Ingres.
Le Jardin des Sens, a three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Montpellier, recommends a kir royaux made with crème de pêche de vigne — wild peach liqueur. And a specialty of 59 Poincaré, a Paris restaurant under the auspices of chef Alain Ducasse, is "le mojito-Champagne," a blend of fresh mint, lime, white rum and Champagne.
Kir royaux are even featured at the Bar du Crillon and Les Ambassadeurs, both at Hotel Crillon and owned by Champagne house Taittinger. The Baccarat, one of the house apéros, mixes rosé Champagne with cranberry juice and lime.
If there is an argument to be made against kir royal, it is this: You shouldn't mask the character and elegance of so noble a wine as Champagne.
Such reasoning may explain why Champagne, unadorned, has emerged as the leading aperitif at fine dining establishments throughout France. At L'Astrance, among the most inventive restaurants in Paris, it is the sole aperitif.
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Where to buy aperitifs
Ruby and white Port and crème de cassis from various producers are available at fine wine shops such as Wine House and Wally's in Los Angeles, Du Vin Wine & Spirits in West Hollywood, Heritage Wine Co. in Pasadena and Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa.
Ricard (About $27) Available at Wine House, Du Vin Wine & Spirits and Wally's.
Byrrh ($23) Available at Du Vin Wine & Spirits.
Suze ($29) Available at Du Vin Wine & Spirits.
2001 Domaine de la Tour Vielle Banyuls ($21) Available at Sepulveda Wine Co. in Manhattan Beach.
Martini & Rossi red vermouth ($7) Widely available at fine wine shops and supermarkets.
Brillet Pineau des Charentes ($21) Available at Manhattan Liquors in Manhattan Beach.
Trenel crème de pêche de vigne ($25) Available at Wally's.