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Kir Royale: champagne cocktails

Thea Euryphaessa floats across town in search of effervescence (er ...that’s bubbles we think)

Written by . Published on October 21st 2008.

Kir Royale: champagne cocktails

Champagne cocktails.

A divisive bunch.

In one camp are those who feel you shouldn’t go meddling with champagne and leave well alone. Then there are those who believe there’s always room for improvement, partaking in a little effervescent alchemy.

And finally there are those who don’t give a toss either way and just want to be seen sipping from a champagne flute: conspicuous imbibers – those who drink with the underlying purpose of being seen. For them, it’s all about image.

Of all the champagne cocktails the Kir Royale is perhaps the simplest. It provides a litmus test for a bartender’s capability: does the barkeep respect the integrity of the champagne, or wield ingredients with wild reckless abandon?

Crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) and champagne are all that’s required to create this elegant alternative to straight-up champagne. But this is where it can go wrong. Too much cassis and the blackcurrant drown out the subtle notes of the champagne. Instead, the cassis should suffuse the champagne with a delicate rose tinted hue. After all, the Kir Royale is still considered an aperitif so shouldn’t be too sweet.

As with all cocktails disputes rage about exactly how it should be made. Top-down (champagne first, cassis after) ensures a more even distribution of liqueur throughout the drink. Bottom-up (cassis first, champagne after) often results in a dark tarpool lurking at the bottom of the flute. Manchester seems to be of the bottom-up persuasion: a heavy-handed bunch who all seemed to enjoy saturating the champagne with liqueur. All five venues created drinks with the champagne left fighting for its life.

Champagne cocktails tend to be most prevalent among the see and be seen venues, so I took it to the Hilt (the ‘on’ was off on the neon sign) and ascended to Cloud 23. Here, my cassis bottom-heavy drink was soured by slow service on a quiet Tuesday evening. After waiting almost 15 minutes, I approached the bar. From there I was pointed, not verbally requested, down the bar to ask another bartender for my drink. Five minutes later it eventually arrived. Regardless of the hype and awards, a view does not a drink make (£8) – especially with that wait.

Back down on terra firma at Restaurant Bar & Grill, our faith in customer service was reinstated by the friendly front-of-house manager who came out to greet us while we stood surveying the menu, before ushering us in to a booth and summoning an elegant looking Kir Royale. Funny how good service can improve the taste of a drink (£7.50).

In the Living Room I dragged myself through another cassis rich libation, but was entertained by the exploits of Silicone Valley’s finest. (£8.25)

On Saturday afternoon we dropped by Harvey Nichols 2nd Floor Restaurant & Brasserie, stomping ground of Ladies who Lunch.

Here my Kir Royale was subjected to a variation on the bottom-up theme when Matt Fairhurst rolled the cassis around the flute to ensure more even distribution (£10.50).

My final call was to be The Champagne Bar in Abode, but it didn’t open until 5pm. An odd call I thought considering all that passing trade on a Saturday afternoon. So we ventured over to Malmaison where we were served perhaps the most creatively presented Kir Royale of all. This was the closest I believe anyone came to getting it right...if only they’d omitted the pool of syrup at the bottom.

The colour of the cocktail at the top of the flute was perfect and before I reluctantly stirred it, came closest to how this drink should taste. They also used Veuve Clicquot, which further ensured this silky aperitif remain on the right side of dry (£9.95).

Sweeter palates will probably prefer a cassis rich libation, whereas drier palates should ask for a dash of cassis to be added after. But regardless of whether top-down or bottom-up, with the Kir Royale the silk seamed stocking of the champagne cocktail world, Moulin Rouge-esque Malmaison provides perhaps the best setting to get acquainted with this velvet tasting lovely.

The breakdown:

Venue: Malmaison, Piccadilly, Manchester, M1 1LZ. T: 0161
Cocktail: Kir Royale: (Flavour 3.5/5, Presentation 4/5, Flair 3.5/5, Ambience 4.5/5) Total 15.5/20

Venue: Cloud 23, 303 Hilton Manchester Deansgate, Manchester, M3 4LQ. T: 0161 870 1688
Cocktail: Kir Royale: (Flavour 2.5/5, Presentation 3/5, Flair 2/5, Ambience 2.5/5) Total 10/20

Venue: Restaurant Bar & Grill, 14 John Dalton Street, Manchester, M2 6JR. T: 0161 839 1999
Cocktail: Kir Royale: (Flavour 3/5, Presentation 3.5/5, Flair 3/5, Ambience 4/5) Total 13.5/20

Venue: Living Room, 80 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 2ER. T: 0161 832 0083
Cocktail: Kir Royale: (Flavour 2.5/5, Presentation 3/5, Flair 3/5, Ambience 4/5) Total 12.5/20

Venue: Harvey Nichols, 2nd Floor Restaurant & Brasserie, 21 New Cathedral Street, Manchester, M1 1AD. T: 0161 828 8898
Cocktail: Kir Royale: (Flavour3/5, Presentation 3.5/5, Flair 4/5, Ambience 4.5/5) Total 15/20

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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

MattyOctober 21st 2008.

Got a budget to use up by Christmas?Pointless drink, pointless article...

Corcaigh1October 21st 2008.


ChrisOctober 21st 2008.

Oooooh i'm sorry I'll stop being such a meany. What are some other things that go well together? Cheese and onion, bangers and mash, sick and a bucket.......Thank you for explaining that to me. What other dull drinks can we review?

ChrisOctober 21st 2008.

Thea this is the most pointless thing I have ever read. From your other articals it is plainly obvious that you know nothing about cocktails and you are simply reading a page in some cocktail book, asuming you know what you are ranting on about and making your self feel very important in the proccess. At least the cocktails in your last articals were intersting drinks but kir royal.... who cares??

katOctober 21st 2008.

Stay at home and grab a bottle from Tesco- less than £3!!

noddyOctober 21st 2008.

Chris, I think there is something catty/personal in your comment. Are you in the bar trade? Has Thea stepped on your toes? Tell us.

gbOctober 21st 2008.

We spent a fortune on 2 kir royales recently at Harvey Nics and would have graded them 5 out of ten. champagne was warm and far too much cassis. Service was not as good as usual either.

mme tredertOctober 21st 2008.

Chris, what a silly fellow you are. Two ingredients that come together to make a fabulous drink. But, two ingedients, like fish and chips or egss and bacon, that are rarely done well. When you get a Kir Royale made correctly, it's a heavenly drink. Thea writes rather well an' all, in my book. Go away you pointless little toad.

Tight gitOctober 21st 2008.

9.95 for one Kir Royale? bit over the top I feel

MattyOctober 21st 2008.

And the winner of the Best Vodka Red Bull Award goes to...

mark mOctober 21st 2008.

I think we should have an unofficial mancon supporters club. Every time Thea reviews a cocktail, we meet up in her 1st choice venue, drink cocktails and see if we agree. Not that any of us needs an excuse I am sure!!

laughingOctober 21st 2008.

And whats your tipple matty, Stella?

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