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Creme de Cassis

Creme de Cassis

What to do with Black Currants? In Britain, they just tend to end up as Ribena. France created an altogether better solution – Creme de Cassis. France took its Black Currants from England and Holland centuries ago. Their best come from Burgundy, called “Noir de Bourgogne”. The woods and hills above the vines are full of them.

A few drops of Cassis

Formerly, Black Currants were popular in treating various ailments, from sore throats to gout. They certainly contain significant amounts of Vitamin C and anti-oxidants.

Then in 1841 a liqueur maker and distiller from Dijon produced the first Creme de Cassis liqueur. He had noticed how Parisian Bars made their rough wine more palatable by adding fruit.

Consequently, in France, most Cassis is widely used in this way to create Kir. It’s an apéritif that makes delicious summer drinking, ranking alongside Pastis in popularity. It’s also an ingredient used in many a nouvelle cuisine dish.

Kir was originally just known as blanc-cassis. At the end of the Second World War, it was made famous by Chanoine Felix Kir, the Mayor of Dijon and an ex-resistance leader. He served it to the likes of De Gaulle and Khrushchev, and afterwards, the drink was renamed Kir in his honour.

A few drops (say 10ml) of Cassis adds interest and vitality to an otherwise dull glass of white wine. Traditionally, Burgundy’s Aligoté is preferred, but virtually any supermarket plonk will do. There’s also the upmarket Kir Royale, which uses sparkling white wine to create a fizzy version (again, do use cheap fizz rather than Krug). Boring wine? Reach for the Cassis!

You could just go and buy Vedrenne Super Cassis from the likes of Waitrose. Made from Burgundian Black Currants, the world’s best Creme de Cassis is around £8.99 per 50cl bottle. Vedrenne is fantastic quality, but as the constituents are only Black Currants, sugar and alcohol, why not make your own?

Make your own Cassis

Black Currant bushes produce abundant fruit every July. Making Cassis is so easy even I can do it, just allow sufficient time: a couple of hours spread over 2-3 days.

My Cassis recipe is like the one in the excellent Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book, where she states it came from her Burgundian Great Aunt. It’s been well road-tested down the years.


1kg (2lb) Black Currants
1-litre red wine. Use something with fruit in a lighter flavour spectrum and without much tannin; cheap Valpolicella does the trick
1.5kg (3lb) granulated sugar
750ml cheap brandy, gin or vodka. I prefer vodka; it’s neutral. Brandy or Gin add their distinctive flavours and get in the way

Just keep these ratios according to how much fruit you have.


Use the freshest Black Currants you can. Wash and rinse. De-stemming is optional. First, soak the Black Currants in the red wine in a bowl for 48 hours. Then feed this mixture into a liquidiser. Tip all the resultant mush into a large bowl lined with doubled-up muslin.

Now pull the muslin together and twist it, so the liquid is squeezed out into the bowl. You’ll need a little strength to press it through the muslin, but be gentle as too much force will extract too much pectin, which will make the final Cassis too gloopy. If necessary, sieve the liquid to remove any pips and stems.

Measure the liquid and put it into a preserving pan. A pressure cooker base is a good alternative, but ensure whatever pan you use doesn’t react with fruit acids.

To each litre of liquid add 1kg of sugar. Stand over a low to medium heat and stir – the sugar will dissolve quickly.

Slowly bring up the heat so that the liquid is around 80° C, plus or minus 5°. You need to keep that temperature constant over the next two hours. On no account let it boil!

During the next two hours:

1st hr: check the temperature and stir thoroughly every fifteen minutes;

2nd hr: check the temperature and stir thoroughly every thirty minutes.

After two hours the liquid level with have reduced slightly, and it will now be slightly syrupy. Leave to cool, overnight is easiest.

When cool, you can add the vodka. In a bowl, add 1 part vodka to 3 parts Black Currant liquid. The easy way is to measure how much total liquid you have and divide the number by three to give the amount of vodka you need. The result will be around 15% abv in strength. Now it’s time to bottle it. Ex-wine bottles with screw caps are ideal.

This Cassis will keep well, a year or two easily. You can drink it after only two days, but the longer you leave it, the better it becomes.

More uses for Cassis

As well as Kir or Kir Royale, Cassis is remarkably versatile. Here are some other ideas for using Creme de Cassis:

  • Cassis diluted with iced mineral water makes a great long drink;
  • Add to cheap red wine instead of white wine – and create a Cardinal (also known as a Communard);
  • Pour the Cassis over vanilla ice cream for a no-effort superb dessert, or add it to a bowl of summer fruits;
  • Add small quantities of Cassis to hearty winter stews, (yes, really!) or use as a base for a sauce with meats such as Duck.

Meanwhile, can you guess what I’m doing this week?

Like this? Then try Aperol Spritz

Or, here’s how to make your own authentic Limoncello

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Comments 21

  1. Very timely Paul, as we have just run out of our French stock! Let’s hope I can pick blackcurrants before the birds get them.

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  2. Beat the birds to the currants this year – just finished bottling 2.5 litres. Thanks for the recipe Paul – now looking forward to tasting my first homemade Kir Royale!

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  3. Just picked 4 kilos of blackcurrants first time making Cassis if it turns out like the Rhubarb gin I will be very pleased

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  4. Just made this with this year’s allotment harvest; its fabulous! I am going to plant a couple more bushes I think.

  5. Left my black currants a little longer than usual to ripen (we have so many that the birds can’t cope!) Have made 5 litres and it tastes delicious already , thanks Paul!

  6. I have loads of black currants from the last 2 years harvest which are frozen. Do you think I could use this recipe with frozen blackcurrants once thawed?

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      Hi Alexandra, thanks for writing! Can you describe the bloom a little more as ideally the cassis alcohol content should prevent this? As should corking the bottle with only a small airspace. If it’s only on the surface or just one bottle I’d be tempted to remove it and try a small amount for flavour. If that’s ok I’d personally probably use it or maybe just cook with it. If the bloom is throughout the liquid or it smells/tastes bad then I would bin it. If it was an entire batch in multiple bottles then something in the creation process created the problem, maybe insufficient temperature in preparation and so I would bin it rather than risk it. It could be mould/yeast or maybe a fermentation if there are Bubbles in the liquid. Always err on the side of safety! Do let me know and good luck this year.

  7. I’ll be making Cassis this week… blackcurrants just right. I love to use it in Fenelon. A measure on walnut liqueur, measure of cassis and topped up with a good red. One of my favourite drinks.

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