I’m a huge fan of old-fashioned flavors not often found in the US, and black currant is one of my favorites. Between that and my love of all things French, it’s no surprise that I love crème de cassis. So when my local farm share offers that I can pick as many black currants as I’d like, who am I to say no?
My best friend and I got a little goofy out in the field, because it takes quite a while to pick an entire bag full of the tiny berries. While he immediately made scones with his haul, mine was destined for homemade crème de cassis. I knew it had to be better than the flat, overly sweet varieties from the store.
Directions to make homemade crème de cassis vary considerably. Some have you crush or blend the berries, others have you heat them or simply leave them whole. You can use vodka, brandy, or other spirits. Some recipes include a cinnamon stick, vanilla pod, or other flavoring. They can be steeped in a dark place or a sunny window, from a week to two months. And you can even geek out about the exact percentage of sugar by weight. It seems that a mere liqueur has 20% sugar, while a true crème has 45%.
It seemed easiest to work by weight, since I wanted a recipe I could replicate. I used 1 part fruit to 2 parts alcohol, though you could also do a 1:1 ratio. I skipped any additions, wanting the pure flavor of black currant to come through on this first batch. I also left my berries whole, mostly out of laziness.
I mixed my fruit and vodka together in a large glass jar, tucked it into the closet, and completely forgot about it. Ideally, you probably want to let things sit for 1-2 months. However, it was about a year later that I realized I still had a jar of berries and vodka sitting on the shelf. Oops. At this point the berries were pale and the liquid was a deep purple color and hadn’t faded, so I was hopeful that I hadn’t left things too long.
I strained it through some cheesecloth*, which only needed to be done once since I had not crushed the berries. If you have smaller particles from chopping or crushing the berries, I’d recommend straining a second time.
As for sugar, I decided to go with an authentic crème and do 45% sugar by weight. I was a little worried it would be too sweet, but the tartness of the berries still shines through. A baker’s sugar* or caster sugar will be easier to dissolve without heating, but plain sugar would work, too.
This turned out really dark, as you can see in the top photo. I bottled some up for a hostess gift for our Parisian movie night, and the rest went into an empty Hendrick’s* bottle for my very own “Hendrick’s Crème de Cassis.” I figure, if you’ve got bottles stamped with your name on them, you may as well make good use of them.
Creme de Cassis Recipe
A tart and fruity French liqueur. My favorite way to use this is in a Gin and Tonic, where the tartness of the cassis makes for a bright and fruity summertime drink. It’s also perfect in a classic Kir or Kir Royale.
- 16 oz of fresh or frozen black currants
- 32 oz of vodka or neutral spirits
- Baker’s sugar or other fine sugar (calculated by weight)
Note: The above amounts can be changed by using 1 part fruit to 2 parts vodka, or more fruit to taste.
- Clean and wash the berries, if fresh. They can be left whole, or chopped slightly with a pastry blender, but do not crush.
- Add berries and vodka to a clean, sterilized glass jar.
- Let sit for 1-2 months in a cool, dark place.
- Strain the berries out of the liquid, pressing lightly to get the juices out.
- If you chopped the berries, strain a second time through some cheesecloth to remove any small particles.
- Weigh the strained liquid. Calculate 20% of the weight for a liqueur, or 45% of the weight for a crème.
- Add the sugar to the liqueur, stirring until dissolved.
- Bottle in clean, sterilized glass bottles and store in a cool, dark place.
Enjoy! To get you started, here are a couple of my favorite cocktails that feature cassis.
Hendrick’s GC&T (Gin, Cassis & Tonic)
The tartness of the crème de cassis is an excellent replacement for a spritz of lime, should you happen to find yourself temporarily out of limes. Hey, it happens – especially when your partner is very fond of Moscow mules.
- 2 oz of your preferred gin (mine is Hendrick’s*)
- 1/2 oz homemade crème de cassis, or to taste
- tonic water (get a good one, like Q Tonic*)
- Lime wedge for garnish (optional)
Start with a generous amount of ice to a rocks glass. Add gin and cassis, and stir briefly. Top with tonic to taste.
Kir or Kir Royale
A Kir should be delicate, with the cassis complementing the wine, rather than overpowering it. A classic Kir is made with a dry white wine, while a Kir Royale is made with Champagne. Other beverages, such as a hard cider, are also good options.
- 1/2-1 oz homemade crème de cassis
- 4 oz dry, unoaked white wine or Champagne
Add the crème de cassis to a wine glass and top up with wine or champagne. If you’re feeling fancy, garnish with a few seasonal berries.