I recently visited Nancy, France. Nancy is located in Lorraine in the northeastern corner of France up by the Belgian border. In Lorraine, they don’t make much wine, but the local beer and spirits are well-regarded. Of particular note is a style of brandy made from Mirabelle plums. Known as Eaux de vie de Mirabelle, these brandies are generally unaged and clear with a fiery bite followed by a soothing note of fresh Mirabelles once you exhale. These brandies are delicious, but they aren’t for everyone.
As much as I enjoyed sipping a local eaux de vie with local specialties, like choucroute or Quiche Lorraine, my traveling companions found the brandy too strong for their tastes. They wanted to enjoy the flavors of the Mirabelles in a drink, but straight brandy just wasn’t their thing. Luckily, at the Excelsior Hotel, the waiter suggested that we try a local cocktail specialty, the Kir Royale Lorraine.
While you may know the Kir as a cocktail featuring sparkling wine and crème de cassis, the Kir Royale Lorraine substitutes Eux de vie de Mirabelle for the crème de cassis. At the Excelsior, they garnish this drink with a fresh Mirabelle plum, but given that Mirabelles aren’t grown in large quantities in the United States, this might be a tough garnish to find. And while Mirabelle plum brandy from Lorraine might also prove undiscoverable, there is a fantastic Mirabelle eaux de vie made by an American producer, Clear Creek. Ask for Clear Creek Eaux de vie de Mirabelle at your local liquor store, and if they don’t carry it, they should be able to order it for you.
This is a drink worth making, and it’s one that will be a delightful and easy drink as the weather starts to cool and the leaves begin to turn. Don’t use your best sparkling wine for this cocktail either; choose something like a Spanish cava or a French Cremant for best results. If you go too cheap on the sparkling wine, this drink will suffer, so shoot for a sparkler in the $10 to $12 range.
While this drink is really delicious and a great way to experience Lorraine, nothing beats traveling there. With a high speed TGV train running from Paris to Nancy, don’t miss out on visiting this beautiful city the next time you are in France. Between the food and the people and, yes, the eaux de vie, I promise you’ll have a memorable experience.
Kir Royale Lorraine
Makes one cocktail.
- 1 ounce Mirabelle plum eaux de vie-style brandy
- 3 ounces good quality sparkling wine (Spanish Cava or French Cremant recommended)
- Mirabelle plum garnish (optional and only when in season)
- In a wine flute, add eaux de vie and Mirabelle if using.
- Top with sparkling wine to about 2/3 full.