Francophiles love cassis. The intensely sweet, syrupy, Burgundian black currant liqueur famously lends its fruity flavor and vibrant color to kir and kir royale. But until the 2000s, cassis production in New York State was nonexistent. The federal government banned the cultivation of black and red currants in 1911 because the fruit was thought to carry blight that would affect white pine, an important part of the logging industry. Although disease-resistant varieties of currants were developed in the 1960s, New York’s ban wasn’t repealed until 2003, an effort that was spearheaded by Staatsburg-based fruit grower Greg Quinn.
Now, Current Cassis is looking to give the liqueur a contemporary spin. “What I love about black currants is that they are such an un-fruity fruit,” says founder Rachael Petach, who uses Quinn’s Hudson Valley-grown fruit in her artsy bottles. “By lowering the sweetness and adding aromatic herbs, we hope to make our cassis a vibrant manifestation of the best qualities of the black currant itself.”
Sweetened only with wild honey, Current Cassis has half the sugar of most liqueurs and only 16% ABV, making it easy to sip or splash into cocktails. Whole green cardamom, bay leaf, citrus, and lemon verbena add botanical notes that cut through the spirit’s sweet backbone. “We macerate on the skins and allow light fermentation,” explains Petach. “What you find is a [cassis] that is jubilant and refreshing.”
Find Current Cassis at Bluebird Wine and Spirits in Accord, Kingston Wine Co., Kitty’s in Hudson, and at Catskill’s Solo Vino.