The Dubonnet Cocktail & Why It's The Queen's Favorite Drink

Posted by Helena Hambrecht on

We bet it would be hard to find someone who doesn’t in some way want to emulate the luxurious life of the royals. Wouldn’t it be nice to have people to mix our drinks and have private access to the world’s most valuable art?

Perhaps we can’t all hire a staff, but what could be more fun than drinking like a Queen? It’s like the perfect way to feel like royalty. Put on your biggest hat, and pour yourself a super fancy cocktail. Let’s talk about why the Dubonnet cocktail is about to be your new favorite.

The Queen's Favorite Cocktail: The Dubonnet and Gin

Those who follow the royal family closely know that the Queen’s drinking habits are often discussed. It is pretty well-known that the Queen enjoys a cocktail and one cocktail above most others. Although many say that she would not have lived the long life she has if she drank as much as it is rumored she does, that doesn’t stop people from talking.

Hidden among these rumors is the widely accepted fact that Queen Elizabeth’s favorite cocktail is a Dubonnet and Gin Cocktail. She enjoys one every day before dinner, among the three other drinks she supposedly consumes on a daily basis.

Every day might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it does appear that this is the go-to drink for the monarch. She has staff members whose responsibilities include mixing this particular drink for her. Queen Elizabeth has also been witnessed nursing one of them for long periods of time at social events. Although she enjoys a martini and a few other cocktails, the Dubonnet and Gin is clearly her favorite.

Do Any Other Famous People Like the Dubonnet Cocktail?

The Queen isn’t the only famous person with a penchant for this unique cocktail, either. She appears to have developed her taste for it in response to the Queen Mother’s love for the drink. The Queen Mother often enjoyed a similar cocktail, with a slightly different ratio of Dubonnet to gin. Queen Elizabeth is reported to enjoy slightly less Dubonnet than gin in her cocktail, it seems.

Nelson Rockefeller, the 41st Vice President of the United States, was a conservative drinker. He didn’t drink or smoke, and he was known for his straight-laced behavior. However, on the rare occasion he partook in a drink, it was nearly always a simple Dubonnet on the rocks. One book about this VP’s life is titled “Oreos and Dubonnet,” named after his favorite treats.

What Is the Dubonnet Cocktail?

The Dubonnet is an apéritif cocktail that’s just unique and rare enough to make a splash in any social setting. Once wildly popular, this aromatic drink has become a bit rarer recently, even viewed as unpopular at times. However, it is now making a resurgence.

What Is an Apéritif?

To understand this cocktail, first, we have to understand apéritifs. Beginning your meal with an apéritif is becoming more popular among many age ranges today. In fact, the apéritif lifestyle is rising in popularity as well. Some even theorize that its increase in popularity was spurred by the pandemic.

An apéritif is an alcoholic beverage meant to stimulate the appetite, which is why the Queen prefers to drink this particular cocktail right before a meal. Apéritifs are usually dry beverages instead of sweet. They tend to be served with appetizers or an amuse-bouche.

Dubonnet is one of the thousands of apéritif out there, and it appears in many cocktails.

The popularity of apéritifs has waxed and waned over the centuries, but they have been increasing in popularity again in recent years. Popular apéritifs include Dubonnet, vermouth, and Aperol, but our personal favorites are the options we carry here at Haus.

What Is Dubonnet?

Dubonnet is a sweet wine apéritif. It is a blend of fortified red wine, herbs, spices, and, historically, quinine. It has a fruity, spicy flavor and hails from France. Dubonnet was originally marketed in 1846 by Joseph Dubonnet.

It was created as an entry into a contest put on by the French Government. The government was attempting to find a way to get the public to consume more quinine. Quinine, which effectively combats Malaria, was hard to stomach because of its bitter taste. The government was seeking a way to make it palatable in order to battle the disease.

So, What Is a Dubonnet Cocktail?

The Dubonnet cocktail is a particularly potent cocktail made from one part gin and two parts Dubonnet, which is part of why it is so small. Once strained, the final result comes out to only about two and a half ounces.

How The Queen Drinks Dubonnet

Of all the Dubonnet cocktails, the Queen prefers the classic Dubonnet and gin cocktail. This cocktail is essentially a gin martini with Dubonnet used in place of vermouth. The spiced flavor of the Dubonnet offers a different flavor.

Although the Queen has a staff member whose job is to mix this drink for her each day, the rest of us can make it rather easily as well. The Dubonnet Cocktail done the Queen’s way requires four ingredients:

  • 2 oz. of Dubonnet
  • 1 oz. of Gin
  • Ice
  • lemon slice

The Dubonnet, gin, and ice are mixed until well chilled, then strained into a small cocktail glass. The cocktail is often garnished with a lemon twist. However, the Queen pairs hers with a slice of lemon, according to former royal chefs.

How Can You Switch Up This Cocktail?

If you’re looking to create a lighter, brighter twist on this apéritif cocktail, you have two options. If you’re going for a more fruity cocktail, try swapping out the Dubonnet for our Spiced Cherry apéritif. For deeper, richer flavor, consider using New Fashioned instead.

What Glass Should a Dubonnet Cocktail Be Served In?

Because it is a smaller cocktail meant to be consumed rather quickly, the best glass for a Dubonnet Cocktail is a coupe glass with a small bowl. The glass should be held low on the stem so that the heat from your hand doesn’t warm up the drink, as it is meant to be consumed chilled.

Other Ways To Drink Dubonnet

Dubonnet is a key ingredient in many other cocktails as well. It is sometimes paired simply with lemonade or bitter lemon as the sweetness of the Dubonnet blends so well with these tougher drinks.

For a fancier cocktail, you could mix Dubonnet Blanc with Champagne, a small amount of bitters, and simple syrup. This cocktail would be the perfect royal addition to your wedding or anniversary party.

Pair Dubonnet with orange bitters and gin for a slightly less fancy version of this drink. This earthy recipe will offer a grounded yet still delicious cocktail for any occasion.

No matter how you pair Dubonnet, you are sure to have a delicious starter for any meal. After all, that is the entire point of the apéritif.

The Queen Loves Dubonnet, and You Might Too

In 2021, the Queen awarded a royal warrant to Dubonnet. The royal warrant is rarely handed out and has only been given to a handful of companies in the past. This warrant means that from now on, all Dubonnet bottles will be marked to show they have earned this designation. Other past recipients include Bollinger Champagne, Lanson and Pol Roger, Hine Cognac, and Laphroaig Scotch. It’s a seriously special designation.

Still one has to wonder where the Queen’s love of this rare yet delicious drink came from? Since the Queen Mother also enjoyed this beverage, perhaps this bonded them.

However, the Queen considers this drink (and her personal drinking habits in general) to be a credit to her long reign. She says that drinking a Dubonnet Cocktail (which she can reportedly nurse through an entire reception) is her secret to keeping her stress levels low and her spirits high.

Whatever Queen Elizabeth’s personal reasons for loving this drink, we can appreciate the increased affection others are feeling for the apéritif. This is one historic tradition and royal habit we can get behind!

Sources:

Entertaining: The Apéritif Culture Is Making A Comeback | Forbes

Queen Elizabeth's Favorite Cocktail Recipe | Marie Claire (US)

The Queen's Doctors Have Told Her It's Time to Stop Drinking | Cosmopolitan