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It boosted two Queen Elizabeths as their pre-prandial grinder. Now Dubonnet has a royal warrant

Some cocktails warm the blood.

Others stimulate the mind. But some are simply meant to make life more enjoyable or, perhaps in the case of the royal family, more bearable.

Take the royals’ favorite rocket fuel: Gordon’s Gin (with an alcohol content of 37.5 percent), Dubonnet (a wine-based aperitif flavored with herbs and an alcohol content of 14.8 percent), ice cream, a slice and, please, please, no gloomy old mixer.

The Queen Mother was a huge fan — she often relied on the impossibility of navigating her endless engagements “without something small.”

Dubonnet was invented to prevent French legionnaires from contracting malaria and has boosted two Queen Elizabeths as their pre-prandial grinder

Dubonnet was invented to prevent French legionnaires from contracting malaria and has boosted two Queen Elizabeths as their pre-prandial grinder

Or maybe not so little.

Once, when she was making arrangements for a royal picnic, she provided her favorite page, Billy Tallon, with a small, handwritten note.

“I think,” it said, “I’ll bring 2 bottles of Dubonnet and Gin this morning, just in case.”

Which it undoubtedly was.

The Queen is also a huge lover. Until recently (when she decided to take a temporary break from alcohol), Her Majesty enjoyed not one, but two of these “heart starters” for lunch every day. (Saving her daily glass of champagne for the evening.) The “shock” of just one is enough to make most of us dizzy.

So perhaps the only surprising thing about the news that Dubonnet is finally getting a coveted Royal Warrant – allowing bottles to bear the decal ‘By Appointment to HM The Queen’ – is that it has lasted so very long. (Gordon’s gin has been around since 1925.)

Not least, because while sales are strong now, for years it seemed like the Royals were the only ones drinking it.

Every day, rain or shine – at Buckingham Palace, Balmoral, shooting galleries, in headscarves, Barbour robes and crown jewels – they have diligently worked their way through an impressive proportion of the 500,000 bottles sold each year.

Cheers!  The Queen Mother and, to the right, the Queen enjoying Dubonnet

Cheers!  The Queen Mother and, to the right, the Queen enjoying Dubonnet

Cheers! The Queen Mother and, to the right, the Queen enjoying Dubonnet

At a Sandringham Christmas party, the Queen, Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother embraced their favorite concoction so much – they almost tore through an entire bottle of gin and Dubonnet for dinner – that the tiny Queen Mother completely missed her plate when she put herself on the table. vegetables helped, a fit of giggles collapsed, and the whole table followed.

So what the heck is Dubonnet, why do the royals love it so much, and why don’t the rest of us drink it in comparable amounts?

To start with, there is the very special taste. Enthusiasts rave about its “slight fruitiness with notes of woody spice, blackberry and chocolate,” which has seen sales grow by more than 30 percent in recent years.

Experts praise it for being ‘woody and tannic’. Some like the bitter aftertaste of quinine. Others don’t. It’s a surprise hit in Colombia, but many here find it too sweet.

Perhaps surprisingly, Dubonnet was created as a health tonic, albeit an alcoholic one. It all started in the late 1830s, when French foreign legionnaires were sent to malaria-infested corners of North Africa, and quinine — the active ingredient in cinchona bark used to prevent the disease — tasted so repulsive that they refused it. , so the French government launched a request for a solution.

Parisian chemist Joseph Dubonnet reacted in 1846 with “quinquina Dubonnet” – adding quinine, herbs and spices to fortified wine – and the troops loved it. So much so that they kept drinking it when they got home.

Her Majesty would enjoy not one, but two of these ‘heart-starters’ for lunch each day (saving her daily glass of champagne for the evening)

By 1900 it was the ‘apéritif du jour’ in French cafes and bars.

How to make a gin and dubonnet

This is definitely not a drink that you randomly slosh into an old glass.

Bottom is up!  The royal rocket fuel will soon receive a Royal Warrant

Bottom is up!  The royal rocket fuel will soon receive a Royal Warrant

Bottom is up! The royal rocket fuel will soon receive a Royal Warrant

Ideally, it should be handed by a page in livery, after it has been created by Robert Large, Yeoman of the Cellars – who has practiced an awful lot and has very strict etiquette to make a drink worthy of the Queen.

Robert always starts with a highly polished EIIR glass, into which he pours one part gin, two parts Dubonnet, to ‘just below the ER’, a slice of lemon – ‘all pips carefully removed.

The last thing she wants is a pip on the glass. . . and to swallow that!’ Finally, two perfectly square ice cubes, resting on the lemon.

Don’t risk an empty stomach for a second unless you’ve been drinking them all your life.

It soon crossed the Channel, where it was later embraced by the Queen Mother – who took it slightly more strongly than her daughter; in equal parts with gin, don’t always bother with ice and never, ever, with a mixer. (For Royals, Dubonnet is the mixer! – as Tony Blair once learned to his peril at Balmoral, there is little the Queen likes more than a very strong cocktail.)

The drink became a staple of every middle-class drink table, especially among those vacationing in France who never used it to make a ‘Gin and It’ (purists argue that they should use a sweet Italian vermouth, not Dubonnet).

Dubonnet’s heyday came in the 1970s, when it was bought by Pernod Ricard. The actress Pia Zadora became the Dubonnet girl in a series of sexy television commercials and suddenly up to 20 million bottles were sold a year worldwide.

But fashion comes and goes (that is, outside the House of Windsor) and, after a brief moment of glory, Dubonnet was once again relegated to dusty drinking tables.

A low point came in 2009 when the Queen, on a visit to Lord’s Cricket Ground, asked for her favorite drink as she watched the English bowlers race across Australia.

Shocking horror, not only did one of the dozens of bars at the Dubonnet cricket ground not stock, the only bottle in the official cellar was apparently ‘unable’.

To make matters worse, the owner of a local liquor store said no one had asked for Dubonnet in 30 years.

Her Majesty’s butler found a bottle in a supermarket, but was not allowed to bring it in until the director’s officials intervened.

After all that, it wouldn’t have been just the Queen who needed a solid gin and Dubonnet, or several.

Not that many of us would have been able to accommodate two – at least not without the need to urgently lie down afterwards.

But of course the Queen and her late mother couldn’t have looked better with their daily dose. Maybe all those herbs and spices really help.

One thing’s for sure, as they celebrate their Royal Warrant, Dubonnet’s producers will hope Her Majesty’s abstinence isn’t permanent. And praying that she will recover for all of us – the sooner the better.

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