Better than flowers for Mother’s Day
Dubonnet is a sweet-tasting, wine-based apéritif that contains a bit of quinine (more about that later). Dubonnet has an interesting flavor all by itself, but it really shines when mixed in a cocktail.
Though several drinks specify it as an ingredient, the eponymous Dubonnet Cocktail is the best of the breed. This drink’s bracing flavor makes it perfect for sipping before dinner (or as afternoon refreshment). It’s a favorite of Queen Elizabeth II (and was loved by the late Queen Mother, too).
With Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday in the US, why not pour a round of Dubonnet Cocktails? After all, it’s Queen Mum-approved for mothers everywhere.
Recipe: The Dubonnet Cocktail
Joseph Dubonnet created his signature apéritif in 1846, inspired by a French government competition to develop drinks containing quinine. The government wanted to encourage their legionnaires in North Africa to consume quinine (which helps combat malaria), but the soldiers shunned it because of the bitter taste. Government officials hoped to make quinine more appealing by incorporating it into a tasty alcoholic beverage.
Dubonnet contains only a small quantity of quinine—in addition to the various herbs and spices that create its characteristic flavor. The alcoholic content of Dubonnet is fairly low (it’s essentially fortified wine).
Dubonnet comes in rouge (red), blanc (white), and gold varieties, but it’s the red version you want for this cocktail. Good thing, too, because that’s the only version you’re likely to see at most liquor stores.
The recipe I describe below is the classic one for this cocktail. It specifies equal parts of Dubonnet and gin, and calls for the drink to be served “up” (chilled and in a cocktail glass). But many people prefer different ratios of Dubonnet to gin, and some even like to drink Dubonnet Cocktails on the rocks. More about all this in the Notes.
This recipe serves one, and takes about 5 minutes to make.
- 1½ ounces Dubonnet (the rouge—red—variety)
- 1½ ounces gin (use “London” dry gin; see Notes)
- a twist or slice of lemon for garnish (optional, but attractive and tasty)
- Place the Dubonnet and gin in a mixing glass that is half filled with ice. Stir vigorously until the ingredients are well chilled—this will take about 20 to 30 seconds.
- Strain the mixture into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or slice, if desired. Serve.
- When a cocktail recipe specifies gin, it’s usually understood these days to mean London dry gin—which is also the type most commonly found in liquor stores. Any good name-brand dry gin will work well in this drink.
- In addition to London dry, you might see Dutch or Belgian gin (sometimes called jenever or genever), which is made from malt rather than grain. There’s also Old Tom Gin, which has a sweeter taste. Both of these varieties are less common than London dry.
- Why stir this drink rather than shake it? Because both the ingredients in it are clear liquids. Shaking forms oxygen bubbles, which give drinks a somewhat cloudy appearance. That’s no problem when you’re using opaque ingredients like citrus juice, but slightly unattractive when you’re serving a drink like this one, which should be crystal clear.
- As noted above, my recipe reflects the classic 1:1 ratio for a Dubonnet Cocktail (that is, equal parts Dubonnet and gin). But many people—reportedly including both the current queen and the late Queen Mother—prefer 2 parts Dubonnet to one part gin (a 2:1 ratio). Others prefer 1 part Dubonnet to 2 parts gin (a 1:2 ratio).
- The Queen also reportedly prefers her Dubonnet Cocktail served with ice rather than “up.”
- And if you’re drinking Dubonnet by itself, IMO it’s best served on the rocks, with a lemon twist.
- A drop or two of bitters can be a refreshing addition to the Dubonnet Cocktail.
- If you really like bitters in this drink, try a Dubonnet Royal: 2 parts Dubonnet, 1 part gin, 2 dashes Angostura bitters, and 2 dashes orange curaçao (you can substitute Grand Marnier). Stir the mixture in an ice-filled glass, strain into a cocktail glass, and add a dash of absinthe on top (you can skip the absinthe, but it’s a nice touch). Many people garnish the Dubonnet Royal with a maraschino cherry.
- Because Dubonnet has a relatively low alcoholic content (19 percent, or 38 proof), I always store it in the refrigerator after I open a bottle (to retard oxidization). If you don’t refrigerate opened Dubonnet, it won’t necessarily go “bad,” but after a month or two its flavor won’t be as bright.
- Dubonnet wasn’t the only beverage created to combat malaria. The British developed tonic water, which also contains quinine. And to entice overseas troops to drink it, they usually mixed it with gin—thus giving rise to the Gin and Tonic.
À Votre Santé
“Bracing,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, sipping her Dubonnet Cocktail. “Love the crisp flavor.”
“It’s nice and light for a cocktail,” I said. “Not heavy or filling.”
“Plus it has the Queen Mother’s seal of approval,” said Mrs K R. “She lived to be 101, you know. So I’m going to bet this is an elixir of youth.”
“And don’t forget, it helps ward off malaria too,” I said.
“Important point,” agreed Mrs K R, polishing off her cocktail. “Never realized how much I could enjoy healthy living.”
You may also enjoy reading about:
Gin and Tonic
Pink Lady Cocktail
Or check out the index for more
Well, that is a cocktail fit for a queen (and a Queen Mother)! :) Interesting fact about the quinine. I will try this bracing cocktail this weekend to toast the mums (who will have to celebrate without us this year). :(
Good morning John , what a beautiful drink , love the color and I'm sure I will love the taste . This is a must make , all your cocktails are great and since meeting you , I'm known as the 'Cocktail Lady' in my part of the woods . Thanks for sharing :)
Hi Debra, neither of our mums will be with us this either either, alas. :( But a toast is still in order.! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Nee, glad to hear you're the Cocktail Lady! And you definitely want to try this drink sometime. I love the color, as do you, and the flavor really is fun. Thanks for the comment.
Lovely, What beautiful shots, and what very good mixing and drinking advice. This one is a classic! Bravo! Please leave the back door open for me...
Hi Adri, I just unlocked the back door. ;-) Isn't this a great cocktail? Looks great, drinks better! Thanks for the comment.
Once a long time ago I over indulged shall we say, in a few too many gin cocktails and since then I have sworn it off, but if anything could lure me back it would be this gorgeous looking drink. Just beautiful.
Hi Karen, gin seems to do that to a lot of people. ;-) This really is a good drink -- hope you have a chance to try sometime. Thanks for the comment.
Your photographs get more beautiful with every post. Just gorgeous, especially that first one! Wonderful cocktail, thanks!
I can't beliee there is actually a drink that contains quinine!!! Wow! I grew up swallowing bitter pills....if only I knew back then...lol!
The first photograph can go into a calender. Stunning.
John: I cannot stop looking at the first pic! What a gorgeous photo... The fave cocktail of a queen to many other queens, our Moms. Love this idea!
Hi Kristy, this cocktail is truly worth trying. Thanks for those very kind words, and for commenting.
Hi Minnie, quinine is much easier to ingest in a drink, isn't it?! Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.
Hi Denise, this cocktail is sooo good! Definitely worth a try sometime. Thanks for the comment.
Not familiar with Dubonnet at all, except it is the color name of my lipstick. My interest is certainly piqued by this beautiful cocktail. I won't be seeing my Mother this Sunday, but the next time we get together, I'm making this for her--she will love it. Thank you, Rocquie
this cocktail looks perfect for Mother's Day....we would have never known there is a drink with quinine in it...so intriguing, those clicks look stunning...the best we have ever seen till date,thanks :-)
John, your photos are magazine worthy.
Hi Rocquie, your mother will like this, and you will like it! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kumar, this is a great way to drink quinine! ;-) Thanks for your kind words, and comment.
Hi Madonna, blush! Thanks so very much.
I wonder if this is where the term crystal clear comes into play? I never realized when to shake and when to stir so this certainly clears the water. And the quinine? Good story. Love those gin and tonics and this drink looks way more than drinkable! Thanks, John!
Hi Abbe, good question re crystal clear -- I should look that up. Although I suspect it has to do with the gem stones. Thanks for the comment.
What an exquisite photo! Interesting story too. You would think the the head officials wouldn't want to encourage drinking.
Wow John, what a beautiful and tasty cocktail...I have never heard of Dubonnet...but from your description I already like it especially that is mixed with gin...
All the pictures are awesome...as usual :D
Hope you are having a wonderful week!
I love the colour of this cocktail; it's very pretty. The presentation in that glass is gorgeous too. I would love one! I quite like gin and often have a bottle of Gordon's in the cupboard. We're getting together with my family on Mother's Day and because of tradition, we'll be starting the day with a champagne! xx
Very classy sounding and tasty looking! A marvelous cocktail.
Elixir of youth! Exactly what I need for this mother's day! Love your cocktails, John, they're always so simple but so splendid!
Hi Mireya, I'm not sure if it's possible to control the drinking of Legionnaires! ;-) Great drink, no matter what its history. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rosa, isn't this nice? Really wonderful flavor! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Juliana, isn't this great? Thanks for the kind words, and for taking time to comment.
Hi Charlie, champagne sounds like a wonderful way to start the day! We always have a bottle or two chilling in the refrigerator. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Deepa, I think we all need an elixir of youth. ;-) And this really is a wonderful cocktail -- loads of flavor and just gorgeous color. Thanks for the comment.
The name is lovely. I felt quite swish asking for one once a long time ago in a bar and I don't think I've had one (or thought of one) since. SO good!
Although I do not drink alcohol but this drink's color gives me the feeling that it really taste pretty good:). Your pictures are so spring oriented ....so so lovely
Haha, I love your tag line for this: better than flowers for Mother's Day. A great little treat that I'm sure mothers all around will love!
Hi Maureen, probably time to have another, yes? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amira, it does taste pretty good! One nice thing about cocktails, even if you don't drink they're fun to look at. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ala, this doesn't last as long as flowers, but the immediate pleasure is much, much greater! Thanks for the comment.
Oooh, that is such a pretty color! Love that it's a simply recipe too!
Wow, the images are magazine ad worthy, John! Just perfect! What a nice cocktail for a mother's day! You have done a great job!
As a kid, I remember watching those Dubonnet commercials on TV. I think they always enjoyed it on the rocks. It just seemed like such a sophisticated drink.
If it has the Queen Mum's approval, it's good enough for me. Cheers!
Hi Laura, isn't the color so gorgeous? Such a pretty (and tasty!) drink! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Holly, this really is such a great drink. Thanks for the kind words, and for taking time to comment.
Hi Carolyn, I think if you're drinking just Dubonnet, it's best on the rocks. Just like the commercials say! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Beth, just what we think! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Love that Dubonnet is sweet tasting, and wine based. I have never had Dubonnet, but it sounds lovely. Your cocktail would be a perfect addition to a Mother's Day brunch! Gorgeous! Take care, Terra
Hi Terra, it's a great drink, and looks so pretty! Definitely a winner. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
I guess I was the only one who had to look up eponymous. I knew with the root word it had to do with a name, but I think this is the first time I have seen this word and I am a word person. Not a cross word person, but a reading word person. NOW that we have that settled I am ready for that refreshing cocktail which is going to make me feel so Ta Ta.
Hi Carol, I'm a word person too. ;-) This really is a great cocktail -- worth trying. Thanks for the comment.
Wines for the queens! I'll have to get one for Mom and tell her Queen Elizabeth loves this drink. That alone will make her eyes sparkle on Mother's Day!
I'm not a mom but I still want to celebrate mother's day with a couple of these! :)
If its good enough for the queen and her mum... its good enough for me! And... it has GIN! You know how much I love gin.
Absolutely gorgeous cocktail, John! Just a matter of time 'til I can be enjoying one of these on my patio during a hot Texas summer. Thanks for sharing and always inspiring with beautiful new drink ideas!
Well bottoms up! I have to do my part to prevent malaria...wink ..wink, after all I do live in Asia. What a simple and beautiful cocktail. Have a super weekend. BAM
I've never tried Dubonnet, but now I need to! The Queen's preference for on the rocks sounds good for our warm weather too.
Hi Julie, great reason to try this drink! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ashley, heck, I'm not a mom either and want to celebrate with a couple of these! :D Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amanda, gin is such a pleasant spirit, isn't it? You should definitely try this sometime -- very nice change of pace. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Georgia, next year you can celebrate Mother's Day in style with one of these! And this is such a good hot weather drink -- not a long sipper, but very refreshing. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Bam, yeah, we try to prevent malaria all the time around here. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lisa, on the rocks, straight up -- they're all good. But I agree with you that when the weather is really hot, on the rocks is refreshing. Thanks for the comment.
What a lovely toast for any occasion John, you are the king of cocktails, that's for sure!!
Hi Chris, isn't this a great cocktail? Tons of flavor, interesting color. Thanks for the comment.
This must be the Royal equivalent of the gin and tonic which is popular with the plebeians in the UK! It's a beautiful colour, def royal
Hi Nazneen, it probably is! Doesn't it have a great color? Thanks for the comment.
No one makes a cocktail quite like you my friend. This is stunning.
Hi Kim, gosh, thanks so much for that very nice comment. :-)
I'm impressed that you have intimate knowledge of the Queen's drinking habits- you have some good connections there! For my gin, I prefer the Bombay Saphire Gin in a blue bottle. Lovely cocktail photos, John!
Hi Fran, no intimate knowledge on my part -- BBC is available to everyone! Bombay Sapphire is quite good, and you've reminded me it's been ages since I'm sampled it. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.
Beautiful photo of a cocktail with flowers around the base of the glass! I like that you stepped away from your regular cocktail photos against white or black background (even though I love those too!) for a Mother's Day cocktail!
I think I love the word "Dubonnet" as much as the idea of this cocktail. The vibrant color is so inviting. I'd love it someone made this for me on Mother's Day!
Hi Julia, always fun to change things up, isn't it? This really is a cocktail worth trying -- such great taste. And it looks good! Flowers optional. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kristi, now that you mention it, Dubonnet does have a nice sound, doesn't it? Good flavor, and you're so right about the color. Hope you get one one Mother's Day! Thanks for the comment.
Not heard of this before, sounds lovely!
HiCaroline, it is lovely! Just a fun (and pretty) drink. Thanks for the comment.
Another spectacular cocktail! If it's good enough for the queen, it's good enough for me :)
Hi Liz, isn't this great? And I totally agree with you! Thanks for the comment.
I always know where to go for a great drink recipe. This looks super fantastic!
Hi Cathleen, :-) It's really a terrific cocktail. And it looks so great, too! Thanks for the comment.
Beautiful pictures as always. It sounds like the perfect cocktail to serve on special occasions.
This drink reminds me of Sunset. Looks delicious!
Hi Dawn, this really is a nice drink -- good flavor, good looks. What more can one ask for? Thanks for the comment.
Hi Peachy, it does have some sunset colors in it, doesn't it? And yes, it's delish! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
This is another new cocktail for me, John! It sounds and looks great!
Hi Amy, it's always fun to learn about new drinks! Or at least I think so. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
I was starting to go through withdrawal now having one of your cocktails. :) What a cocktail! I love a good apéritif but I don't like them too sweet. This cocktail with the sweet wine and gin sounds wonderful! Can't wait to give it a try. Hope the mothers in your family had a great Mother's Day. Just got back from spending a week with mine. :)
I had not heard about this cocktail but it sounds interesting and hey, it's good for malaria right? :) gorgeous shots John!
Hi MJ, sounds like you had a fun trip! Now you need one of these to relax. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Simone, we're always worried about malaria around Kitchen Riffs Central! :-) Thanks for the kind words, and for taking time to comment.
I'm all about living as healthily as I can, so I may just have to buy some Dubonnet and give this a try! And if the Queen and the Queen Mother have approved it....
Thanks for the primer on gin types. It's like my mom always said, "Stand up tall and keep your gin straight"! GREG
Hi Donalyn, healthy living is so important, isn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Greg, LOL! Very good. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Beautiful flowers, and an even more beautiful cocktail! :-)
Hi Kristi, :-) Thanks for the comment.
Never heard this name before, so it was interesting to read :)
What beautiful photos! I love the light and styling.
Hi Indre, it's not the best known drink these days (it used to be much more popular) but it's a good one! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Suzanne, thanks for the kind words and for taking time to comment!
Hi Asmita, isn't this a great looking drink? Thanks for the comment.
Very beautiful cocktail! I wish I can taste or imagine the taste. :) The other day I was working on photography with a glass and realized my glass has scratches etc. Now looking at yours, it looks flawless! Do you take good care of your glasses for cocktail shot? Always perfect condition!
Hi Nami, I actually do take care of the glasses for the photo shots. You can get away with some small scratches or dust when you're shooting against white, but against black? Every flaw and blemish shows up. And you may find yourself surprised at how much dust is on totally "clean" glasses. I always wash the glasses with glass cleaner right before using them, then wash them again to remove all its residue! Thanks for the comment.
Stunning photo of an equally stunning drink! I am all for this kind of healthy living ;)
Hi Ansh, healthy living is important, isn't it? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Thank you so much for answering. I should have known you prepared the classes very well, looking at flawless cocktail shot! :D Please don't look at my glasses in my past post too carefully... 8D
Hi Nami, it's such a pain shooting drinks sometimes, isn't it? Especially ones where the liquid is clear. But loads of fun, and so satisfying when you succeed!
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