This low-alcohol charmer will make you feel like royalty
OK, let’s get the obvious question out of the way: No, this drink was not named in honor of Queen Elizabeth II. Rather, it was named for the creator’s wife. But more history later.
What you need to know now is that, despite the drink’s majestic moniker, it’s simplicity itself to make. The Queen Elizabeth cocktail requires only three ingredients: Dry vermouth, Bénédictine liqueur, and lime juice. And because this drink doesn’t contain a base spirit, its alcohol quotient is quite modest.
So low alcohol, but lofty flavor. Make a round of these and you’ll rule.
Recipe: The Queen Elizabeth Cocktail
The origins of most cocktails are rather uncertain. Not so with this drink: It was invented in 1934 by Herbert L. Quick, the head bartender at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia. Quick created it as an entry for a nationwide cocktail contest sponsored by the folks who marketed Bénédictine liqueur.
Every cocktail needs a name, so Quick named this one after his wife. At that time, there was no Queen Elizabeth in sight. The mother of the current queen (also named Elizabeth) only took that title when her husband became king in 1936, after the abdication of his brother. The reign of Elizabeth II was many years in the future. (She ascended the throne in 1952.) And Elizabeth I had died in 1603.
We discovered this drink in an article by cocktail historian extraordinaire David Wondrich.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare and serves one.
- 1½ ounces dry vermouth
- ¾ ounce Bénédictine
- ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- lime twist for garnish (very optional)
- Place all ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Shake briskly for 20 to 30 seconds, until the contents are icy cold.
- Strain into a cocktail glass or coupe, preferably one that has been chilled. Garnish if you wish (we usually don’t), and serve.
- This cocktail is a bit on the sweet side. It works as a predinner drink if you serve it with something salty. It’s also good after dinner as a digestif. Or drink this all by itself as an afternoon sipper.
- There are at least two other drinks called the “Queen Elizabeth” that have different ingredients from this one. We’re aware of one that is gin based and another that is brandy based. We don’t find either to be particularly good, and we don’t recommend them. If you want to try these imposter cocktails, though, you can find recipes for them in The Savoy Cocktail Book. Or search the interwebs.
- The flavor of dry vermouth is important in this drink, so use good-quality stuff. Our favorite brands are Noilly Prat, Martini and Rossi, and Dolin. If in doubt, ask the friendly folks at your local liquor store for a recommendation.
- BTW, vermouth has a low alcohol level, so it starts oxidizing once you open the bottle. To delay its decline, refrigerate vermouth after opening.
- Bénédictine is an aromatic herbal liqueur that’s somewhat on the sweet side. Given its name, you might assume it’s made by Benedictine monks. In fact, it was invented by Alexandre Le Grand, a French industrialist and wine merchant, in 1863. Le Grand was a master marketer, though, so he claimed it had been developed at a Benedictine Abbey in Normandy.
- Although this cocktail has nothing to do with Queen Ellizabeth II, Britain’s monarch does enjoy a drink. Her favorite is the Dubonnet Cocktail, a classy mixture of Dubonnet and gin (her mother also favored this drink).
- The queen also reportedly enjoys dry martinis, wine, and champagne (she is said to have a glass of bubbly every evening).
She Who Must Be Obeyed
“Great drink!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Majestic, you might say.”
“I only fix you right royal cocktails,” I said.
“Good thing, too,” said Mrs K R. “Otherwise, we would not be amused.”
“That’d be a royal pain,” I said.
“Gosh, our glass appears to be empty,” said Mrs K R. “Why not fix us another?”
Mrs K R’s motto: It’s good to be queen.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Tip Top Cocktail
Straits Sling Cocktail
Singapore Sling Cocktail
Vieux Carré Cocktail
Monte Carlo Cocktail
Or check out the index for more