Dubonnet -- a walk back in time

When QEII has finished waving from the balcony of Buckingham Palace and turns back into the room behind her to celebrate whatever occasion has brought her out that day, she is handed the same refreshment every time; one peculiar to her and, previously, her mother, the late Queen Mum.

The room into which she steps is a reception room and contains a bar. The royal barman gave the recipe for the queen's favourite drink in one episode of a recent PBS TV series, The Monarchy: The Royal Family At Work.

Dubonnet and Gin

Into a crystal aperitif glass etched with the letter E, place two perfect cubes of ice and a lemon peel (no pips). Then pour one part gin (it should reach the bottom of the E) and two parts Dubonnet. Wiping away any drops that may have splashed, hand the drink to her majesty before the ice begins to melt.


I became intrigued with the barman's recipe and began a quest to find Dubonnet in the Twin Cities. I had no luck ordering a drink containing Dubonnet in several restaurants and bars. Most servers didn't recognize the name.

Taking pity on me (or perhaps tiring of the story), my husband located a bottle (domestic, sadly, not French) at Haskell's in St. Paul. Not wanting to waste the occasion, I brought the bottle along to a party and inflicted the drink on several unsuspecting non-Anglophiles before tasting it myself.

With such a big build-up, I was bound to be disappointed. Having tasted it finally, it made me think of the 1970s and the drinks my parents and their friends used to order. Back in the day, I got a Coke with a maraschino cherry and the grownups got drinks that smelled like Dubonnet at restaurants that are now long gone. Mr Nibs at 26th and 26th in south Minneapolis was for business meetings. The Parker House in Mendota Heights, with its parking lot filled with Cadillacs and its leather-covered piano bar, was for special occasions.

I intend to find another party, and to try the queen's drink again. But next time, I won't think of England.


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