Dubonnet Cocktail: Drink Like the Queen Mother

The Classic Dubonnet Cocktail
Joff Lee / Getty Images
  • 3 mins
  • Prep: 3 mins,
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 1 serving
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Originally an un-garnished cocktail from the 1930s, the Dubonnet Cocktail is often served with a twist of lemon and sometimes an orange peel today. It is a dry cocktail that is designed to showcase the finest gin you have in the liquor cabinet.

Essentially, this cocktail replaces the dry vermouth of a classic Gin Martini with Dubonnet Rouge. This fortified wine uses quinine and the Rouge (red) variety is rich and slightly sweeter than the average sweet vermouth.

The Dubonnet Cocktail is said to be a favorite of Queen Elizabeth II and her mother, who preferred it served on the rocks. It has fallen into obscurity in recent years, yet that makes it no less appealing.

Also known as a Zaza, the Dubonnet Cocktail makes an ideal aperitif. Be sure to serve it at your next dinner party.

What You'll Need

How to Make It

  1. Pour the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice cubes.
  2. Stir well.
  3. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  4. Garnish with the lemon twist.

If you were to switch the proportions of the two ingredients and use 2 parts Dubonnet to 1 part gin, you would have a cocktail called the Queen Mother. It is another tribute to the Royal Family.

How Strong Is the Dubonnet Cocktail?

Notice that the Dubonnet Cocktail is a very small drink.

After stirring, you will only have about 2 1/2 ounces to pour into your glass. It was designed that way because it is a potent little beverage, weighing in at around 29 percent ABV (58 proof).

Aperitifs of this strength are typically short because you don't want to be tipsy before the first course arrives. Besides, it's likely this won't be your last drink of the meal.

What Is Dubonnet?

Dubonnet is a brand name for a very specific aperitif wine that originated in France. It was created in 1846 by Joseph Dubonnet, a chemist and wine merchant from Paris.

Dubonnet designed his fortified wine to help make quinine more palatable to French soldiers battling malaria in North Africa. The result was Dubonnet Rouge, which is "a proprietary blend of herbs, spices , and peels."

Fun Fact: Quinine is also the key ingredient in tonic water, which was also created to fight off disease. Quinine brings in the bitter, dry taste present in both tonic and Dubonnet.

Dubonnet comes in two varieties and Dubonnet Rouge is the more common of the two. It has a red wine base and is rich and semi-sweet. Some drinkers find notes of orange, nuts, chocolate, and coffee in the taste. Dubonnet Blanc is similar to dry vermouth and is the drier of the two. It is made with a white wine base.

Either Dubonnet can be served on its own when well-chilled or as a spritzer when topped with sparkling water or club soda. You can also use them in any cocktail that calls for vermouth.

There are a few recipes that ask for Dubonnet specifically.

Most of these are either classic cocktails or those created in a decidedly classic style. The Napoleon, for example, simply adds Grand Marnier to the gin and Dubonnet mix. If you want something completely different, try the classic Soul Kiss which pair Dubonnet with whiskey, vermouth, and orange juice.

  • Produced and bottled in the United States.
  • A product of Heaven Hill Brands.
  • 19 percent alcohol by volume (38 proof)
  • Visit the Dubonnet website