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The Queen’s Jubilee, a jubilee in heaven our entire Highclere world is in a mode of reflection, mourning and celebration: the longest serving monarch in British history has reached her sunset having lived a full and magnanimous life. I never got the honor of an audience with Her Majesty, but I feel us kindredly connected via cocktails. Its through cocktails that we are able to travel through time and space. We can build a castle right in our glass. Today, we present the story of the Queen’s favorite cocktail and a primer on some alternate versions that are lovely to make at home.

The Queen’s Afternoon Tipple

What was Queen Elizabeth’s favorite cocktail?
It has been widely reported and verified that the Queen enjoys a Dubonnet and gin for her pre-lunch quaffing; two parts Dubonnet, one part gin, a slice of lemon shaken and strained into a Nick and Nora or cordial glass, is the consensus signature cocktail of Her Majesty.

…but what on earth is Dubonnet?

Dubonnet is a slightly sweet, fortified wine (wine that has been strengthened with a spirit) that’s blended with fruits, herbs and spices. Like most apertifs, the exact recipe is a closely guarded secret, but a few signature ingredients are black tea, dark berries and the all-important quinine. Its creation in 1846 was an effort by the French government to promote consumption of this anti- malarial ingredient (we’ve heard this story before with the gin and tonic) and the blend became popular for pleasure consumption among Cafe Society at the dawn of the 20th Century.

The cocktail was given the Highclere Castle treatment to honor the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Celebration. The addition Champagne makes a lovely sparkling version that has become a favorite of guests at our gin tastings and events. Any fan of a spritz style cocktail is sure to fall in love!

The Peril of Popularity

Dubonnet’s Royal relationship goes back to the Queen Mother, and it’s improved formula was given Royal Warrant by Elizabeth II in 2021. This resulted in what I call a “run on the bottle shop” as fans of Her Majesty stockpiled their reserves of the now precious liquid. The American Producer has been unable to keep up and its availability is somewhat now limited. Do purchase a bottle if you find one!

For an alternate version, I experimented with Lillet Rose (another famous wine fortified with quinine and fruit liqueurs) as a substitute and it worked quite well!

The Queen’s Jubilee Cocktail Primer

The Original Recipe, as enjoyed by Queen Elizabeth
1 ounce Highclere Castle Gin
2 ounces Dubbonet Rouge
2 lemon wheels
Shake briefly and strain into a cordial or Nick and Nora glass. Enjoy before lunch

The Queens Jubilee, a Highclere Castle Gin Notion
1.5 ounces Highclere Castle Gin
1.5 ounces dubonnet
3 ounces Sparkling wine-
Champagne is the grandest choice. A St Hillaire or Cava would also do nicely.
Pour ingredients (except sparkling wine) over ice. Stir until chilled.
Strain contents into a champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine Express the oils of a lemon peel over the surface

The Surrogate Jubilee- for use when Dubonnet is Elusive
1.5 ounces Highclere Castle Gin
1 ounce Lillet Rose
2 lemon slices
3 ounces Cava
Pour ingredients over ice. Give a bit of a rough stir, just enough to break up the lemon a bit.
Strain contents into a Burgundy wine glass. Garnish with a lemon wheel

Photo Credit: Resident MixologistPhoto Credit: Resident Mixologist

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