Friday, 13 January 2017
The Queen's Tipple
Dubonnet and gin — it's the Queen's favourite tipple. She enjoys a daily pre-lunch drink of two-parts Dubonnet and one-part gin with two cubes of ice and a slice of lemon (pips removed). It's a serious drink, though her mother enjoyed the same — but with a lemon slice slipped under the ice (a precise touch, if accounts are reliable).
Dubonnet was first produced in Paris by Joseph Dubonnet in 1846 as a drink to persuade French Foreign Legionnaires to take anti-malarial quinine. (Speaking of the French Foreign Legion, have you seen Beau Travail by Claire Denis? Excellent film.) The British approach was similar: we dosed up on gin and quinine-laden tonic whilst out in the tropics and India; and we still consume vast quantities of the stuff long after the empire rolled back.
Dubonnet is now owned by the French Ricard group who markets it as an aperitif wine. Dubonnet is a fortified wine made from red and white grape must that is blended with grain alcohol and a base white wine before ageing in oak vats for a year. After which the drink, as 14.9% alcohol, is charged with a secret blend of aromatic herbs. I like to drink it chilled and neat like a poor grappa. Dubonnet: one for your classic drinks cabinet.
The famous cubist Dubonnet man from their posters was created by A. M. Cassandre in 1932. The original triptych was designed to be seen from the side of a moving vehicle and work like an animation, as he fills up with the words 'it's nice', 'it's good', 'it's Dubonnet'.
Dubonnet and gin were mentioned in Noël Coward's high society rap I Went to a Marvellous Party, as you will recall, with Laura getting blind drunk on the stuff, then scratching her veneer with a Cartier pin. So very typical of Laura, don't you think?