Dubonnet for a Lady

I'd never heard of Dubonnet before, or had and it hadn't registered, before a recipe last week called for some. In my shopping trip to the liquor mart I was looking for it in the liqueurs when a clerk asked if he could help. He said he'd seen it somewhere there but couldn't remember where. After disappearing in the back among the wine for a minute, he popped his head around the corner and asked, Red or White? I had no idea. The woman who persons the wine counter came out and told us Red is the most popular, so I said, Sure, Red.

I looked it up on wikipedia when I got home, and since Red seems to be the original, I figured I'd made the right choice. Wikipedia reported that it's similar to sweet vermouth. So I taste tested them both to see. Dubonnet tastes like a sweet fortified red wine to me. I don't get much taste from the secret herbs and spices, but I wouldn't use it for bourbon-based mixed drinks. With sweet vermouth, on the other hand, there's a much stronger herbal hit, especially in the after taste.

Wikipedia also reports that a Dubonnet cocktail is a favorite of both the French Foreign Legion and Queen Elizabeth, as well as her late mother. I wonder if the Queen knows that the French like it. Another site reports that she favors a ratio of 2 to 1 Dubonnet to gin, so the gin probably makes it English in her eyes. Her mother reportedly drank it at breakfast (yuk!) with up to equal parts gin and Dubonnet. Well, living with some of the members of that family, you'd probably need it.

I tried the Queen's version, on the rocks (not carefully pruned into squares, as she reportedly has done). It tasted OK, sort of like a gin martini made with sweet vermouth. Then I tried her mother's breakfast drink, straight up, equal parts gin and Dubonnet. I liked that one better. As with some other recipes this month, it seems like more of a summertime drink than an ideal one for January. If I pick up a bottle of Dubonnet Blanc I'll try that with gin and file a review.