Dubonnet is reportedly “a preferred tipple of Queen Elizabeth II,” said Jason Wilson in The Washington Post. The apéritif was invented in 1846 by Parisian chemist Joseph Dubonnet to mask the bitter taste of quinine, which at that time “was the only weapon against the deadly mosquito-borne parasite that caused malaria.” Dubonnet’s wine-based secret formula had “a distinct port-like flavor” that was “spiced with cinnamon, coffee beans, citrus peal, and herbs.”
By the early 20th century, a drink known as the Dubonnet Cocktail had become wildly popular. This recipe for the Appetizer Cocktail, a variation of the Dubonnet Cocktail, is taken from Crosby Gaige’s 1941 Cocktail Guide and Ladies’ Companion. Use only Dubonnet Rouge. “The white is to be avoided at all costs.”
1-1/2 oz gin
1-1/2 oz chilled Dubonnet Rouge
1/2 oz freshly squeezed orange juice
2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters
Fill mixing glass two-thirds full with ice. Add gin, Dubonnet Rouge, orange juice, bitters to taste; stir vigorously for 30 seconds. Before pouring, place cocktail strainer over mixing glass and place fine-mesh strainer over cocktail (martini) glass to strain both ice and orange pulp.