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Did you know? Queen’s favourite French tipple was cure for malaria

Trendy advertising, sales in Colombia and a famous royal fan have kept Dubonnet on the ‘apéro’ list

Old Dubonnet advertising painted on a house in L'Arbresle, France Pic: ricochet64 / Shutterstock

Dubonnet, the French vermouth that had Queen Elizabeth II’s favour, was initially invented to cure malaria for French soldiers stationed in North Africa before being marketed as an aperitif drink.

Its popularity rose in the 1930s thanks to a catchy advertising slogan that helped it become popular in French homes, brasseries and restaurants. 

The drink, which sold out in Tesco stores during the weeks following the Queen’s death, is sold by French beverage mogul Pernod Ricard, which bought it in 1976 and has been producing it in Thuir (Pyrénées-Orientales) since 2006. 

Read more: Seven facts about the Queen’s relationship with France

The demolition of the last building in Rennes (Ille-et-Vilaine) where the company advertised the drink on the walls had almost put the final nail in its coffin.

Origins of the drink

Dubonnet took its name from French wine seller and chemist Joseph Dubonnet who won a competition hosted by the French government to find health solutions for the large numbers of soldiers that contracted malaria.

Dr Dubonnet introduced quinine, a derivative of the Cinchona tree, herbs and spices in wine. 

The drink Picon was invented by Gaëtan Picon using quinine around the same time, again to cure the same ailments by using grandmothers’ remedies that contained the alkaloid.

How is it made?

Quinquina Dubonnet was then a popular apéro drink made from black or white grenache, carignan and macabeo grapes. 

It is aged for one year in oak barrels before being infused with wine. 

It also contains blackcurrant and essence of tea, as well as cane sugar. 

Read more: Map: our tour of France by local apéritif

Trendy advertising

But Dubonnet became one of the trendiest of drinks after popular French painter Cassandre designed an advertising campaign centred around the motto: “Dubo, Dubon, Dubonnet.” 

Ads ran along walls, on postcards and in the Paris métro until the 1970s.

Dubonnet was served in many cocktails including the ‘Dandy’, the ‘Twist’ or ‘The French Connexion.’ 

The Dubonnet cocktail – the Queen’s favourite – consisted of one part of Gordon’s London Dry gin for two of Dubonnet with a half lemon wheel sunk in a wine glass with two rocks of ice. 

Popular in Colombia

Pernod Ricard told The Connexion that over one million litres were drunk between 2000 and 2005 with Dubonnet still sold in Colombia – a third of the market share – and Commonwealth countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 

France is Pernod Ricard’s 5th market.It is also sold in the United States by another company under the Dubonnet Grand Rouge Apéritif de France appellation, bottled in Kentucky and marketed under a different – but somehow slightly similar – slogan: “Do you Dubonnet?”

Related articles

‘Tchin tchin’, ‘santé’, eye contact: The rituals of French apéros

Why can I no longer find Campari in French supermarkets?

French still love to apero but with no- or low-alcohol wine and beer

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