Gin and Dubonnet
This is supposedly the favourite tipple of HM the Queen, she having inherited a taste for it from the late Queen Mother. Dubonnet, created in 1846 by Joseph Dubonnet, is an aperitif blended from aromatised and fortified wines mixed with quinine and herbs. There are red and white versions, the former being richer and sweeter and the latter somewhat drier. Both are widely available at between £8.95-£11.95 a bottle.
To emulate the Queen, mix in a tumbler one third gin – probably Gordon’s in her case – with two thirds red Dubonnet. Stir over ice and serve with a slice of orange or lemon and think regal thoughts.
The Bellini was Diana, Princess of Wales’s drink of choice. Despite drinking little, the royal was far from a toper and she is said to have enjoyed this high fruit, low alcohol cocktail most of all.
Named after the 15th century artist, Giovanni Bellini, it was created by Giuseppe Cipriani in Harry’s Bar, Venice in the early 1940s. It’s dead simple to make and impossible not to enjoy.
Pour 50ml of Funkin White Peach Purée (£11.69 per 1kg sachet; Nisbets) into a chilled champagne flute. Add a dash of peach schnapps and fill up with 100ml of fine Prosecco, the lightness and delicacy of which suits the cocktail better than heavier champagnes or cavas. Give a little stir, sip, enjoy, empty glass and repeat.
Grant’s Morella Cherry Brandy Liqueur (£17.50; Shepherd Neame)
Produced in Kent from local cherries since 1774, this glorious elixir featured in The Pickwick Papers and was beloved of both the Prince Regent and Queen Victoria. The current Prince of Wales has a taste for it too, so much so that he granted it a royal warrant in 1998. It’s sweet, of course, in an almond, marzipan sort of way, but this is cannily balanced by extraordinarily rich, fresh, sour cherry flavours.
It’s perfect on its own, well-chilled, as a decadent digestif, or sloshed into a glass of fine fizz as an English equivalent to a Kir Royale. The stout-hearted like to drink it as a so-called Percy Special. This savagely strong stirrup cup was invented by the 10th Duke of Northumberland for riders to hounds with the Percy Hunt. It’s simply whisky and Grant’s Morella Cherry Brandy Liqueur, half and half, and, well, on your own head be it.
The King’s Ginger Liqueur (£23.50 per 50cl; Berry Bros & Rudd)
This comfortingly warming liqueur was first concocted in 1903 by the then Mr Berry and the then doctor to King Edward VII as a way to protect HM from the cold, as he pootled around in his brand new horseless carriage.
Produced for years by de Kuyper Royal Distillers in Holland, using top quality ginger root and lemon oils, it came in at a punchy 41%vol and was sweet and gingery in the mouth, oily and unctuous, finishing dry, fiery and spicy.
The KGL has been re-launched by Berrys’ just this week in a gorgeously stylish new bottle. Sad to say, though, this version made in the UK, despite a noticeable extra zingy kick of ginger, is a mere 29.9%vol and doesn’t boast quite the same invigorating finish of the original.
Try it as part of an extremely toothsome King’s Negroni, though, by mixing equal parts of KGL, gin and vermouth. Or, better still, seek out the original version, still available (cheaper than the weaker new version, incidentally) at the Whisky Exchange, and try it neat from a hipflask as a bracing outdoor warmer or on the rocks as an exhilarating post-prandial treat.
2016 Royal Tokaji 5 Putts (£26 per 50cl; Laithwaites)
This luscious sweet wine from Hungary was referred to by Louis XIV – the Sun King – as ‘The wine of kings and the king of wines’ and it has long been a staple at Buck House. Indeed, during the 19th century, the Emperor Franz Joseph made an annual birthday gift to Queen Victoria of a dozen bottles of Tokaji for each year of her life. For her penultimate birthday in 1900, she received 972 bottles and the royal family still lap up Tokaji today.
Great examples such as this are gloriously sweet – full of apricots, nuts and marmalade – but, thanks to their searing acidity, are far less cloying than, say, many a great Sauternes can be. They are so zesty they don’t even need to be chilled and they make great partners to rich starters as well as fine cheeses and puddings – tarte tatin especially.
Blandy’s Duke of Clarence 3 Year Old Madeira (£13; Co-op)
The UK’s most popular brand of Madeira commemorates poor George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, the brother of Edward IV and Richard III who supposedly met his untimely – and very liquid – end in 1478 by being drowned in a butt of Malmsey.
Centuries later, George IV hailed Madeira as ‘the best wine in the world’ completely unfazed by the fact that Thomas Jefferson and the Committee of Five had toasted the signing of the American Declaration of Independence with it.
Today, Madeira is woefully underrated, a criminal shame when one considers how darn tasty it can be in its various incarnations, ranging from Sercial – the driest – via Verdelho and Bual to Malmsey – the sweetest. They last forever once opened; they don’t need decanting and they make great aperitifs and digestifs. Best of all, Madeira makes a spectacular mid-morning treat and there’s nothing more satisfying than a fine Malmsey around 11am, during that awkward lull between breakfast and lunch.
Chapel Down Rosé Brut NV (£144 per 6 bottles; Chapel Down)
The Duchess of Cornwall, whose father was a well-known wine merchant, is a great fan of our native vino and she proudly and supportively does her bit at many a winery opening or gala dinner as president of Wines of Great Britain. Many English fizzes have found their way into the cellars at Highgrove House but it was this delicious pink sparkler that was famously served to 650 guests at William and Kate’s nuptials.
Produced by Chapel Down in Kent from 100 per cent Pinot Noir, drawn from vineyards across the south east, it’s made using the Champagne Method and is deliciously crisp and refreshing with hints of wild strawberries, bramble fruit and toasty brioche. Enjoy well chilled as a classy aperitif.