Du you have any Dubonnet? How a little request from Her Majesty nearly got the MCC’s butler barred from Lord’s
By James Tapper
As regal demands go, it was a remarkably modest one: could one, perhaps, have a little tipple of Dubonnet and gin during luncheon at the cricket?
But the Queen’s request ahead of her visit to Lord’s last week caused something of a kerfuffle among the staff of Marylebone Cricket Club – as they hadn’t got the French aperitif in their otherwise well-stocked drinks cabinet.
No matter. Showing the same sort of coolness under pressure that has helped England take such a commanding lead over the Australians, a butler was duly dispatched to find a bottle.
Intense: The Queen deep in conversation with International Cricket Council chairman David Morgan
Relaxed: Her Majesty looks very cheerful meeting the England players during the lunch break
Although a thorough search of the local off-licences of St John’s Wood, North London, proved fruitless, the resourceful lackey eventually managed to track down a bottle in a supermarket.
But the Royal mission was almost thwarted by another MCC employee, a vigilant member of the security detail, who insisted on enforcing the venue’s strict drinks policy that bans spectators from bringing spirits – even spirits as mild as Dubonnet – into the hallowed ground.
The tipple would be just the thing to help Her Majesty get through the rain-delayed Ashes action. After all, it’s well known that she much prefers watching horse-racing to the delights of leather on willow.
The Queen’s love of Dubonnet and gin before lunch is well-documented, and when the BBC1 documentary The Royal Family At Work showed a butler mixing one for her two years ago, demand for the product went through the roof.
Tipple: The Queen supping Dubonnet in 1999
It’s a taste she has inherited from her mother, who sometimes needed its fortification. Before one engagement, the Queen Mother wrote to her butler: ‘I think that I will take two small bottles of Dubonnet and gin with me this morning, in case it is needed.’
Knowing the Queen’s predilections, Buckingham Palace aides included a bottle of Dubonnet on the list of the Queen’s requirements for her visit to Lord’s on Friday.
‘It’s not something we usually have in the committee room,’ a spokeswoman said. ‘We were given a list of things that the Palace would like us to provide and on that list was a bottle of Dubonnet.’
But the Monarch almost didn’t get her wish, thanks to the over-zealous gate steward blocking the butler’s return. For although Lord’s does allow spectators to bring small amounts of wine and beer into the ground, spirits are definitely off the list.
The tense stand-off was only broken, our sources say, when the butler called upon MCC chief executive Keith Bradshaw to get him inside. An MCC spokeswoman, however, insisted the butler was allowed in after showing his pass.
Either way, Her Majesty got her drink – oblivious to all the fuss she had caused.
The Queen was accompanied on her Test trip by the Duke of Edinburgh – an avid cricket fan who proudly wore the traditional MCC ‘egg and bacon’ tie.
They were joined at lunch by former England women’s captain Rachael Heyhoe-Flint and lyricist Tim Rice, before England’s bowlers went on to demolish the Australian batsmen later in the day.
The Dubonnet incident is not the first controversy the Queen has encountered involving Australian cricketers.
When she met the teams at Lord’s in 1981, one player was overheard saying: ‘Nice legs for an old Sheila’. Four years earlier, bowler Dennis Lillee asked her for an autograph.
A mild blend of fortified wine, herbs, spices and quinine, Dubonnet was invented in 1846 by Parisian chemist Joseph Dubonnet, who was searching for a way of helping French Foreign Legionnaires drink quinine, used to combat malaria in North Africa.
It was popular in the Sixties, when it was advertised by French actor Fernandel with the slogan Do ‘Ave A Dubonnet, and then in the Seventies with ‘Dubonnet, s’il vous plait’.
According to expert mixologist Agostino Perrone, head barman at the five-star Connaught hotel in Central London, Dubonnet is making a comeback.
‘It is becoming more and more popular,’ he said. ‘There is more interest now in classic cocktails.
‘Both Dubonnet and gin have herbs, spices and botanicals in them, so there is a natural affinity of flavour.’
…and how to mix it with the Queen
Dubonnet recipes as recommended by Agostino Perrone, head barman of the Connaught Hotel, London:
40ml Dubonnet Red
15ml Galliano L’Autentico (herbal liquor)
1/4 fresh red apple
One slice of lemon
One bar spoon of homemade vanilla sugar
In a silver mug, place the fruit, add sugar, and muddle. Fill the mug with crushed ice and add the rest of ingredients. Gently stir and garnish with fresh seasonal fruit.
40ml Calvados or apple brandy
40ml Dubonnet Red
Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass.
20ml Dubonnet Red
One ice cube
A dash aromatic bitters
One lump sugar
Fill with champagne
Add lemon twist and serve in a champagne glass.