Dubonnet Cocktails

Dubonnet is often considered an old-lady’s drink, in that it is mostly known to be favoured by grandmothers around the globe. A Dubonnet based cocktail, known as the Queen’s Tipple, was known to be fancied by the late Queen of England.

Dubonnet is confusing as heck as there are different brand owners in France and America who use different formulas to make their Dubonnet. Pernod Ricard owns the French brand. In America, Heaven Hill has the rights to produce the brand. As such, when a cocktail recipe calls for Dubonnet, you won’t get the same tasting cocktail due to these differences.

French Dubonnet vs American Dubonnet?

The main difference between French Dubonnet and American Dubonnet is that French Dubonnet is much more bitter, and less sweet. Meanwhile American Dubonnet is known for being sweeter, fruitier and is similar in taste to a sweet brandy.

French Dubonnet

In France, Dubonnet is a fortified wine-based liqueur meant as an aperitif. French Dubonnet tastes like a cross between Campari and Sweet Vermouth in that it is bitter and slightly sweet. A small amount of Quinine, which is what gives Tonic Water its bitter taste, adds a distinctive flavour to French Dubonnet. In fact, Dubonnet was invented to encourage the consumption of Quinine as the ingredient was thought to help fight off malaria.

French Dubonnet is produced by Pernod Ricard and in Canada, the bottle has a Black Cat on it. This is the version I am most familiar with and it features flavours of black currant, dried cherries, nutmeg and plum with a citrus finish. I never felt it tasted bitter at all. If I were to compare it anything, I would say it tasted like a sweet Sherry. Thus, to add to the confusion, I feel the French Dubonnet in Canada, which has a black cat on it, is nothing like European Dubonnet either. (although I could be wrong there)

American Dubonnet

American Dubonnet, is made from a blend of red wine, herbs and spices. Produced since 1993, American Dubonnet was thought to have been inferior to the European Dubonnet (as Heaven Hill in America was not sold the recipe, just the rights to create the brand) In 2018 the brand was updated with a new formula to have a little more bite by featuring stronger notes of Quinine and tannic black tea.

Popular Dubonnet Cocktails

Dubonnet Blanc

Dubonnet Blanc is made from Muscat grapes, along with herbs and spices. Dubonnet Blanc differs form Dubonnet Rouge in that the Blanc variant is much more floral and less fruity. Other known ingredients of Dubonnet Blanc include:

  • Cinnamon
  • Green coffee beans
  • Chamomile
  • Orange peel

Dubonnet Blanc was introduced to the market in 1976 after Pernod bought the rights to the Dubonnet brand. Advertisements featuring actress Pia Zadora gave Dubonnet Blanc (and Rouge) a short burst of popularity.

While I have tried Dubonnet Blanc, I have yet to ever serve it in my 30+ years as a bartender. Not once has anyone asked for it as a stand alone aperitif, or to have it included as an ingredient in a cocktail.

Dubonnet Ambre

I have never tried Dubonnet Gold, nor could I dig up much information on it. It may be a discontinued product. Some sources say it tasted like vanilla/orange. Other sources claim it was similar to Lillet Blanc.

How Long Does Dubonnet Last After Opening?

Dubonnet lasts 2 months – or at least tastes its freshest- after opening. I’ve had Dubonnet from an opened bottle that was most likely a few years old and it tasted pretty good to me. Do not take my experience as an invitation to drink old Dubonnet. If it smells off, or you see mould – toss it.