At the ripe old age of 96, Queen Elizabeth II is undoubtedly a global icon and an inspiration to millions. Her joie de vivre is clear for all to see – and it got me wondering about our beloved monarch’s considered, some would say almost connoisseur-like, approach to drinking. Might it be (partly) responsible for maintaining her remarkable resilience?
On a practical level, the Royal Family has historically given patronage to certain high-quality brands via the Royal Warrant. This tradition dates back to 1155 and highlights the Royal Household’s commitment to representing some of the finest products and traditional craftsmanship. This is especially true in the world of wines and spirits.
Today over 800 warrants (granted by both the Queen and the Prince of Wales) are presided over by The Royal Warrant Holders Association. There are currently around 100 awarded specifically in the world of food and drink. Some of these you may already be familiar with. Others have an intriguing back story…
Bubbles & drams
As documented by those close to the Palace over the years – particularly Queen Elizabeth II’s late cousin, Margaret Rhodes – HRH is said to enjoy a glass of Champagne before retiring to bed for the evening. So it will come as no surprise that she has Royal Warrants with no less than eight different outstanding Champagne houses. These include Bollinger, Krug, GH Mumm, Lanson, Veuve Clicquot and Pol Roger. The Queen has also given her warrant to blended whisky companies Dewar’s, Johnnie Walker and Famous Grouse. Royal Lochnagar, the single malt distillery based only 1.6km from the Balmoral Estate, is also a Royal Warrant holder.
Dubonnet: THE royal aperitif
The Queen is said to favour this rather underrated French aperitif, perhaps taking her lead from the Queen Mother, who was also a fan. Dubonnet takes its name from its creator, Joseph Dubonnet, a Parisian chemist and wine merchant. It was invented in 1846, as Dubonnet looked for a means to make quinine more palatable for French Foreign Legion soldiers battling against malaria in North Africa. His flavoursome and aromatic wine-based aperitif proved a hit and it has been enjoyed around the world ever since – no more so than in the Royal Household. Both the Queen and Queen Mother before her have enjoyed a lunchtime aperitif cocktail, made with a 70:30 mix of Dubonnet and London Dry Gin – specifically Gordon’s, which also holds a Royal Warrant. This is served in a tumbler over ice, garnished with a slice of lemon: a regal Negroni of sorts!
Ginger liqueur fit for a king
The King’s Ginger liqueur, a heady and flavoursome drink, became particularly famous in the reign of King Edward VII. Its origin coincides with the first Royal Warrant awarded to the drink’s creator, Berry Bros & Rudd in 1903. That warrant is still maintained by both The Queen and Prince Charles today. The King was noted for his outdoor sporting prowess. Alfred ET Watson wrote in his 1911 tome, King Edward VII as a Sportsman, that he was: ‘A neat and effective shot… The marksman to whose rifle six tigers fell in a single day’. The liqueur was developed at the request of the King’s doctor, also a respected Berry Bros customer. Looking to the warming qualities of ginger, he wanted a revivifying tonic for his majesty to take outdoors and on winter morning rides in his horseless carriage: an 1899 Daimler, capable of travelling a breathtaking 30 miles an hour.
Laphroaig holds a Royal Warrant from the Prince of Wales, who also goes under the title of the Duke of Rothesay while travelling in Scotland. The heraldic, three-feather crest was first awarded in 1994. The original Laphroaig 15-year-old release from the well known Islay-based distillery was apparently the first to turn the Prince’s head. Now his Highgrove Estate shop sells an annual limited-edition 12-year-old to commemorate his visits to the island. One such trip in 1994 nearly ended in disaster for Prince Charles and his private secretary Richard Aylard, when, attempting to land on a windswept airstrip, the Prince overshot the runway, badly damaging his light aircraft. The planned 20-minute flying visit turned into a two-and-a-half-hour stay, much to the enjoyment of the distillery.
The majestic Martini
According to Buckingham Palace sources, in addition to the Dubonnet cocktail mentioned above, Queen Elizabeth II has also been partial to a regular evening Dry Martini. This enduring classic is likely to be gin-based rather than made with vodka, given that HRH has a Royal Warrant for both Gordon’s and Tanqueray. Buckingham Palace also released its own gin back in 2020, featuring 12 botanicals, several of which are from the Palace gardens. These include lemon verbena, hawthorn berries, bay leaves and mulberry leaves. Sadly however, the royal Martini’s days appear to be numbered, according to a Vanity Fair article last October. It reported that the Queen’s physicians had advised her to forego her nightly tipple in the run up to this year’s jubilee celebrations.