Dubonnet is one of those somewhat old-fashioned drinks that I heard about when I was first old enough to drink but never really made it to my glass. Queen Elizabeth’s favourite drink was reportedly a Gin & Dubonnet (and the Queen Mother’s as well).
What is Dubonnet? It is a sweet, fruity, aromatic wine-based aperitif with a thick, almost syrupy texture, that is a blend of fortified wine, herbs, and spices. It is similar-ish to sweet vermouth (and perhaps campari): a touch sweet, a little herbal, and with an enjoyable smooth bitterness. It is often drunk chilled or with ice and soda, and is an excellent ingredient in mixed drinks, especially in combination with gin. The Queen apparently liked her Gin & Dubonnet Cocktail as 2-parts Dubonnet to 1-part Gin stirred and strained, with a one lemon wedge and two ice cubes.
The Alembics Lab have a recipe for a version made with quinces. Quinces are an appropriately old-fashioned fruit that have an amazingly sweet and aromatic flavour that is perfect for this. My friend Dominique has a quince tree and is always happy to share a few with me. This recipe has about 15% alcohol by volume (ABV) is a deep rich red, has lovely fruit driven flavour. Fit for a queen!
Peel and core 6 ripe quinces. Chop roughly and place in an ovenproof dish.
Drizzle 2 tbsp of maple syrup or honey over the top and then cover with about half a bottle of a white or rose wine.
Place in a moderate oven and cook for 3-4 hours, until the quince turns deep red and the juices start to caramelize.
Transfer the quinces and liquid into a large clean jar.
Cover with eau de vie (spirit made from fruit, has more flavour than vodka) and label with the date.
Leave for at least 3 months.
Strain the liquid into a clean jar and allow to settle for 2 days so the remaining solids precipitate and settle on the bottom.
Strain again through a fine jelly bag or coffee filter into another clean jar.
Add sugar syrup or agave syrup to taste (it is quite mouth-puckering without).