April 21 is Queen Elizabeth’s birthday so here at The Drunkard’s Almanac we’ll be mixing up the Queen Elizabeth Cocktail in honor of the former nonagenarian monarch. After all, she made it to 96 years old so her birthday is good cause for a toast. She was the longest-lived and longest-reigning of any British monarch, and we figure her record setting is a result of her drinking habits.
The Elizabeth we’re talking about here is Elizabeth II, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York. Her father reigned as King George VI during WWII, and when Princess Elizabeth was 18 she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, training as a truck driver and mechanic. This makes her not only the sole living head of state who served during WWII, but possibly the only one who can repair the transfer case in a Range Rover. She ascended to the throne in 1952 at the age of 25.
This seems like a pretty good gig. She was the nominal head of state of more than you might think. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Yemen and Oman, a big swath of Africa and a lot of Caribbean islands. Sure, some were just protectorates, but that’s farther than Blofeld ever got at world domination. And he never got his face on currency.
Ruling the world is a burden, so it’s no surprise that she has a drink now and then. Like daily, though the amounts have been disputed. Most estimates put the Queen downing four drinks each day. According to the former royal chef Darren McGrady the Queen would start before lunch with a gin and Dubonnet on the rocks with a slice of lemon. Lunch included a glass of wine and a dry Martini. By this account she was done with drinks until a glass of Champagne shortly before bedtime. Other reports suggest she would have a Martini in the evening. She never issued a clarifying press release.
The Martinis seem plausible. After all, she produced and sold two gins produced using botanicals from her gardens. One is produced by Buckingham Palace and the other from the Sandringham estate in Norfolk.
Queen Elizabeth Cocktail
The former Queen’s birthday is cause for a drink, so we come to the question of what it should be. Sure, we could follow directly in her footsteps with a Martini, but we’ve already covered that. Dubonnet? Somewhat obscure, but as we saw with the Napoleon cocktail ordinary sweet vermouth is not a bad substitute.
But it turns out there is a Queen Elizabeth cocktail, even if it wasn’t named after the Elizabeth we’re talking about here. It’s also a low-ABV drink, seemingly appropriate orders from her doctors late in her life. It was striking blow when her doctors advised her to give up daily drinks and she agreed to comply. We think that may have been what did her in.
Notably, though, the drink itself is not British. The Queen Elizabeth recipe was created by a bartender named Herbert Quack in 1934, at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia. It was seemingly the winner of what must have been one of the earliest examples of brand-sponsored contests for bartenders. In this case Benedictine was the sponsoring brand and they used the recipe in their 1935 advertising.
The Benedictine ad noted that the drink’s name was not based on the monarch but was named for Herbert Quack’s wife. So indeed, our Drink of the Day may not have been named for our birthday Queen, and doesn’t even contain any British ingredients, but the name fits and that’s good enough for us.
Queen Elizabeth Cocktail
- Nick and Nora or coupe glass
- 1½ oz Dry vermouth
- ¾ oz Benedictine
- ¾ oz Fresh lime juice
- Add all ingredients to your trusty cocktail shaker.
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.
- Rinse and repeat.