Friday 12 March 2021 11:11 am

City Spirits: Raising a toast to the Queen Mother

We all know our favourite mum – it’s our own. But for those partial to a tipple, another is worth a mention as we look forward to Mother’s Day this Sunday – the much-missed Queen Mother.

Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was no shrinking violet, in her youth or otherwise. Indeed, stuck inside as we all are, she’s something of an inspiration for those of us desperate to return to the cool cushioning of a bar stool and the company of fine bartenders.

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Luckily, many of the Queen Mum’s favourite haunts have survived to this day – and will still be a part of the fabric of our wonderful city when what she would no doubt describe as ‘the current unpleasantness’ is over. 

Her trips to the Savoy were the talk of the town – so much so that Joe Gilmore, the legendary bartender at the American Bar, knocked up a personal cocktail. To make your own, use a mixer to liquidise half a peach, two strawberries and a teaspoon of sugar and strain into a champagne glass, and top with champagne.

For a particularly English spin, use Nyetimber’s classic cuvee – the pioneer of English sparkling wine, the vintners still exclusively use fruit picked on their own vineyards across Hampshire and west Sussex.

But the Queen Mum herself preferred something a little less extravagant – a mix of a third gin against two thirds Dubonnet, with a slice of lemon under ice.

Indeed one hand-written note sent to her butler William ‘Backstairs Billy’ Tallon, eventually sold at Sotheby’s for £16,000, gives some indication of her passion for the stuff. Ahead of an outdoor lunch, she simply wrote: “I think that I will take two small bottles of Dubonnet and gin with me this morning, in case it is needed.” Regrettably, we don’t know whose company she was trying to enliven. 

And it’s that particular concoction that London’s Jake Burger riffed off to create his Queen Mother cocktail just a few years ago. Take 25ml of dry gin and another 25ml of dubonnet red, combine with 20ml Aperol and 5ml of overproof pot still rum, stir with ice and strain into a chilled glass garnished with a lemon and orange twist.. Since Burger is a co-founder of Portobello Road gin, it seems only fair to use their liquid for the base. 

The Queen Mum lived into her hundreds despite myriad stories of wild boozy excess. Guests at her garden parties were invariably impressed by her, ahem, sturdiness. Perhaps not the sort of drink-with-mum many of us are used to – but it does sound tremendously good fun. 

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