Jonathan Ray

How to drink like a royal

How to drink like a royal
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Dubonnet, that staple of the Seventies drinks cabinet and toe-curling Abigail’s Party-like gatherings, has finally been awarded a royal warrant by the Queen. A royal warrant recognises those who have supplied goods or services to the royal households of either the Queen or the Prince of Wales (and, formerly, that of the Duke of Edinburgh) for at least five years and who continue to do so.

Her Majesty's passion for this aromatised, wine-based tincture is long-standing; she reportedly enjoys a glass every day before lunch with two parts Dubonnet mixed with one part gin and served over ice and slice. It was also the favourite drink of her mother. If nothing else, Dubonnet must surely be the key to royal longevity.

I wonder what took HM the Queen so long to honour Dubonnet officially as her Purveyor of Aperitifs. After all, she has drunk enough of it over the years and shows good form in doling out warrants to her top tipples, with around 40 or so drinks producers and purveyors thus recognised (out of a total 800 current warrants).

Blue-blood wine merchants such as Berry Bros & Rudd, Corney & Barrow, Justerini & Brooks and Lea & Sandeman all boast royal warrants from the Queen, with the first two similarly favoured by Prince Charles. The Duchess of Cornwall is also known to be something of a wine buff.  I love wine...' she told a recent Vineyard Association reception, 'my father was in the wine business, so I was brought up as a child drinking wine and water rather like the French.' So you can bet she throws in her two pennies' worth when it comes to deciding on the wine warrants. 

If you fancy following in royal footsteps and cutting a dash on a budget you could grab a bottle of 2019 Good Ordinary Claret (£11.95), Berrys’ best-selling wine by miles. Merlot-rich, juicy, jammy and extremely elegant, it’s worth sloshing into a decanter to allow it to show off. Tell your guests you bought your claret from where the Queen buys hers.

Camilla and Charles taste wine in New Zealand (Getty)

At the other end of the scale you could try the 2007 Salon from Corney & Barrow — a mighty champagne made only in the finest years and yours for just £703 a bottle.

And talking of champagne, fine fizz clearly rocks the royal boat with Bollinger, Mumm, Krug, Lanson, Louis Roederer, Moet & Chandon, Pol Roger and Veuve Clicquot all proud holders of the Queen’s royal Warrant. Laurent Perrier alone is thus honoured by the Prince of Wales.  Bollinger has held the royal Warrant continuously since 1884. Pol Roger predates them with a warrant from 1877 but they lost it before regaining it in 2002. Pol did, though, manage to supply the bubbles (in magnums, of course) to the three most recent royal weddings.

So far, Camel Valley in Cornwall is the only English fizz producer with a royal warrant and a fine producer it is too. Of all their excellent wines, it’s the 2018 Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rosé Brut that I rate most highly. A winner of a gold medal at the 2021 International Wine Challenge. I wonder which gong they prize the most.

Both Taylor’s and Graham’s ports have royal warrants. And if you’ve not tried the gorgeous, mellow, nutty Taylor’s Historic Limited Edition Reserve Tawny Port (£30) you should. Ditto Graham’s Blend No.5 White Port (£20) which is ridiculously moreish when mixed with tonic and served over ice.

Whiskies such as Laphroaig, Johnnie Walker, Famous Grouse and Royal Lochnagar are all royal warrant holders, with Royal Brackla being the first Scotch ever to be granted a royal warrant (by King William IV in 1833). Prince Charles even drank a dram of whisky in his tea during his visit to Scotland in October. The brand has recently relaunched and the standout for me is the Royal Brackla 12 Year Old (£60), an absolute beauty finished in oloroso sherry casks and crammed full of nuts, cocoa, cherries and Seville oranges.

Britain's oldest brewer, Shepherd Neame (est 1698) holds a royal warrant to Prince Charles as Supplier of Specialist Orders for its sublime Grants Morella Cherry Brandy Liqueur (£30). First produced in 1774 it was a favourite of Queen Victoria and I’ve never tasted better. If you’re stout of heart (and liver) try it as a Percy Special, mixed half and half with whisky.

Hine Cognac, Martini Vermouth, Pimm’s, Harvey’s sherry, Angostura Bitters and McIlhenny’s Tabasco all bear royal warrants and you can buy them and most of the brands above at the Queen’s (and Prince of Wales’s) grocer: Waitrose.

Who would have guessed?