Happy Hour: Dubonnet Rouge


I've always been a complete novice to the category of spirits known as aperitifs. These old-school standbys — which include liqueurs, dry champagne, and fortified wines — rose to fame in Europe in the 1800s, and have remained popular ever since.

When I received a bottle of Dubonnet ($11.99), I decided to begin my aperitif studies. The French fortified wine, originally developed in 1846, is available in two varieties: rouge and blanc. Dubonnet is made from wine that's had additional alcohol added to it, which preserves the wine, makes it sweeter, and increases its alcohol content.

I've always thought of Dubonnet — a proprietary blend of herbs, spices, and peels — as something more fitting for my grandmother. But surprisingly, my first sip was warm and rich, and had a nose and flavor that reminded me of tawny port. It was sweeter than brandy, yet drier than a dessert wine, and incredibly smooth given its price tag.

I'm looking forward to drinking some again tonight and can't wait to experiment with Dubonnet in classic cocktails. If you've ever tried this aperitif, what are your thoughts on it? Have you ever tasted a spirit that was incredibly different from what you thought it would be?

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