Savoy Cocktails of the Week: Du Barry, Duchess & Duke of Marlborough


Last week’s Savoy Cocktail Project selections rather cosmically coincided with the royal wedding. Seriously. It just happened to happen. 100% honest. Seriously. Sometimes the cosmos just converge.

Let’s go ahead and walk through each one (recipes found here).

The Du Barry is ostensibly named for Madame du Barry, also known as the Comtesse du Barry or Louis XVI of France’s last and trashiest mistress. Probably not quite as trashy as Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette made her out to be, but trashy all the same—even though she was an interesting patron of my specialty, the decorative arts. Neo-classicism? Yes.

Similar to the Deep Sea, the du Barry is a dressed up martini 1:2 on the vermouth and gin, with absinthe and bitters for flare. It was OK. We were not blown away, and I probably would not bother to make it again (unless an eighteenth-century theme event required a beverage so named), but it wasn’t bad. Tasters enjoyed the extra aroma given by the absinthe.

The Duchess was strong in flavor but unappealing in appearance what with the mixing of sage green absinthe, red sweet vermouth and the dry variety. A taster who adores black licorice and does not have much experience with absinthe loved the cocktail, despite the color. Absinthe is one of those liquors lots of people think will be awful because of its long reputation. Another convert, victory.

As this cocktail apparently refer to any duchess, we imbibed it on Friday evening in honor of the new Duchess of Cambridge who we are now supposed to refer to as Catherine instead of Kate [Middleton]. It seemed fitting.

I also did some research on the title (unlike the utter lack of research performed when I made a quip about Pippa Middleton’s name). According to Wikipedia a former Duchess of Cambridge graced the earth in the early nineteenth century, sporting delightfully Empire fashions and a thoroughly German name. She was Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel, who became the wife of a younger royal brother of George IV and William IV.

And now let the Wikipedia “Duchess of Cambridge” confusion begin.

The Duke of Marlborough was by far my favorite cocktail of the bunch. A delicious combination of sherry, Italian vermouth and orange bitters… I had to make myself a second. I would serve these without hesitation at any gather of folk who enjoy a smooth cocktail. The sherry lent a slightly lower alcoholic punch than many of the other Savoy cocktails we have encountered—hence my second go—and I think it present well either before or after a meal.

There have been several Dukes of Marlborough; however, Wikipedia assures me that when mentioned in a vacuum, the title invariably refers to the first, John Churchill for whom Queen Anne created the hereditary title. The Duke of Marlborough was a notable English military man in the never-ending quest to put the French in their place. And no, the surname Churchill is not coincidental: the seventh duke was the paternal grandfather to Sir Winston.

Interestingly: “The Dukedom of Marlborough is the only dukedom in the United Kingdom that can still pass to a woman and through a woman. However, the Dukedom does not follow male-preference primogeniture as most other peerages that allow succession by females and cognatic descendants do. It actually follows a kind of semi-Salic Law.”

It is all very confusing. Yay history.

As you can imagine, after such an intense week it is necessary to return to form. We have one singular cocktail to embrace in the upcoming days. Turn your readers to page 65 and take a gander at the East Indian Cocktail, an experiment in changing just one ingredient from the duke’s cocktail.

Equal parts of French Vermouth and Sherry, with a dash of Orange Bitters.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

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1 Comment

Filed under Savoy Cocktail Book Project

One response to “Savoy Cocktails of the Week: Du Barry, Duchess & Duke of Marlborough

  1. Pingback: Savoy Cocktail of the Week: The East Indian | Words to Bumble

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