10 Dubonnet Rouge Substitutes [Poached Pears, Cocktail & More]

During the pandemic, I became interested in mixing my own drinks at home, like many others. In the process, I became more acquainted with fermented liquors, especially Dubonnet.

With a very high alcohol content, Dubonnet Rouge has a thick, almost syrup-like texture and it’s a full-bodied and robust drink.It tastes like an herbal port. However, Dubonnet is sometimes hard to come by. Luckily, Dubonnet can be substituted with a variety of more well-known liquors.

The best substitution for Dubonnet in both cocktails and savory dishes is usually Vermouth, but Amaro, Lillet, Pimm’s, Cynar, and Quinaquina work well, too. Savory dishes might also benefit from Brandy and sherry as a replacement for Dubonnet. As an aperitif, Amaro makes a great substitution straight up, over ice, or with soda. And for the cocktails that might call for Dubonnet, Campari makes a great replacement and mixes well with complimentary liquors, including gin. Gin and Brandy also make good replacements for Dubonnet in cocktails.

In this article, we will look at 10 different substitutions, in what applications they work best, and our favorite Dubonnet recipes.

Substitutions As An Aperitif

As an aperitif, Dubonnet can be consumed alone, on the rocks, with a tonic or soda. You can use one of the following in its place. 

1.Vermouth

Like Dubonnet, Vermouth has a red wine base and is flavored herbs, spices, and barks. In Spain, Vermouth on the rocks is a common aperitif with a spritz of soda water and garnished with a skewered green olive or citrus twist. 

Vermouth is a fine substitute for Dubonnet as an aperitif. Substitution: 1 oz : 1 ozVermouth is a fine substitute for Dubonnet as an aperitif

2.Amaro

Amaro, an Italian herbal liqueur, is traditionally served straight up or on the rocks in a tumbler as either an aperitif or digestif. A slice of lemon is sometimes added and the bitterness can be diluted with seltzer water on a warm day.

Amaro is another great substitute for Dubonnet as an aperitif. Substitution: 1 oz : 1 oz

3.Lillet

Lillet is a brand of three types of aperitifs: rouge (red), blanc (white), and rose. In place of Dubonnet, one would choose Lillet Rouge, though the other two Lillet’s are great options for another day.

Lillet Rouge is a blend of 85% Bordeaux region wines and 15% liqueurs, mostly citrus liqueurs. The mix is then stirred in oak vats until blended. Substitution: 1 oz : 1 oz

4.Pimm’s

Pimm’s is sweet with an herbal-spice flavor accented by caramelized orange and is very popular in England. It can be served as an apéritif or digestif.

It has a similar taste to Dubonnet because it shares one key ingredient: quinine. Substitution: 1 oz : 1 oz

5.Cynar

Cynar (pronounced like Cheetos: chee-nar) is a bittersweet Italian liquor made from artichokes. Known as an aperitif or digestif, Cynar is sometimes consumed straight up before or after a meal or afterward due to its main ingredient.

Artichokes are also referenced for aiding digestion and helping the liver to process toxins. Substitution: 1 oz : 1 oz

6.Quinquina

Quinquina is an aromatized wine usually used as an aperitif. Traditionally quinquinas contain cinchona bark, which provides quinine – the same unique ingredient in Dubonnet. Substitution: 1 oz : 1 oz

Substitutions In Cocktails

Cocktails made with Dubonnet are usually quite simple, making the ingredient easy to substitute. Cocktails made with Dubonnet

6Aperol

It seems you can’t go many places these days without being offered an Aperol Spritz. Besides being used alongside Prosecco, it also pairs well in other cocktails that call for Dubonnet.

Aperol is an Italian liqueur that’s an aperitif. It’s considered an Italian amaro, but it’s actually relatively sweet. Substitution: 1 oz : 1 oz

7.Campari

Campari is an Italian alcoholic liqueur from the infusion of herbs and fruit in alcohol and water. Like Dubonnet, it is usually used in simple cocktails and garnished with citrus.

Invented in 1860, today it remains one of the most popular Italian drinks. Substitution: 1 oz : 1 oz

8.Gin

If your cocktail recipe doesn’t already call for gin, it might make a good substitute for Dubonnet. The botanicals found in gin make it the ideal hard liquor for apéritifs and cocktails. After juniper, gin tends to be flavored with botanical/herbal, spice, floral or fruit flavors or often a combination, but there are now many different styles and flavors of gin. 

Substitution: 1 oz : 1 ozgin is the ideal hard liquor for apéritifs and cocktails

Substitutions In Recipes

Dubonnet Rouge is most referenced in cocktail recipes. However, its ability is far greater than that. You can also find many savory recipes on the Web that call for this interesting ingredient. Some of these recipes include gluten-free desserts like poached pears or dairy-free appetizers like portobello mushrooms – see below!

9.Brandy

It is distilled from wine or a fermented fruit mash and gets its color from the wooden containers it is stored in. Brandy is also often used to fortify sherry, Madeira, and other dessert wines. 

Substitution: 1 c : 1 c

10.Sherry

Sherry is a Spanish fortified wine made from white grapes. In Europe, “Sherry” has protected designation of origin status, and under Spanish law, all wine labeled as “Sherry” must legally come from the “Sherry Triangle”.

The ritual of vanencia is used for pulling Sherry samples from the aging barrels in the cellars, consisting of a small cylindrical steel cup at the end of a long wicker handle performed by venenciadors in a uniform consisting of a red sash and short black coat. (For a demonstration, click here >>) Substitution: 1 c : 1 c

 

What Is Dubonnet?

Sometimes referred to as a quinquina (aromatized wine usually used as an aperitif), Dubonnet is a liquor made from a blend of fortified wine, herbs, and spices that contains cinchona bark, which provides quinine – an ingredient originally used to prevent malaria. 

What Does Dubonnet taste like?

Dubonnet tastes like a combination of Port or Sherry and a herbal liqueur. The red version of Dubonnet is sweeter with spice flavors, such as thyme, rosemary, fennel, anise, orange zest, and nutmeg.

The relatively new white variation of Dubonnet is dryer with more intense spicy and herbal notes.

How To Select A Substitute For Dubonnet

The first step is to determine the way Dubonnet will be used in your recipe. Most people think of Dubonnet as an aperitif that might only be required in cocktails.

But actually, there are quite a few interesting recipes that call for this sweet, aromatized wine-based drink. Some sweet desserts, like pashed pears, or savory dishes that call for sauteed mushrooms in Dubonnet can easily be made without this unique liquor with a few adaptations. 

Next, choose a substitution. Dubonnet comes in white and red, and different recipes will call for one version or the other. When choosing a replacement, it’s best to stick with a similar profile (color and taste). 

Popular Recipes With Dubonnet (And Substitutions)

The Queen’s Dubonnet Cocktail

The Queen of England’s favorite cocktail is a Dubonnet and Gin. Whether you and your friends are binging The Crown or holding your own high tea, this could make the perfect party drink recipe.  

  • 2 ounces Dubonnet
  • 1 ounce gin
  • Lemon Wedge
  • 2 large cubes of ice

Directions

  1. Add gin and Dubonnet into a shaker and shake until combined. 
  2. Pour over ice and top with a lemon wedge. 
  3. Sip and enjoy. 

Substitution: Try Amaro. Amaros come in a wide variety of flavors, color spectrums, and thicknesses. From fruity, grape-y flavors, to one’s with 29 ingredients (including orange blossom, chamomile, licorice, peppermint, and aniseed)!

Although many popular Amaros are Italian, an English Amaro like Gerry’s or Asterly Brothers might be a better fit for The Queen’s Cocktail

Adapted from: Elle Talk >>

Poached Pears In Dubonnet

Poached Pears in Dubonnet is a simple gluten-free recipe for a fun morning start or an evening dessert. Poaching is gentle, stove-top cooking. Winter pears are ideal candidates for this recipe since they keep their shape. 

  • 3 cups Dubonnet
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 orange – peel only
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 3 firm pears

Poached pears in Dubonnet on the plate

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine Dubonnet, water, honey, orange peel, and spices. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. 
  2. Peel and halve the pears. Use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds. 
  3. Transfer the pears to the simmering liquid, being certain they are submerged. 
  4. Reduce the heat slightly to keep the pears at a low bubble. 
  5. Simmer the pears for 15-20 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. 
  6. Transfer the pears to a bowl and cover them to keep warm. 
  7. With the remaining sauce, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a low boil. 
  8. Cook sauce for approximately 15 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced to about ¾ cup. 
  9. Pour the sauce through a mesh strainer and onto the still-warm pears. 
  10. Serve immediately. Top with some vanilla ice cream or granola for an extra treat.

Substitution: Try Sweet Vermouth. Sweet vermouth usually comes from Italy, is sweet, spiced, herbal, and sometimes notably vanilla – perfect to make this poached pears recipe interesting. While Martini & Rossi and Noilly Prat are the most notable brands, Carpano Antica Formula makes an exceptional sweet vermouth that would be perfect in this poached pears recipe (just be sure to refrigerate after opening). 

Adapted from: USA Pears

Portobello Mushrooms In Dubonnet And Garlic Sauce

This recipe is an easy gluten-free and dairy-free crowd-pleaser perfect for a date night in or an evening with friends. 

  • 8 mini Portobello mushrooms
  • 1 Tbsp. vegan salted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ¼ cup Dubonnet wine
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • Sea salt and GF freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Heat oil and butter over medium heat in an ovenproof skillet. Stir in garlic. 
  3. Add Dubonnet and chives and simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. Add mushrooms facing up. Spoon some sauce in the middle of each mushroom. 
  5. Place the skillet on the middle rack of your oven and bake for 10 minutes. 
  6. Turn mushrooms over, spoon some more sauce over top, and bake 5 more minutes.
  7. Flip mushrooms over, season, and drizzle with lime juice.

Substitution: Try Sherry. Since this bite sizes appetizer would make the perfect tapas, a Spanish Sherry would be the perfect substitution for this recipe. It’s boozy and thick, but also comes in many different flavor profiles to enhance this quick, delicious small plate.

Interestingly enough, the best cooking sherry will have just the right amount of salt added to the batch without destroying the recipe. While there are actually cooking Sherrys out there, Taylor makes a great dry and cheap sherry that many chefs swear by. 

Adapted from: Only Gluten-Free Recipes

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Dubonnet A Vermouth?

No, Dubonnet is not vermouth, but both could substitute for one another. Like a vermouth, Dubonnet is a fortified, aromatized (by herbs and spices) wine.

Is Dubonnet Similar To Campari?

Dubonnet and Campari are both aperitifs concocted from herbs and spices, but Dubonnet is said to be sweeter than Campari. 

What Does Dubonnet Taste Like?

Dubonnet tastes like a strong wine that has a thick, syrup-like quality and is full-bodied. Dubonnet with a orange slice

What Is Dubonnet Similar To?

Dubonnnet is most similar to Lillet and vermouth. 

Is Dubonnet Similar To Port (Or Sherry) (Or Vermouth)?

Similar? Yes. The same? No. Let’s provide some context: Vermouth, port, and sherry are all “fortified wines”. A “fortified wine” is a wine that has a distilled spirit added to it, to increase its alcohol content — fortifying it.

As we learned earlier, “distilled spirits” include brandy and cognac – grape spirits. But more interestingly, ​​fortified get more distinct. For example, Madeira is a fortified wine that only comes from Portugal’s Madeira Islands.

Port wine only hails from Portugal in the Duoro Valley. Marsala only comes from Marsala, a city on the Italian island of Sicily. There is a sub-group of fortified wines called “aromatized wines”.

Vermouth is specifically an aromatized wine – a fortified wine that has also been flavored with herbs, spices, or natural flavorings. Another kind of aromatized wine is quinquina (mentioned above) – making Dubonnet and Lillet Blanc aromatized wines. 

Final Considerations

Dubonnet is a unique aperitif that is favorited by Queen Elizabeth II and mixologists across Europe. It comes in red and white, and is ideal for those who are interested in creating traditional cocktails or jazzing up recipes that call for aromatized liquor.

Depending on your use, there are many great alternatives out there. Among them, Vermouth, Amaro, and Aperol make easy-to-find and easy-to-use replacements. 

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