Welcome to David's Bar Cart, where I'll be sharing some classic cocktail recipes found in The Woman Before Wallis!
This classic gin martini was a favourite of Edward VIII’s – known as David to his friends – and is perfect paired with one of your favourite books.
2 1/3 oz Gordon’s Dry Gin
1/3 oz Martini Extra Dry Vermouth
1 dash orange bitters (optional)
Stir all the ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a chilled glass and serve with a twist of lemon
George released Thelma’s hand as she climbed into the motorcar; he slid next to her, sitting a shade too close, and murmured into her ear. “My dear, have you any American bourbon? I’ve a cocktail I want to try. It’s got bitters and orange peel and I got squiffed on the stuff in Malta…”
2 oz. bourbon
1 sugar cube
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Put the sugar cube in the bottom of a rock glass and cover it with the bitters. Using a teaspoon, muddle up the sugar cube (adding a little bit of water to make the task easier). Add the ice (preferably a large lump, but cubes can work too), and pour over the whiskey. Stir, then garnish with the orange twist.
Gin & Dubonnet
“Gin and Dubonnet, Thelma?” said Piers. David looked up, his expression wary, and Thelma knew he hadn’t asked Bertie’s forgiveness.
Said to be a favourite of both Queen Elizabeth II and her mother, Gin and Dubonnet is a cocktail fit for royalty. Served with a twist of lemon or orange, this dry cocktail features Dubonnet, a fortified wine which, like tonic, contains quinine. Having tested out this cocktail myself, I can tell you that the Queen Mother had a stronger constitution than I – this drink packs a wallop.
1.5 oz gin
¾ oz Dubonnet Rouge
Pour the gin and Dubonnet into a cocktail glass filled with ice and stir well. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with a lemon or orange twist. Serve no more than one, or you might fall over.
“Tea?” she said, “or a proper drink? I told you I’m determined to bring cocktail hour to this damp city; I’m having a martini, if that helps you make up your mind.”
Did you know that martinis originally featured bitters rather than vermouth? I did not – not until I found the fantastic Roberts & June website, which breaks down a thousand different cocktails, a thousand different ways. Wallis, with her sophisticated approach to cocktail hour, would likely have known how to make both an old-fashioned and a classic martini – and as I’ve given the classic to David, she deserves the bitter twist.
2 oz gin
1 oz vermouth
1 dash orange bitters (preferably Peychaud’s)
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Stir for 30 seconds, or until the ice is fairly melted, then strain into a cocktail glass.
Lady Sarah sighed. “I’m so sorry, my dear.” She called her butler over, and spoke to him in an undertone. “A cocktail, I think, for Lady Furness.”
Similar to a Negroni, the Dunhill is a sherry-based cocktail first invented in London’s Hatchett’s Bar in the 1920s. Smooth and mellow, it’s a perfect drink for soothing a broken heart.
1 teaspoon absinthe
1 oz. dry gin
1 oz. sherry
1 oz. dry vermouth
¼ oz. orange curacao
Fill a rock glass with ice and set aside. In a cocktail shaker, mix together all of the ingredients except the absinthe, and stir over ice. Ditch the ice in the rock glass and coat the sides with absinthe; add a large chunk of ice to the glass and then strain in the contents of the cocktail shaker. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.
*Recipe adapted from punchdrink.com
Thelma saw Wallis at the far end of the room – she had usurped the bartender at the cocktail table and was mixing drinks while Ernest sliced lemons. As though she’d felt Thelma’s eyes on her, Wallis looked up and smiled, brandishing the cocktail shaker.
The gorgeous French 75 cocktail is a prohibition-era cocktail that is easy to make and easier to drink. Invented in Paris during WWI, the drink’s name refers to a French 75mm field gun (implication being that the cocktail, too, packs a punch!)
2 oz. dry gin
¾ oz. lemon juice
¾ oz. simple syrup (half and half sugar and water, boiled until the sugar is dissolved)
2 oz champagne
Spiral twist of lemon to garnish
Shake gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice for 20-30 seconds. Strain the contents into a flute glass and top with champagne. Garnish with the lemon twist.
*Adapted from Bon Appetit
“Cocktails, at this hour… David, have you ordered tea? You’re looking peaky, I do hope you ate breakfast. Finch,” said Mrs. Dudley Ward, raising her voice for the butler, “A tea-tray, please, with a plate of sandwiches.
What good is a drink without snacks? As Freda Dudley Ward keenly points out, tea sandwiches can be a perfect accompaniment to cocktails – especially ones filled with stodgier items like roast beef or tuna. For the purposes of this recipe, however, we’re going light: egg salad and tuna.
Mix together two bowls of filling – one with egg salad and one with tuna salad.
Butter sliced white bread, and fill with the egg salad and tuna salad, respectively.
Top with watercress.
Cut off the crusts, then cut the sandwiches into rectangles.
If possible, serve on tiered tea-trays, for ambiance.
Elizabeth pursed her lips. “I would say a glass of champagne, but the pregnancy has put me off cocktails entirely. It’s making for a very long nine months.”
The Queen Mother was known to enjoy a drink, and it felt unfair to leave her out of the fun while she was expecting Princess Margaret. I found a recipe on The Spruce Eats that adapts the classic 1930s Bellini for those expecting, abstaining, or otherwise partaking in a more restrained approach to cocktail hour.
2 oz. peach nectar or puree
2 oz. sparkling cider or soda
Peach slice to garnish
Pour the peach nectar into a champagne flute and top with the sparkling cider. Garnish with the peach slice, and enjoy!
“Brimming with scandal and an equal amount of heart…a sweeping yet intimate look at the lives of some of history’s most notorious figures from Vanderbilts to the Prince of Wales… A must-read.”
New York Times bestselling author of When We Left Cuba and Next Year in Havana