In 1993, Kentucky-based Heaven Hill bought the U.S. rights to Dubonnet, a sweet aperitif devised in 1846 by Parisian wine merchant and chemist Joseph Dubonnet. Dubonnet’s popularity has endured in Europe, but in the U.S., the formula wasn’t the same, and it never quite resonated with American bartenders. Heaven Hill national brand educator, Lynn House, took notice and decided it was time to reformulate the aperitif to better reflect its original character.
The new Dubonnet Rouge, released in July, replaces a blend of merlot, rubired and ruby cabernet with muscat in the base, ups the quinine, replaces corn syrup with cane sugar, and adds black currant and tea to the mix. The result is a smooth, lightly sweet aperitif with rich prune flavors, a subtle bitterness and a slight spice on the finish. It’s perfect for mixing (try it in a Dandy cocktail) or for sipping solo. $17.99, rolling out in U.S. markets over the next few months.