The Dowager Countess…Cocktail

Maggie Smith as Dowager Countess

Menu Trim

We are not a family of TV watchers.  Not because of any profound parenting ideology or a burning desire to make a social statement but rather, we simply don’t have the time. You know how it goes…work, school, activities and so on, and so on.  We do, however, make a few exceptions and topping this very short list is the PBS series Downton Abbey.

Tomorrow evening, after a brutally long series hiatus here in the states {personally filled with countless re-viewings of Seasons 1 and 2} the highly-anticipated Season 3 airs!  You can be sure, dinner will be served, savored and stocked away well before the 9PM showtime.

In my dinner research, I recently came across a series of Downton Abbey Cocktails {The Lady Mary, The Lady Edith, The Lady Sybil & The Bittersweet Mr. Bates} and was greatly disappointed to see that a potion had not been crafted for my absolute favorite character…The Dowager Countess.

So, I took the liberty… 

Maggie Smith’s character, known for her burning one-liners {click here to see some of her best deliveries},  would command a cocktail that shared the same level of intensity while maintaining a proper sense of class and tradition…Brandy!  Champagne would be far too subtle and whiskey a bit beneath the Countess {whiskey may be the perfect fit for Downton’s newest addition…the character played by Shirley MacLaine…we will see}.

I have fond memories of brandy.  For as long as I can remember, my grandmother {not a drinking woman mind you} enjoyed one snifter of this noble spirit every evening watching Johnny Carson’s, The Tonight Show.  And when we were sick with a cold, she was convinced that a sip or two of brandy was more effective than any bottled decongestant or cough medicine…oh, I still remember that burning sensation in my throat as I dutifully took my tablespoonful.

Yes, brandy definitely needed to be the foundation for The Dowager Countess cocktail.  But where to go from here?  I am not a formal student of mixology…my only experience comes from a stint as a bartender my senior year of college working at an Irish pub on campus {and as for that, I wasn’t serving a lot of brandy}.  Except for one loyal customer, an elderly gentleman well into his seventies, who would come in around 4pm everyday as we were getting ready for the dinner crowd and sit on the same barstool and order the same drink…a Stinger {a cocktail made with brandy and white Creme de Menthe}…everyday.  The name “Stinger” surely fit the character of the Dowager Countess so I knew that her cocktail needed to be an adaptation of the classic Stinger.

The last component of this noble cocktail comes from my dear sweet daughter Mallory & it is one of her favorite foods…maraschino cherries!  Well, it works for a manhattan so why not give it a try? So I did and both Michael & I gave it our seal of approval.  Come to think of it, the Dowager Countess really does have a sweet side…{do you remember her counseling Daisy in the library after “poor, sweet William’s” death?}.

May I present The Dowager Countess Cocktail

Dowager Countess Cocktail


  • 1½ ounces brandy
  • ½ ounce white creme de menthe
  • ½ ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon maraschino cherry juice
  • 1 maraschino cherry for garnish

Combine first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker, pack with ice, shake vigorously and then strain into a cocktail glass {a chilled martini glass would be lovely}.  Garnish with the cherry.

Can’t you just see the Countess enjoying this cocktail after dinner, playing cards with the ladies while the gentlemen enjoyed a cigar?  I think my grandmother would have enjoyed it as well...

1/6/13 @11:02PM…UPDATE…I just watched the Season 3 Premiere of Downton Abbey and I believe that The Martha Levinson cocktail should DEFINITELY be whiskey based!!!!


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