Above: Queen Elizabeth II enjoying one of her regular martinis at Balmoral
When the Monarchy’s reign celebrates its 70th anniversary next year, it will do so without its most senior member’s customary perk. For the past two decades, every two years the Queen has been taken on a royal trip to the Caribbean to celebrate the sort of birthdays typically enjoyed by her subjects: The Queen’s birthday. If, God forbid, there are such occasions in the future, would she be hosting a Diamond Jubilee? Could she serve coffee to her subjects?
Perhaps. The Queen is not a keen wine-drinker, and has never been seen even at the great English summer banquets of the past. Instead she has taken her habitual spirits, the martini, to the Caribbean.
During these sojourns, Her Majesty keeps two types of signature cocktail on hand. She is a regular user of a single malt whisky made in Scotland by Glenmorangie, and another, an Earl Grey of Earl Grey syrup, and something or other of Lapsang Souchong, to bring a touch of the Chinese capital to the Barbados shore. She has also made regular use of the exotic Martini Martini, a gin and tomato sauce concoction invented by the barman at the club at the Windsor Castle summer residence of the House of Windsor.
The Queen was initially presented with both styles of cocktails during her Regency period, but the menu appeared too similar to that enjoyed by the bohemian crowd at the house at the top of her street. The drink was not on the menu at Balmoral in the winter of 1981, but the cocktails continue to be consumed there whenever the Windsors holiday in Scotland.
In recent years the Windsor property has been the subject of frequent changes to the menu, under pressure from two supermarkets, but the original concoctions remain. For a long time, its unusual name was chalked up to the efforts of librarians working in the kitchen, whose descendants still run the day-to-day operation. Now, though, the Prince of Wales has made clear that she must look to the future and serve less of her favorite drink.
In particular, Her Majesty has been threatened with a ban on her favorite gin, Martini, in the event that she does not take to this new course of action when her regular trip to the Caribbean arrives next year. Her course of action so far appears to be to use more strong whiskey, rather than a single malt malt. This change has irked some of her much-loved companions, such as Lord Bell, the former press secretary to the Queen, who was considered quite capable of mixing the kind of drinks that the Queen likes. But he was forced to resign after some highly private leaks to members of the public were reported.
Many, though, appear to agree that the Queen has no option. She has been given dispensation to skip her usual holiday receptions, as well as soirees in Canada. She might be asked to serve tea to her subjects, but it is not yet clear whether she could do more to serve them what is essentially tea without lunch, or any other kind of tea.
In its official history, the Queen writes of her “missed trips” to the Caribbean. Her last visit to Grenada was in 1992, before she did most of her official things for the next five years. She went on visiting the Grenadines later that year.
She is on the phone to Grenada from her country estate. She has barely changed her facial expression — she is still reading the papers on her knee. She has come in time for one of the island’s crown princesses to turn up at the table. She instructs the waitress to pass her the Lapsang Souchong — but not, she says, too quickly.