There is no substitute for Dubonnet in this cocktail. Mixed with gin, this drink is finished with a twist of lemon. As simple as the Dubonnet Cocktail would appear to be, as with the Martini, a debate exists over what the proportions should be and what else should go in it. The cocktail was popularized by an ad campaign in the 1960s, but its basic ingredients made it a Prohibition standard before that. Created in the 1850s, red Dubonnet is a wine-based spirit that included quinine to help the French troops in North Africa fight off malaria. You may have little chance of contracting yellow fever, but this drink is a sure way to cure the blues.
The earliest recipes for the Dubonnet Cocktail call for equal parts Dubonnet and gin; while tastes may vary, the original still seems the way to go. A point of contention is whether to use bitters. New York bartender Gary Regan resolves this issue beautifully by adding a flamed orange peel to the drink.