Raising the bar: a toast to mums

Written by Jim Wrigley, beverage manager at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa.

My dear mum in the United Kingdom got her cards, flowers, bubbles and chocolates on 14 March this year, whereas my Aussie mother-in-law will be expecting a call from us on 9 May, as will most mums in the world, including those in the Cayman Islands.

Following some barstool-based pontification on the reasons for the chronological disparity, it turns out that Mother’s Day, or Mothering Sunday as it is sometimes known in the U.K., has interesting and quite different origin stories.

In the United States, the story begins in the mid-1800s with Ann Jarvis, who on observing the prevalence of childhood disease and epidemics, created Mother’s Day Work Clubs for her local community to increase education and improve conditions for mothers, their children and the infirm. Her work continued through the American Civil War, providing care to soldiers and their families. She passed away on 9 May, 1905.

In 1908, her daughter Anna Jarvis went further than simply a memorial for the anniversary of her mother’s passing, and instead promoted the first official observance of Mother’s Day on 10 May. By 1914, the second Sunday of May officially became the national observance of Mother's Day in the United States.

The story is different in the U.K., where Mothering Sunday has roots that date back to medieval times. From the 8th century A.D., the fourth Sunday in Lent was Mothering Sunday, where people would travel back to their mother churches — in their hometowns where they were baptised — and therefore to their mothers for a break in Lenten fasting, and to spend time with family.

After this practice fell out of favour, it was the instigation of Anna Jarvis’ Mother’s Day in the U.S. that led Constance Penswick Smith to promote the revival of Mothering Sunday in the U.K. starting in 1913, which eventually resulted in the modern celebration and associated date.

You would have thought that more than a thousand years of special days for mums must have been worthy of a special drink, but apparently not. Although numerous concoctions are created for special occasions every year, there seems to be no specific beverage to celebrate mothers; but I have an idea.

Dubonnet is a French herbal wine-based aperitif with a touch of bitter quinine. Rarely seen outside of France, it was reportedly part of a daily tipple of a famous and well-loved mother — The Queen Mum.

Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon liked to sip her Dubonnet mixed 2 parts with 1 part gin, over ice and with a slice of lemon. Apparently, she imbibed this daily at noon without fail.

The "Queen Mother," as the drink is often called, seems as good as any for a Mother's Day beverage — at least in places where you can find Dubonnet.


This article appears in print in the May 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times