So you thought cocktails were mere drinks?

Meet David Dobson, Steep resident and retired Vice-Admiral, who hosted hundreds of cocktail parties on board ship during his career in the Royal Navy, from Iceland to the tropics. Every such party was organised with immaculate attention to detail, with every member of the ship’s personnel involved in making the event a success.

David joined the Royal Navy in 1957 and by the mid-1970s was CO of the frigate, HMS Amazon

David introduces the Horse’s Neck, a refreshingly simple cocktail which was served alongside other classics such as G&Ts on board ship.  

He explains how the art of hospitality is passed down the generations in the Royal Navy and how, on ship, cocktail parties are not so much about drinking as diplomacy.

Nothing was left to chance at a Naval cocktail party – the aim was to ensure nobody was left unattended.

David talks to Kate Fairweather about the intricacies of hosting on board ship – or in his case, aircraft carrier – and about his illustrious career in the Royal Navy, which took him from Iceland to Antarctica in the course of his duties.

David and Joanna Dobson with their adored beagle, Lulu and cavalier spaniel

The Horse’s Neck

  • Brandy
  • Ginger ​ale
  • Lemon
  • Ice 

Refreshing and simple to make, the Horse’s Neck would be served alongside G&Ts and other classic cocktails on board ship.

David doesn’t give precise measurements – but with a cocktail this straightforward, just use your judgement. 

Pour a measure of brandy into a tumbler, over plenty of ice.  Top up with dry ginger ale. 

David specifies a slice of lemon, which is how it tended to be garnished when served at Royal Navy cocktail parties.

If you like your cocktails a bit fancier, many bartenders would suggest a strip of lemon peel instead, spiralling down the inside of a highball glass, which slowly infuses the cocktail as you drink it. 

Fun fact: Americans often drink this with bourbon instead of brandy and ginger beer instead of ginger ale – why not give it a try?

Get in touch!

Do you mix a mean cocktail and have a story to tell? Get in touch yourself, or nominate a friend to share Cocktails with Kate from 6 o’clock on Fridays.  We might have to record remotely depending on the local rules, but we’ll work something out! Email