The curtains will close on PBS’s beloved British soap opera Downton Abbey on March 6, and if you’re longtime fans like us, you’ll need a drink in order to cope.

Throughout the lavishly costumed series, which chronicles 14 years of upper-crust intrigue on an aristocratic English estate, drinks have played a central role—so much that a Downton Abbey-inspired wine collection was released in 2013 and expanded last year.

Wine Enthusiast maps out appropriate tipples to toast the show’s most memorable characters, plus offers a Downton-themed drinking game for sending the series off in high style.

  1. 1

    Butlers & Bordeaux

    One of Mr. Carson’s chief duties as head butler over the years was to serve, store and strain wine (meticulously, through cheesecloth) for Lord and Lady Grantham at their opulent dinner table. Throughout the series, Bordeaux was a regular fixture, making the classic French pour a solid pick for the series finale. While premier crus classés are prominent on the show, there’s plenty of bargain Bordeaux to be found.

    • Rule: Take a sip each time Mr. Carson chastises Thomas, the conniving under-butler, or encourages him to find new employment.
  2. 2

    Women & Whiskey

    Whiskey landed multiple characters in hot water—both upstairs and down—over six seasons at Downton. The one-time valet, Mr. Molesley, accidentally drank a whiskey punch and ended up dancing a drunken reel (to everyone’s horror). Tom Branson, the former chauffeur, was seduced by Edna, an opportunistic maid, after too strong a pour following the death of his wife, Lady Sybil. Yet, whiskey was most memorable when Lady Mary drank it (with just a splash of water), exhibiting a sharp tongue and memorable, icy gaze. For the series finale, serve a single-malt Scotch or your favorite whiskey. Just make sure to pour it into a crystal decanter first, for effect.

    • Rule: Take a sip whenever American customs are generally insulted, or each time Lady Mary rolls her eyes at Lady Edith.
  3. 3

    Lady Rose & Cocktails

    Representing the younger generation of nobility, Lady Rose comes to live at Downton for a time and generally jazzes up life at the estate, begging Lord Grantham to implement a cocktail hour, which was becoming a fashionable practice in London. Downton Abbey’s head cook, Mrs. Patmore, finally relents and throws a cocktail party to help the Crawleys keep up with the times. While no specific cocktails are discussed on the show, clear spirits in gorgeous crystal glasses appear frequently, so serving a proper gin martini for the finale seems fitting.

    • Rule: Take a sip as the servants begrudgingly make food and beverage concessions to modern times.
  4. 4

    Violet Crawley & Sherry

    Quips delivered by Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, masterfully played by Maggie Smith, have long been one of the show’s main attractions. The Countess so frequently enjoys a glass of Sherry on the show that the wine industry credited category gains in 2011 to “the Downton effect.” In honor of the formidable matriarch of Downton Abbey, try giving the oft-overlooked drink a taste.

    • Rule: Take a sip whenever the Dowager Countess delivers a caustic one-liner. Make it two when her vitriol is directed at cousin Isobel.
  5. 5

    The Entire Cast & Champagne

    Bubbly is a featured guest star during the show’s most buoyant moments, including Lady Edith’s bold move to London with her (mostly) secret love child, Marigold. Rarely for the show, a particular Champagne was mentioned by name in the Season 6 opener: At Lord Grantham’s request, Veuve Clicquot was poured for those both upstairs and down when a detective arrives, clearing Bates as a murder suspect (hopefully, for the last time). Luckily, you don’t need to be a member of the landed gentry to indulge in a little Champagne, as you can find something sparkling for every price point.

    • Rule: Take a sip every time a satin glove comes off or a diamond necklace twinkles dramatically.
Published on March 1, 2016
Topics: Entertaining, Television, Wine Pairings
About the Author
Alexis Korman
Contributing Editor, Travel

Korman is known to skip the globe in search of the next perfect sip. She's authored trends-driven travel, wine, cocktail, and food content for over a decade, joining Wine Enthusiast in 2010. Based in New Orleans, Korman recently co-founded an artisanal kombucha beverage company, Big Easy 'Bucha, which gives back to local charities.     Email: akorman@wineenthusiast.net


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