Port On Call
If you think port is just for sipping after dinner, think again. We take a look at some of it's rich history, and offer up some delightful cocktail recipes from all over the U.S. Grab your shakers!
The Alcohol Professor
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All things fortified wine have been taking off in the past several years, with vermouth and sherry leading the pack. Lagging a bit behind though has been port, a category which is no less beloved than the others among its devotees. Hailing from Portugal’s Douro Valley, port has a lengthy history. Douro is actually the third oldest defined appellation, stretching all the way back to 1756, and trailing only Chianti, and Tokaj, Hungary.
There are also a broader range of styles than most newcomers realize, who often mentally classify it as nothing but cloyingly sweet dessert course fodder. That, of course, is not the case. There’s popular and common ruby port, but there’s also drier, nutty tawny port, and white port, and a range of other specifications and maturation styles.
King Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt, Harry Payne, 1915
As for port’s lineage, it’s yet another where we can thank our colonial forebears for doing plenty of drinking. More precisely, we can thank ongoing warring and feuding between the British and the French, which deprived the Brits of claret, among other things.
In its place, they turned to port with help from the Methuen Treaty of 1703 which declared that imported Portuguese wines could not be taxed more than imported French wines, and in turn that English textiles sent to Portugal wouldn’t be taxed at all. Good old fashioned war and tariffs leading the charge!
Port would then of course find itself in the burgeoning colonies as well, becoming a favorite imbibing option. Tastes change, as do the wars and taxes du jour, and port largely fell to the wayside here in the states. But it’s back, baby, and you can look no further than its emerging popularity at bars all across the country, from sea to shining sea. Seek these out on your journeys, or try your hand on mixing up a few at home.
By Andrea Tateosian, lead bartender at Urbana, Washington D.C.
Any Port In a Storm
“This is a flip, meaning it has an egg but no citrus, unlike a sour or a fizz. It’s a very classic style of drink, with its roots in colonial America. It’s super rich, chocolaty, nutty and desserty. The egg gives the drink a super silky, creamy texture, and plays with the dark rich malt of the porter. It’s what’s for breakfast!” -Andrea Tateosian
1 oz/30 mL Dow’s 10 Year Tawny Port
.5 oz/15 mL Giffard Banane du Brésil
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Dry shake the first four ingredients, then shake and double strain into flute. Top with Porter, grated nutmeg and skewered cherry garnish.
By Chad Robinson, brand ambassador for Catoctin Creek
Blueberry Yum Yum
3 oz/88 mL Ruby Port
1 oz/30 mL Roundstone Rye
2 barspoons Blueberry Preserves
Sprig of mint for garnish
Put two barspoons of blueberry preserves in the bottom of a shaker tin. Add in the ruby port and rye whiskey. Fill the shaker tin with ice and shake until the ingredients are thoroughly cold and mixed. Strain the mixture into a double old fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Wake the mint by slapping it gently against your palm. Skewer the blueberries on a cocktail pick, set it on the rim of the glass, and place the mint in the ice near the blueberries.
By Steve McHugh of Cured, San Antonio
McHugh is a James Beard award finalist chef at Cured. He and his kitchen team also create the cocktails, and train the bartenders.
1.5oz/44 mL Quinto do Noval Black Ruby Port
.75oz/22 mL Lustau Brandy
.5oz/15 mL Allspice Dram
1 egg yolk
Dry shake all ingredients, then wet shake (shake with ice.) Pour into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with grated allspice on top.
By Jenn Knott, head bartender at 312 Chicago
Mama I'm Coming Home
2 cups Apple Cider
1.5 cups Pecan-infused Cutty Sark Blended Scotch Whiskey (recipe follows)
.75 cup Fonesca Bin 27 Port
.75 cup Honey Syrup (recipe follows)*
2 Cinnamon Sticks
Place all ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let mull for an hour. Double strain the cinnamon sticks and cloves from the hot cider. Pour into an Irish coffee mug and garnish with a soft caramel candy.
Serving size: 10 people batched / 4oz per drink or single serving.
*Pecan-infused Cutty Sark
16 oz package Raw Pecans
1 liter Cutty Sark Blended Scotch Whiskey
Place pecans on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in oven set at 200 degrees and roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring half-way through. Let cool. Pour pecans and Scotch into a large airtight container and let sit and infuse for a week. Strain after a week.
2 parts Honey
2 parts Water
Stir over heat to combine.
Tseng deployed this creation at one of her recent Literary Cocktails events, taking her inspiration from a Nikolai Gogol story.
“Gogol tells the tale of how a barber winds up with the nose of a fairly well established civil servant — who is entertained by many important people in his soup. He recognized whose it is and tries to throw it over a bridge but an Inspector witnesses this. We then spend most of the story with our insecure, haughty, noseless man as he attempts to locate his missing facial feature. At one point he sees it in disguise and follows it into a church but then is distracted and it gets away. He eventually gets it back.
Our story is a story of nonsense and a bit of a commentary on how crazy things are in reality but also not permanent. I thought first about the Dog’s Nose cocktail which is composed of gin & porter. Riffing from there I switched the porter to port, channeling the idea that the theme of wine aromas and how one might nickname a clever sommelier ‘the Nose’ in tasting circles.
The cocktail is accentuated then with extra herbal and fruit notes with Kümmel, dry Curaçao, orange bitters & absinthe. I enjoy a good dash of absinthe in any story that channels the absurd and insane.” – Chantal Tseng
1.5 oz/44 mL Dry Gin
1 oz/30 mL Ruby Port (such as Cabral, 2016 NY International Wine Competition Port Producer of the Year)
.25 oz/7 mL Kümmel
.25 oz/7 mL Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
Dash of Orange bitters
Dash of Absinthe
Stir with ice and serve in a chilled coupe. Garnish with orange peel that is pinned and curved to look like an abstract nose.
Offrendas para Amigos (Gifts To Friends)
1 oz/30 mL Tequila Reposado
.5 oz/15 mL Ruby Port
3 oz/88 mL Jamaica Tea (recipe follows)
2 dashes Orange Bitters
1 cube Dry Ice*
Build in shaker tin over ice. Shake and strained into a Martini glass over a cube of dry ice.
**Regular ice can be substituted for dry ice.
For the Jamaica Tea
.5 cup Dried Hibiscus Flowers [also known as Flor de Jamaica]
4 cups Water
.5 cup Granulated sugar
Boil Hibiscus leaves in water with sugar for 30 minutes to get a vibrant, red colored tea.
By Brandon Lockman of Red Star Tavern, Portland, OR
Port Old Fashioned
“This is our top-selling whiskey cocktail. It’s easy to see the ingredients and think this cocktail will be too sweet, but the drink is really balanced. The port and maple syrup are used very sparingly to provide more depth and richness, without overpowering the whiskey. Most people are pleasantly surprised.” -Brandon Lockman
2 oz/60 mL Bulleit Bourbon
.5 oz/15 mL Graham’s 10 yr. Tawny Port
1 Barspoon Maple Syrup
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Press orange peel, bitters and maple syrup in a beaker. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir and strain over large cut ice cube. Garnish with spent orange peel, and a cherry on a pick.
By Torrence Swain, head bartender at Bourbon Steak, Washington DC
The Portly Pig
2 oz/60 mL Whistle Pig Rye (the restaurant uses their own proprietary edition)
1 oz/30 mL Fonseca 20 Year Old Tawny Port
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Orange twist garnish
Stir over ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
By Sarah Ruiz, head bartender at Dirty Habit, Washington D.C.
1.5 oz/44 mL White Port
.75/22 mL Del Professore Blanc Vermouth
.5 oz/15 mL Génépy des Alpes liqueur (Haus Alpenz)
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass, add ice and stir. Strain and garnish with dandelion infused oil.
By Matt Allred, lead bartender at Zentan, Washington D.C.
“The drink is inspired by Frank Zappas song “White Port and Lemon Juice.” It’s catchy and I have always enjoyed the album at home. When taking on this challenge, that was my start. I must say Zappa’s affinity for just white port and lemon juice is a little weird… but he was a
weirdo. I find those two ingredients need a little love by way of the Calvados, pistachio and Angostura.” -Matt Allred
1oz/30 mL Dry White Port (such as Niepoort)
1oz/30 mL Lemon Juice
.5oz/15 mL Calvados (such as Boulard)
.75oz/44 mL Pistachio Orgeat (try Josh Powell’s recipe here)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Shake and double strain into a coupe. Garnish with a lemon wheel.