Port On Call

Any Port In a Storm, courtesy Urbana
Any Port In a Storm, courtesy Urbana

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.

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.

blueberry yum yum
blueberry yum yum

Any Port In A Storm

By Andrea Tateosian, lead bartender at Urbana, Washington D.C.

"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

Dry shake the first four ingredients, then shake and double strained into flute. Top with Porter, grated nutmeg and skewered cherry garnish.

The Flip, courtesy Cured
The Flip, courtesy Cured

Blueberry Yum Yum

By Chad Robinson, brand ambassador for Catoctin Creek

  • 3 oz/88 mL Ruby Port
  • 1 oz/30 mL Roundstone Rye
  • 2 barspoons Blueberry Preserves
  • 3 Blueberries
  • 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.

The Flip

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.

Dry shake all ingredients, then wet shake (shake with ice.) Pour into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with grated allspice on top.

Lawyers, Guns & Money

Lawyers, Guns & Money - photo by Nick Voderman
Lawyers, Guns & Money - photo by Nick Voderman

By Jim Kearns for Slowly Shirley, NYC

  • 1.5 oz/44 mL Dry Red Wine
  • .5 oz/15 mL Ruby Port
  • .5 oz/15 mL Pedro Ximenez Sherry
  • .5 oz/15 mL Barbancourt 5 Star Rum
  • .25 oz/7 mL Tempus Fugit Cacao
  • 2 dashes Chuncho Bitters
  • 2 dashes Hellfire Bitters (such as Bittermens)
  • Orange Twist

Shake all ingredients with 3 ice cubes, including the orange twist. Serve over crushed ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with cocoa-chile-sugar powder and orange-twist wrapped straw.

Mama I'm Coming Home, courtesy 312 Chicago
Mama I'm Coming Home, courtesy 312 Chicago

Mama I'm Coming Home

By Jenn Knott, head bartender at 312 Chicago

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.

**Honey Syrup

The Nose, courtesy Chantal Tseng
The Nose, courtesy Chantal Tseng
  • 2 parts Honey
  • 2 parts Water

Stir over heat to combine.

The Nose

By Chantal Tseng, Petworth Citizen & Reading Room, Washington D.C.

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

Ofrendas Para Amigos, courtesy
Ofrendas Para Amigos, courtesy

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)

By Scott Clime, wine and beverage director of District Commons and Penn Commons, Washington DC

  • 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.

Port Old Fashioned, courtesy Red Star Tavern
Port Old Fashioned, courtesy Red Star Tavern

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. 

Port Old Fashioned

By Brandon Lockman of Red Star Tavern, Portland, OR

"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

Portly Pig, courtesy Bourbon Steak
Portly Pig, courtesy Bourbon Steak

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.

The Portly Pig

By Torrence Swain, head bartender at Bourbon Steak, Washington DC

  • 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. 

Tenure, courtesy Dirty Habit
Tenure, courtesy Dirty Habit


By Sarah Ruiz, head bartender at Dirty Habit, Washington D.C.

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass, add ice and stir. Strain and garnish with dandelion infused oil. 

The Zappa

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

The Zappa, courtesy Zentan
The Zappa, courtesy Zentan

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.