Just like creamy, bourbon-amped eggnog and mulled wine fragrant with cinnamon, the punch bowl’s appearance at holiday shindigs is ubiquitous. After all, this crowd-pleasing tipple is easy to whip up and allows guests to fetch seconds at their leisure. Although commonplace, it need not be an insipid mélange of booze. One way of accelerating the concoction is by adding port. The fortified wine—typically served as a post-dinner accompaniment to cheese platters—adds luxurious richness.
Consider the Bloody Murder Punch, one of the cocktails featured on David Wondrich and Martin Doudoroff’s new app, Punch. It melds Fonseca BIN 27 Port with Jose Cuervo Tradicional tequila, Smith & Cross rum, oleo-saccharum, lemon juice, orange juice and lime. Likewise, guests who settle into the posh Two E Bar/Lounge at the Pierre, a Taj Hotel in New York, drink the American Whiskey Punch, in which Taylor Fladgate 10-year-old tawny port brightens a mix of rye, pomegranate juice, Yukon Jack liqueur and egg white.
In Chicago, the tiki hotspot Lost Lake serves Ruby Mae’s (Second) Surfin’ Bird, a kitschy large-format libation uniting ruby port with reposado tequila, mezcal, Campari, pineapple and lime. “Port not only adds ripe, dark fruit flavors, but brings out subtle chocolate notes,” says beverage director Paul McGee. “When making punch, especially during the holidays, it can be hard to integrate fresh fruit. Ruby port is such a great ingredient because it allows you to pull out fruit flavors seamlessly.”
Among the creations featured in Jerry Thomas’s epochal How to Mix Drinks is the St. Charles Punch, starring port. The historic recipe is what inspired Natalie Jacob, bartender at Dutch Kills in New York, to reimagine it as the St. Charles Swizzle. In this rendition, Jacob blends port with Cognac, lemon, cinnamon syrup and orgeat, and serves in a highball with a float of Angostura bitters. “It’s one of my favorite ingredients to use in winter cocktails for its decadent texture and intense dark fruit notes,” she says. “The fruitiness and earthy complexity of port, along with its high alcohol content, provide the depth and flavor that are perfect for sipping in the cold weather.”
Certainly it’s one to relish near a fireplace tricked out in tinsel.