Port was created in Portugal as a way to preserve the country’s red wines during their long, hot journey down the river from the vineyards in the Douro Valley to the town of Porto, where the wines are stored in warehouses and then shipped around the world.
Port probably isn’t the first item that comes to mind when you’re stocking your bar with cocktail-friendly ingredients. It may not even be the second—or the tenth. But maybe it should be, as one bottle of port can multi-task to perform the job of several ingredients. It can add sweetness, replace vermouth, add multilayered flavor and temper the alcohol content of high-proof drinks.
“Generally, port has a round, comforting, viscous sweetness that can play really nicely with Sours, Bucks and Mules,” says Washington, D.C., bartender Sarah Rosner. “I have also noticed a trend toward low-ABV cocktails recently and think it will start shifting from a modifier to a base.”
Rosner uses the versatile ingredient in her Port New York Sour recipe, a riff on the New York Sour that skips the optional egg white and replaces red wine with tawny port. She begins with bourbon, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup, and then floats the port over the top of the drink, creating an eye-catching halo effect.
That healthy one-ounce pour of tawny port helps to deplete the bottle fast (port only lasts a few weeks once open and refrigerated), while lending nutty and caramel notes to the cocktail.
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 3/4 ounce simple syrup
- 1 ounce tawny port
Add the bourbon, lemon juice and simple syrup into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a double rocks glass over fresh ice.
Float the port on top of the drink by slowly pouring it over the back of a bar spoon.
Give the glass a light swirl to move the port across the entire surface of the cocktail.