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White Port & Tonic

White Port & Tonic
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Liquor.com / Tim Nusog

A classic Gin & Tonic is the quintessential summer drink. Thirst-quenching, bubbly and with a bite of booze, this sipper is a go-to for both patio time and dinnertime. At times, however, the desire for a cool, refreshing drink may give way to a craving for something with deeper, richer flavor notes. 

Enter the White Port & Tonic, now growing in popularity across the United States for its complex, elevated flavor, as well as its versatility with seasonal ingredients. The first time many drinkers encounter a White Port & Tonic is in Portugal—it’s the country’s answer to Italy’s Aperol Spritz, if you will. For Portuguese drinkers, a Porto Tonico is ingrained in the sipping culture.

“It also allows people to feel as if they’re having a pre-dinner cocktail without having to make the switch from a spirit to a wine when it comes time for dinner,” says Adrian Bridge, the CEO of Taylor Fladgate, a major producer of port wine. “It’s a very versatile aperitif and one that’s common in Portugal.”

White port itself can be served chilled and consumed solo. But the addition of tonic water turns the wine, with its flavors of apricot and citrus, into something that feels effervescently special. The white port itself has a unique flavor profile, light and vibrant, says Maxime Belfand, the bar director at Saxon + Parole, but brings a level of depth and sophistication to a mixed drink. “The beauty about mixing white port and tonic is the perfect balance between the sweetness of the port and the slight bitterness of the tonic,” he says. “You end up with a perfect balanced drink with a low ABV.” 

Not quite as crisp as a traditional Gin & Tonic, a White Port & Tonic blends honeyed and nutty white port with the slight bitterness of tonic water to produce a full-bodied cocktail. White port also combines well with the many types of “upscale” tonic waters now available (think aromatic, Mediterranean-style, or citrus- or cucumber-flavored, to name just a few) for an even more unique cocktail.

“White port and tonic is one of those fantastically versatile drinks that has the wonderful added benefit of being so easy to prepare,” says Andy Seymour, a bar educator and the owner of Liquid Productions

Seymour says that the White Port & Tonic is virtually a blank slate, allowing a bartender to tailor its flavors with garnishes as they like. A lemon wheel or an orange twist is most traditional, but Seymour suggests that apple or pear slices or stewed cranberries can bring additional flavors to the forefront and highlight some of the wine’s natural flavor notes; adding herbs like rosemary or sage will enhance the aroma. Once you’ve got the basics down, play around with other garnishes to customize them to the season and your own flavor preferences.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces dry white port (such as Taylor Fladgate Chip or Fonseca Siroco)
  • 4 ounces tonic water, chilled (such as Fever-Tree Mediterranean)
  • Garnish: lemon wheel or orange twist

Steps

  1. Add the white port and tonic water into a wine goblet filled with ice and stir briefly and gently to combine.

  2. Garnish with a lemon wheel or orange twist.