So, the last Thursday Drink Night of 2008 was sponsored by our friends over at Sandeman’s. They hooked us up with two kinds of their port – the Founder’s Reserve (a ruby port) and the 10 year old (a tawny). An accurate depiction of it is shown in Sam’s cartoon about the night here. I will have you know, however, that at no point did I hiccup! I think.
I showed up to the TDN late having been out to dinner with some friends. The action was already going strong when I opened up the Founder’s Reserve – not realizing that it’s one of those corks with a plastic cap on top. Oops!
I didn’t want to open both up but at the time, I thought that both were tawny. I was surprised but not displeased when I found my mistake. I’m much more of a ruby port drinker than a tawny one. I sipped a bit of it first to get some ideas because, well, I don’t think I’ve ever really mixed with port before.
My first instinct was something easy. I said at one point in the night something to the effect of “Why not just make a ‘Portugese Manhattan’ by going two parts whiskey, one part ruby port?”
Which, evidently, had been somebody’s idea to post, and they just hadn’t gotten to it yet. Oops again!
But I did come up with a few drinks over the course of the night. To me, mixing with port seemed a bit like mixing with sweet vermouth, only without the vegetals/herbal notes that you get with vermouth. It’s easy for the vermouth to get swallowed up by the ingredients so if I keep doing it, I’ll have to learn how to work with it.
For instance, my first drink I called “The Outstayed Welcome”. I’d been stuck on the idea of mixing port (which is brandy added to wine) with brandy. They’re also both traditionally after-dinner drinks which led to the name of the drink.
The Outstayed Welcome
2 oz. brandy (I used St. Remy XO)
1 oz. lemon juice (note: I might adjust this down to 3/4 of an ounce – I can’t remember if I did that or not)
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1/2 oz. ruby port (Sandeman’s Founder’s Reserve)
1 dash orange bitters (Regan’s #6)
Shake and strain. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.
Basically, I made a brandy sour, and then added in the port to add some complexity to it. It wasn’t bad for a first try and I’d like to play around with the proportions a bit. The irony of taking brandy and port for an after-dinner drink, when both are typically drank at room temperature at least in those circumstances, and making it a chilled drink wasn’t lost on me, but I really don’t think – even if I added water to it – that you’d want to drink it warm.
The previously mentioned Portugese Manhattan was technically my second drink. The variations of it call for a lot of discretion on the part of the person making it. Does the drinker prefer a fruity or more herbal Manhattan? What type of whiskey are you using – bourbon or rye – and how spicy is it? A sweet light bourbon, like Maker’s Mark, mixed with port would demand different bitters and maybe a different proportion than, say, Old Overholt.
2 ounces bourbon or rye (Bulleit)
1 ounce ruby port (Sandeman’s Founder’s Reserve)
2 dashes bitters (I used cherry)
Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish appropriately for the bitters.
There’s a lot of leeway there in the bitters. If I’d used Maker’s Mark, for instance, I might’ve gone with Angostura or Peychaud’s, or maybe even something a bit more random like rhubarb bitters. With the Bulleit, a fairly spicy bourbon, I used cherry bitters, but I kind of wished I used maybe some cherry-vanilla bitters I have. I might play with this drink more tonight.
For my last drink of the night I wanted to do something a little different than what other people were doing. I’ve been experimenting at times with the combination of tequila and falernum. I feel like it’s a good combination and from there it’s just a matter of what to add to it. Given the sweetness of the port, I thought maybe a bit of an herbal taste and there’s only one place to go for that…
Okay, okay, there are multiple places, but I know what *I* wanted to use!
2 ounces tequila (I used Corazon blanco)
1 ounce ruby port (Sandeman’s Founder’s Reserve)
3/4 ounce falernum (Velvet Falernum)
1/4 ounce green Chartreuse
Shake and strain into a glass. Garnish with a piece of cactus – yeah, right – or a twist of lime.
I think that this was a fun drink, if more of a summer drink. I didn’t garnish it that night but I have a mental image of a hunk of cactus on a sweating double old fashioned glass with this. I’m betting that lime will also work stylistically and perhaps also with the tastes. After all, lime and tequila get along like gangbusters.
There were a ton of other drinks that came out that night and I still have a lot of ideas for things I can do with the ruby port – and I haven’t even opened up the tawny yet! Keeping up with the “sweet vermouth” replacement, I could see doing a Negroni with gin, Aperol, and ruby port, for instance.
I guess this will have to do it until 2009 for TDN. Hopefully soon we’ll see the recap of this TDN and see what other port drinks are coming up…and hey, playing with port will give me something to do through Christmas-time!