Friday, September 14, 2018

Clover Club

Clover Club

Sometimes knowing a lot of cocktails can work against you. If you have a small bar and a few tried-and-true drink recipes, it's easy to figure out what to make when you want a cocktail or when friends come over. But when you have a massive arsenal of bottles and books at your disposal, sometimes it's difficult to pick a recipe, especially if someone asks you to just "make them something" and doesn't know enough about cocktails to specify much beyond that. A good bartender (or home bartender) knows what questions to ask to find the perfect drink for a guest. But sometimes the occasion isn't right for twenty questions and it's nice to be able to just hand someone a good drink. So I'd argue that a really good home bartender should know a few crowd-pleasers that anybody will like. And the Clover Club is going on my list.

Clover Club

I knew the Clover Club would be good - it's basically a raspberry gin sour - but I didn't expect just how much I loved it. I'm not usually a raspberry fiend, but the syrup imparts just enough raspberry flavor for my taste (and also gives the drink its gorgeous color). We planted a little raspberry bush in our backyard a couple of years ago, and it has flourished with very little encouragement, so I was able to pick the raspberries for the syrup and garnish the morning before I used them. The syrup is a bit unique in that it's not made on the stove - Julie Reiner, founder of the Brooklyn bar named after this classic cocktail, says that this will cook the raspberries and change their flavor. Instead, they are muddled, mixed with sugar, and allowed to macerate for 20-30 minutes. Then you add some water and strain the mixture. It's a very easy drink to make considering how absolutely beautiful it looks.

Clover Club

History: The Clover Club is a very old cocktail. It is named for a men's club that met in the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia. It was exactly what you are probably picturing - a bunch of old, rich white dudes (including William Butler Yeats) sipping drinks in a sumptuous lounge paneled in dark wood. It seems quite incongruous that a lot of them were probably drinking this pink, frothy cocktail. The Clover Club of Philadelphia, a book published in 1897, mentions the drink and that it originated the previous year, in 1896. It enjoyed a lot of popularity in the pre-Prohibition years but, like many other great cocktails, faded into obscurity afterwards, probably because of the egg whites and its girly appearance. By 1934, Esquire was referring to it as a drink for "pansies." The modern cocktail renaissance renewed interest in this delicious cocktail, and Julie Reiner's Clover Club bar ensured that the recipe got some extra attention.

Clover Club

Clover Club

1 1/2 oz. gin (Plymouth recommended)
1/2 oz. dry vermouth (Dolin recommended)
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. raspberry syrup*
1/4 oz. egg white**

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake well, for at least 20 seconds. Strain the drink, dump the ice, and return the cocktail to the shaker to shake again for at least 30 more seconds (this is called a reverse dry shake). Strain into a coupe and garnish with three raspberries on a pick.

*For raspberry syrup, muddle 1/4 cup raspberries in a bowl. Add 1/2 cup sugar and stir or muddle to mix it in well. The mixture should become bright red and juicy. Let it macerate for 20-30 minutes. Then add 1/4 cup water, stir well, and fine strain.

**It can be hard to pour small quantities of egg white - it all tends to goop out at once. I like to separate my egg white into a bowl and lightly whisk it so that it's easier to measure out 1/4 ounce.

Recipe from Julie Reiner via Imbibe. Historical info from Wikipedia, Punch, Gin Foundry, and The Cocktail Chronicles.

Friday, September 7, 2018


Penicillin Cocktail

One of the things I love about cocktails is how they tie you to the past. Thanks to the recipes that have been preserved and the consistency with which many spirits and liqueurs are made, we can literally make drinks that someone would have sipped one hundred years ago.

The true test of a great cocktail is its ability to withstand the test of time. What allowed classics like the Manhattan and the Negroni to persist while other drinks were destined for obscurity in the pages of old recipe books? Obviously a classic cocktail needs to taste great. It also needs to be relatively simple. It's unlikely that a recipe involving orange foam or a fat wash is going to become ubiquitous. It needs to be something that any bartender at any bar can make.

Penicillin Cocktail

By these metrics, what cocktails invented recently do you think people will still be drinking in 100 years? If you were to pose this question to a group of bartenders or cocktail enthusiasts, I can just about guarantee that someone would mention the Penicillin. It's a modern drink that has found universal fame and appeal. And it's easy to see why. A Scotch sour is made infinitely more interesting and delicious with a honey-ginger syrup and a bit of peaty single-malt to give it a hint of smoke. Admittedly, the honey-ginger syrup does break the rules a bit - not every bar will have one ready to go. But any bartender worth her salt will be familiar with the recipe. It's undeniably a new classic.

History: The Penicillin was invented in 2005 by Sam Ross (now at Attaboy) at Milk & Honey in New York. He created it as a riff on the Gold Rush while playing around with some bottles of Scotch from Compass Box - their Asyla for the base, and the Peat Monster for the float.

Penicillin Cocktail


2 oz. blended Scotch (Famous Grouse)
3/4 oz. ginger-honey syrup*
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. peaty single-malt Scotch (Laphroiag 10-year)

Combine blended Scotch, ginger-honey syrup, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over one large ice cube. Top with the single-malt and garnish with candied ginger.

*For ginger-honey syrup, combine equal parts honey and water in a saucepan and simmer gently, stirring until honey is dissolved. Add a small piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced. Let simmer for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat and let sit for at least 15 minutes before straining. Let cool before using.

Recipe adapted from Punch.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Bottle Buy: Apricot Liqueur

Tradewinds Cocktail

I've always wanted this blog to be a resource for people who don't know a lot about making cocktails at home, and part of that has been introducing new ingredients as I add them to my bar and start making cocktails with them. So I was alarmed when I realized I had posted the Periodista without saying a thing about its star ingredient, apricot liqueur. Specifically Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot.

Apricot liqueur may seem a bit specific or obscure if you've only got limited space in your bar, but it's an ingredient that comes up surprisingly often. It appears in a number of recipes from the early 1900's, and in a lot of rum cocktails and Tiki drinks. Like many ingredients we've discussed, the quality and availability of apricot liqueur declined along with the popularity of the craft cocktail during the mid to late 20th century. But now it's back, and there are tons of classic and new recipes to make with it.

I knew apricot liqueur would be a good buy because I've already made - and loved - several recipes that called for a small amount of it. Not having a bottle, I subbed in a bit of apricot preserves, which really did work pretty well.  But for more apricot-centric drinks like the Periodista and the Tradewinds (below), you need the real thing. And now I can go back and make those other drinks right.

Apricot Liqueur

Apricot liqueur is often referred to as apricot brandy. The two terms are frequently used interchangeably, but I think certain aspects of how the liqueurs are made may prevent the word "brandy" from appearing on the label - likely the addition of fruit and sugars after distillation, although I'm not sure. The quality apricot liqueurs are essentially fruit brandies or eaux-de-vie - spirits distilled from fruit other than grapes, in this case apricots.

One of the easiest bottles of apricot liqueur to find, and the one that seems to be recommended the most often in my cocktail recipe books, is Rothman & Winter, which is imported from Austria by Haus Alpenz. It's made from Klosterneuberger apricots grown in the Danube Valley. Two of the other most popular varieties, Giffard and Marie Brizard, are made in France.

Rothman & Winter Apricot Liqueur

Price: $25
Alcohol Content: 24%
Popular Cocktails: Tradewinds, Periodista, Golden Gun, Flor de Jerez, Charles Lindbergh, Hotel Nacional

Tradewinds Cocktail

It's been a while since I made a genuine Tiki drink, but after a couple of recent trips to Tiki Rock in Boston, I was itching to make one at home. I love drinks with coconut creme - Tiki Rock had a Painkiller that was really amazing - and the Tradewinds had been on my list of drinks to make once I finally got my hands on some apricot liqueur. It's an undeniably tasty cocktail, creamy and tart. The traditional garnish is a lemon wedge speared on an inside-out cocktail umbrella (as if the wind has blown it that way), but I thought a mini pinwheel was appropriate.

History: According to Martin Cate in Smuggler's Cove, the Tradewinds originated in the Caribbean in the 1970's. The recipe appeared in Beachbum Berry Remixed.

Tradewinds Cocktail


1 oz. black blended rum (Cruzan)
1 oz. blended lightly aged rum (Appleton Estate Signature Blend)
1 oz. apricot liqueur (Rothman & Winter)
1 1/2 oz. coconut cream
1 oz. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with 12 oz. crushed ice and a 4 large "agitator" cubes. Shake or flash blend and then open pour into a zombie or pilsner glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge speared on an inside-out umbrella, or a little pinwheel. I added some mint as well.

Recipe adapted from Smuggler's Cove.

Friday, August 17, 2018



I can trace my love affair with cocktails back to a single evening. I had just found out that I had gotten a competitive NSF fellowship to support me during graduate school, and my husband and I were going to celebrate. Earlier that week I had picked up a copy of one of those free magazines that used to be all over - I think it was Stuff at Night - and they had a feature on the best cocktail bars in Boston. In my mind there wasn't really anything fancier than sitting at a marble-topped bar and sipping a beautiful drink, so we went to one of the places on the list, Eastern Standard. I don't remember what the magazine said that made us pick Eastern Standard, but I do remember the cocktail they featured: the Periodista, a rum drink made with lime juice and apricot and orange liqueurs.

I don't know why the Periodista in that article stuck in my head. I didn't even order it that night - I ended up getting an Aviation, my first one ever, and realizing that there was so much more to cocktails than I had ever known. But I distinctly remember the orangey cocktail pictured in that magazine. I later tried one elsewhere in Boston and found it to be quite as tasty as Stuff at Night made it out to be. Little did I know that the Periodista is a drink with a story behind it.

The Periodista (Spanish for "journalist") is a happy, crowd-pleasing cocktail. Its flavor is bright and citrusy, with tart lime and sweet apricot playing against each other on your tongue. It's like a Daiquiri with a few extra tricks up its sleeve. It's somehow simultaneously perfect for drinking on a tropical beach or in a Boston dive bar in the dead of winter. It's not hard to see why it became so popular here. It's the how that is a bit more convoluted. If you're curious, read on.


History: I could just tell you what is known about the history of the Periodista, but I would be doing you a disservice. Because if you're at all interested in craft cocktails, the people who make them, and the stories behind them, you should read Devin Hahn's Periodista Tales.

Briefly, Devin Hahn is a writer and filmmaker who lives in Boston. He also enjoys a good craft cocktail. In particular, he became a fan of the Periodista after having one at Chez Henri, a now-shuttered French-Cuban restaurant in Cambridge, in 2007. The menu there indicated that the cocktail originated in Cuba, and was a favorite of Ernest Hemingway. An instant fan, Hahn began ordering Periodistas at bars all over Boston, and bartenders were happy to make him one. This was, in fact, right around the same time that I made my pilgrimage to Eastern Standard and learned about the drink myself. It was not a hard cocktail to find.

Unless, apparently, you left Boston. When Hahn traveled out of the city, no one seemed to have even heard of Periodista. Bartenders at places like PDT in New York and The Varnish in Los Angeles had no idea what he was talking about. And Hahn couldn't find the recipe online or in any cocktail books.

So in 2010, Hahn set out on an epic quest to uncover the origins of the Periodista that he chronicled online in the Periodista Tales. It takes him to some of Boston's most beloved watering holes and introduces a cast of characters that I've come to know well as a cocktail lover in the city - people like Jackson Cannon, John Gersten, and Misty Kalkofen. And then Hahn's search expands, and he meets with luminaries like David Wondrich and Ted Haigh, who share their own stories and insights into the craft cocktail renaissance. It becomes a rumination on the craft of bartending itself, as well as a perfect example of how difficult it can be to find out the real story behind a cocktail.

The only thing wrong with it is that it seems to end prematurely. The last installment from 2011 reads like a cliffhanger. I don't know if Hahn has continued his research since, but I hope he updates us at some point.


If you're short on time and really just itching to get to the punchline (the Periodista Tales is a lengthy read), I will spoil the results of Hahn's research here. The real origin of the Periodista remains unknown, but it does seem to hail from Cuba. The earliest mention of the recipe in print that Hahn could find is from 1948, buried at the back of El Arte de Cantinera, a bartenders' manual from the Club de Cantineros de la Republica de Cuba in Havana.

The Periodista came to Boston when Paul O'Connell and Joe McGuirk were building Chez Henri's cocktail list. They found the recipe in a "little tropical cocktail book," one of those pamphlets that spirits brands used to print. Like El Arte de Cantinera, it called for white rum, but they found it far better with Myer's dark rum. It ended up on the menu. From there, McGuirk took the recipe to the B-Side Lounge, one of Boston's most (in)famous cocktail bars, where many of the greats got their start. As they left to begin their own ventures, they took the Periodista with them. And the rest, as they say, is history.


In his account, Hahn includes the Periodista recipes from many of the bars and bartenders that he interviews - a dozen in all, from the B-Side Lounge's version (which specifically calls for "generic bottom shelf" apricot liqueur and triple sec) to Drink's recipe with house-made lime peel syrup. The one that appealed to me most was Brother Cleve's recipe, which uses Appleton Estate Jamaican rum and included a bit of simple syrup to make the drink less tart. The result, in my opinion, is perfection. But if it doesn't suit your fancy, try adjusting the ratios or checking out some of the other recipes.


1 1/2 oz. Appleton Estate aged rum (12- or 21-year recommended, I used Signature Blend)
3/4 oz. apricot liqueur (Rothman & Winter)
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1/2 oz. lime juice
1 barspoon (1/8 tsp) simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe and garnish with a lime wheel.

Recipe from Brother Cleve via Devin Hahn.

Friday, August 10, 2018



In 2016, a New York restaurant called Bar Primi created the perfect summer cocktail. Frozen, crowd-pleasing, and attractively bright pink, it was destined to reach heights of popularity that most drinks can't even approach. Two years later, it's on the menu of just about every bar with a patio and is as synonymous with white female millennials as avocado toast, pumpkin spice lattes, and Lululemon yoga pants. I'm talking, of course, about Frosé.

A portmanteau of "frozen rosé," Frosé is an evolutionary offshoot of the growing rosé trend of the last few years. It's basically a wine slushie, usually made with lemon juice and strawberries. Its meteoric rise to summertime domination was greatly aided by Instagram, which is filled with photos of this undeniably pretty beverage.


I was always a bit conflicted about Frosé. On the one hand, it looks pretty tasty and refreshing, and don't even get me started on how photogenic it is. On the other hand, it's not exactly what one would call a craft cocktail, and it's become so popular that it almost seems uncool to like it. But a couple of months ago I found myself at a place with a pretty lackluster cocktail list, and Frosé was the only thing on the menu that caught my eye. It seemed like a good occasion to give it a try. And you know what?  It's as frosty and delicious as it looks. And with the temperature in Boston consistently topping 90 degrees for the last week, I honestly couldn't think of anything I'd rather be drinking today.

Making Frosé does require a bit of extra time and effort, but all in all it's much easier than I thought it would be. The first step is to freeze a bottle of rosé. You should not do this in the glass bottle itself - transfer the wine to a ziplock bag, baking pan, or ice cube tray. Once it's frozen, you blend it with some lemon juice and strawberry syrup. You can serve it right away or re-freeze it and blend it again like I did for a more solid consistency. Since it melts quickly in the heat, it seemed like a good idea to give it as much of a head start as possible.


I stuck to a basic recipe here, but it would be easy to dress this up into something even more exciting. I think elderflower liqueur would be an amazing addition. Or maybe Aperol for some bitterness. You can make it more boozy by adding some vodka or another spirit, or play around with other fruits besides strawberries - raspberry would be incredible.

So I am a Frosé convert. And if that makes me basic, then buy me some Uggs and sign me up for a barre class, because I am making loads of this for my next summer party.



1 bottle (750 ml) rosé wine
1/2 cup strawberry syrup*
1/4 cup lemon juice

*To make strawberry syrup, combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Add 1 cup of sliced strawberries and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture becomes pinkish and strawberries soften slightly (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain and let cool.

Pour wine into ice cube trays or a 13 x 9 inch pan and put it in the freezer until it is frozen. Because of the alcohol content, it will remain softer than regular ice. Meanwhile, make strawberry syrup. When syrup is cool and wine is frozen, combine wine, syrup, and lemon juice in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust lemon and syrup accordingly - the wine you use can effect how much of both you need. At this point the mixture will be soft and slushy and can be consumed immediately, but for best results pour the mixture back into the pan or into a gallon Ziploc bag and freeze again (it will be too soft for ice cube trays). Return to the blender and blend immediately before serving.


Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit.

Friday, August 3, 2018

El Presidente

El Presidente

The El Presidente is a surprising drink. It might look something like a dry Martini, but one sip and you'll see that it has more in common with a Daiquiri or Mai Tai. It's rum-based, sweet, and citrusy, a spirit-forward Caribbean cocktail that's probably quite different from anything you've had.

If you've never heard of the El Presidente, don't feel bad. It's a cocktail that was set up for failure. Dating back to Cuba in the 1910's, it enjoyed incredible popularity for a while. But post-prohibition, that popularity plummeted. And that's probably has a lot to do with its ingredients.

First, there's rum, which was not a popular base spirit in the post-prohibition 20th century (outside of Tiki bars, at least). Then there's vermouth, which a lot of people didn't know how to store properly, leading to requests for ultra-dry martinis. Not to mention that most bartenders were using the wrong vermouth in this cocktail, as you'll see below. And then there's grenadine and orange curaçao. Used in their proper amounts, they round the El Presidente out beautifully. But if you do a Google image search for "El Presidente cocktail," the drinks you see will not look like the one I made - they are all either bright red or vivid orange, victims of the temptation to just pour in more sugar to salvage a sub-par drink.

Luckily for the El Presidente, rum is back in vogue, and so are the old classics. The recipe has been resurrected in its original glory, and it's definitely one worth making.

El Presidente

History:  Like the legendary Daiquiri, the El Presidente hails from Havana, Cuba. Some accounts indicate that the El Presidente's exact origins are uncertain, while others (like this thorough overview at Tasting Table) are pretty confident about their facts. According to them, it was invented sometime in the 1910's and named after Mario García Menocal, the president of Cuba at the time. In 1919, an American bartender named Eddie Woelke moved to Havana to run the bar at the Sevilla Biltmore Hotel. He took an interest in the recipe, tweaking it a bit and popularizing it from his bar.

Apparently Menocal's successor, Gerardo Machado, was quite jealous of Menocal's signature cocktail and asked for his own. A few dashes of orange curaçao were added to the El Presidente, and the Presidente Machado was created. In the 1930's, Cuban bartender Constante Ribalaigua Vert combined the two presidential recipes at the famous El Florida in Havana, using curaçao but dyeing it red to look like grenadine. Today you see recipes called El Presidente with one or the other, or both.

Once Prohibition was lifted, the El Presidente made its way to the States, but something was lost in translation. The recipe called for French vermouth, which usually means dry vermouth. But when bartenders made the cocktail this way, it was decidedly lackluster (probably leading to those heavy pours of orange curaçao and grenadine). After some digging, cocktail historian David Wondrich discovered that the vermouth used in the original recipe came from Chambéry in France, which is historically famous for making blanc vermouth - a sweeter, richer white vermouth. This discovery, along with a resurgence of interest in classic cocktails and ingredients, has allowed the El Presidente to gain the popularity it has always deserved.

El Presidente

El Presidente

1 1/2 oz. white rum (Bully Boy)
1 1/2 oz. blanc vermouth (Dolin)
1 tsp. orange curaçao (Ferrand)
1/2 tsp. grenadine (Stirrings)

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist.

Recipe adapted from Imbibe.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Bar School: Port

A couple of glasses of Tawny Port along with a Galo de Barcelos, one of Portugal's emblems

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I went to Portugal a couple of weeks ago with my husband and our nine-month-old son. It was our first major trip with the baby, so we tried not to be too ambitious. We split our five days between Porto and Lisbon, and spent most of our time just exploring, eating, and drinking. It was honestly a perfect vacation. Both cities were beautiful. It's true that the buildings were a bit more run-down than other places I've been in Europe, but something about the crumbling plaster, artful graffiti, and smatterings of decorative tile felt romantic and genuine. The food was absolutely incredible - tons of fresh seafood prepared every way imaginable.

And then of course there was the Port. I've never known much about Port wine, but I was eager to do some tours in Porto and learn. And now I'm excited to share some of that knowledge with all of you!

Buildings in Porto on the banks of the Douro River

If you do know anything about Port, you probably know that it's a sweet dessert wine. And this is basically true. More specifically, Port is a fortified wine, meaning that a higher-proof spirit is added to it during fermentation. Other fortified wines include sherry, vermouth, and madeira.

All of the grapes for Port are grown in the Douro Valley in Portugal. There are dozens of different varietals that grow in the schist soil of the valley, which creates ideal conditions for the vines. There, they are harvested and crushed - traditionally by foot - to extract their juices. The pressed grapes, including the skins and stems, are then allowed to ferment for a few days. I'm going to pause here because this next part is what makes Port so different from other wines, but it won't make sense if you don't have a basic understanding of the process of fermentation. And you should, because it's what makes alcohol.


Every alcoholic beverage you enjoy is the result of the toil of hard-working little organisms called yeasts who just want you to have fun and be happy. Ok, that's not true. All they want is to convert sugar into energy so they can keep living their tiny little single-celled lives. But, lucky for us, one byproduct of this process - called fermentation - is alcohol. Those fantastic little yeasts are responsible for all the wine, beer, and spirits you've ever had.

In traditional wine, the yeast is allowed to consume all of the sugar from the crushed grapes and convert it into alcohol. But when making Port, fermentation is halted with the addition of a neutral grape spirit called aguardente. This is known as fortifying the wine. Stopping fermentation before the yeasts have finished their job means that there will be lots of residual sugars left over, which is what gives Port its sweetness. The addition of the higher-proof spirit also raises the alcohol content, from around 7% to 20%.

After fermentation and fortification, the wine is shipped down river to the city of Porto to be aged. This is the origin of its name. Although the Port cellars are not officially in the city of Porto at all - they are located on the south bank of the Douro, in the town of Vila Nova de Gaia. Standing on the bank of the river in Porto, you can look across and see the signs for several of the major houses. The cooler climate in Porto is ideal for aging the wine, and its location on the coast makes export easy. The differences between Port varieties come mainly from aging and blending, so these cellars are where a lot of the magic happens.

Vila Nova de Gaia
Vila Nova de Gaia from the north bank of the Douro River. If you look closely you can see some of the signs for the
Port houses - Sandeman is near the center.

Types of Port

Ruby Port

After arriving in Vila Nova de Gaia, the wine is placed into huge oak casks and allowed to age for up to three years. Ruby Port is a blend of wines aged this way. The shorter aging period in the larger cask means the wine has less contact with the oak and with oxygen, giving it a vibrant red color and a fresh, juicy flavor of ripe fruits.

Reserve Port is a premium Ruby Port that has been given a special designation by the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (IVDP). It seems like these Ports are often given catchy names, like Fonseca Bin 27 or Graham's Six Grapes. But they will also say Reserve on the label.

Large Cask at Porto Calem
One of the large oak aging vats at Porto Cálem

Tawny Port

After that initial aging in large casks, some of the wine is transferred into smaller casks and allowed to continue to age, sometimes for decades. These older wines are blended to make Tawny Port. The additional time in oak, and the additional contact with the wood and air that the smaller casks provide, make the wine deeper and more amber in color, bringing out flavors of dried fruits and nuts. Most bottles of Tawny will have an age statement (10, 20, 30 years or longer). Unlike with whisky and rum, where this is the age of the youngest spirit in the bottle, here it indicates an average age of all the wines in the blend. If there is no age statement, that indicates a younger Tawny, usually around three years. Longer aging lightens the color of the wine and intensifies flavors of nuts and spices.

You may also encounter Colheita Tawnies. These are Tawny Ports that contain only grapes from a single harvest.

Port Aging at Ferreira
Smaller aging casks at Porto Ferreira

Vintage Port

After particularly good harvest years, the wine will be tasted after a short period of aging. If it meets certain standards, it can be declared a Vintage year for that estate by the IVDP. Wine from these years is bottled unfiltered after only a couple of years, allowing it to continue aging in the bottle. It always comes from a single harvest and a single year, which will be printed on the label. Most recently, both 2011 and 2016 were declared vintage years for many producers. Bottles dating back to the 1800's can still be purchased.

Because Vintage Port isn't aged very long in oak, it is more similar to a Ruby Port than a Tawny in flavor. It should be allowed to continue aging in the bottle for several years before drinking. This is a good Port to buy and save for a special occasion.

Late Bottled Vintage (LBV)

LBV Port is basically wine that wasn't quite good enough to achieve Vintage status but was still really darn good after aging a bit longer. It too comes from a single harvest and is often bottled unfiltered so that it will continue to age in the bottle like a Vintage Port. This designation was developed in the 1950's when producers had more Vintage Port than they could sell. They allowed it to age a bit longer before bottling and called it an LBV.

Port Bottles
Dusty Port bottles for sale at a store in Lisbon

White Port

As with any other wine, some of the grapes used to make Port have been cultivated for white varieties. White Port is made much like the red varieties, although some of the cellars we visited aged their White Port in stainless steel rather than oak. Unlike red Port, which as far as I know is always sweet, some White Port is allowed to ferment longer so that it is drier (like the Fonseca Siroco I served at my Port Party in May). Sweet White Port can be aged for various lengths of time, some as long as a Tawny. It becomes a darker, deeper gold color as it ages.

White Port
Fonseca Siroco, a dry white Port

Rosé Port.

A newer invention, Rosé Port is made the same way as rosé wine - by limiting contact with the grape skins during fermentation. It's light and fruity, usually drier than most Port and perfect as an aperitif. The first house to bottle a rosé was Croft, and many more have followed suit as the rosé craze has taken off.

How to Drink Port

Since it is quite sweet, Port is usually served after dinner with dessert or a cheese course. In Porto, however, it seemed to be enjoyed just about any time. I think it's nice for a rainy afternoon. It pairs well with strong cheese, nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate. It's usually served in a distinctively-shaped, narrow stemmed glass at just below room temperature.

The exceptions to all of this are dry White Port and Rosé Port, which are better served chilled as aperitifs. White Port and Tonic is a very popular cocktail in Portugal and beyond.

Pouring Port

Once opened, Port should be stored in the refrigerator to prolong its shelf life. Vintage and unfiltered LBV Ports are only good for a day or two once opened, but Ruby Port lasts for several weeks, and Tawny can be good for several months.

When shopping for Port, you'll probably notice that you could spend anywhere from $10 to hundreds of dollars. There's no need to spring for a Vintage or a 40-year-old Tawny if you're just getting into Port. Quality Port is not very expensive, and you can get a decent bottle of Ruby or Tawny for $15-25. Popular brands include Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca, Croft, Sandeman, Ferreira, Dow, and Graham's. It can be hard to find a big variety, but most liquor stores and wine shops will have a few bottles. Pick one up - and let me know what you think!

In addition to the tours I took in Portugal, the information in this post came mainly from here, here, and here.