Port for the Summer: 3 Potent Wine Cocktails

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3 of a Kind checks out three places across the country to try something cool, new and delicious.

When most people think of port, they picture a cold-weather drink consumed fireside. But Portugal’s sweet fortified wine doesn’t have to be relegated to winter; its complexity is equally enjoyable in summer months. Those signature dark-fruit flavors have been harnessed in classic all-weather cocktails since the 1800s, even making an appearance in Jerry Thomas’ How to Mix Drinks (widely regarded as the first American cocktail manual).

Port has recently begun experiencing a resurgence in popularity with modern bartenders, who are rediscovering the powerful effects of this potent wine. Bearing hints of chocolate and cinnamon, port adds rich depth to any mixed drink. This season, innovative bartenders are incorporating it into summer sours, tiki drinks and other cooling cocktails.

Fig & Walnut Julep at Fig & Olive, West Hollywood, Calif.

Bourbon, mint, simple syrup? Check. What reads like a traditional julep at first glance quickly diverges into uncharted territory, thanks to the addition of unconventional ingredients that include a rich thread of tawny port and a handful of muddled black figs. A touch of sprightly elderflower liqueur smooths those bold flavors while fresh lime brings this crimson cooler into crisp focus.

Ingredients:

1 mint sprig

3 Mission figs

1/4 ounce Taylor Fladgate tawny port

1/2 ounce lime juice

1/4 ounce simple syrup

2 ounces Four Roses bourbon

3/4 ounce St-Germain

Walnut

Directions:

Trim mint sprig to about 4 or 5 inches long (long enough to peek over the edge of a rocks glass). Strip the mint from the sprig, reserving the leaves, until 3 or 4 smaller leaves remain at the top for garnish. The reserved leaves will be used in the cocktail.

In a shaker, combine 2 figs, port, lime juice and simple syrup and muddle into a paste. Add 3 mint leaves, bourbon and St-Germain. Fill with ice and shake vigorously for 8 to 10 seconds. Strain over ice into a rocks glass.

Cut remaining fig in half, then into 2 slices and use them to garnish cocktail. Finish with grated walnut and the mint sprig.

The Vicar or Whatever at Sylvain, New Orleans

The Vieux Carré is an iconic NOLA cocktail, but its complex blend of rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth and Bénédictine can drink a bit heavy, especially in the middle of July’s swampy heat. Sylvain’s Darrin Ylisto views that blueprint through a gauzy summer lens, trading aged spirits for white ones and introducing fortified wines like port and sherry to lighten the load.

Ingredients:

1 ounce Hidalgo amontillado sherry

1 ounce Bols Genever

1/2 ounce Feist white port

1/2 ounce Dolin dry vermouth

1/4 ounce Bénédictine

1 dash orange bitters

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir for 15 seconds. Strain into preferred cocktail glass and serve immediately.

The Scarlet Hour at Porchlight, New York

Port goes Polynesian? At the Southern-themed Porchlight, you’ll find all manner of experimental cocktails adorning the menu, but chart a course straight for this tiki-fied lowball. Ruby port starts to hula with dark and Jamaican gold rums and is soon joined by grapefruit juice, cinnamon syrup and chocolate mole bitters, yielding a gently spiced yet voluptuous drink that channels a balmy summer night.

Ingredients:

2 parts Sandeman Porto Founders Reserve

1 1/2 parts dark rum

1/2 part Jamaican gold rum

1 part lime juice

1 part grapefruit juice

1 part cinnamon syrup

1 dash chocolate mole bitters

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled lowball glass. Garnish with lime wheel.

On the hunt for more summer cocktail inspiration? Try these recipes:

5 Jelly Shots You May Not Be Ready For

Summer Sangria Recipes

Fruit-Filled Cocktails

Photos courtesy of Fig & Olive, Sylvain and Porchlight