Shake It Up!
I decided to focus on cocktails made with fortified wines after enjoying a Porto Splash (recipe follows). While savouring its refreshing tang and the view of Porto across the Douro River, I realized that I’d never thought of reaching for Port, sherry, Madeira or Marsala when I was thirsty for a cocktail. But, why not? Vermouth, probably the most famous fortified wine to share a shaker, has been happy in its role for decades. It is time for the others to jump into a shot glass.
Find some pretty glasses and have plenty of ice on hand before you attempt these recipes for a crowd. Most are straightforward, and all yield tasty results. And if you overindulge, The Corpse Reviver is reputed to restore your vigour. But take that advice with a dash of bitters.
White Port comes in styles from dry to very sweet (Lagrima). Made from white grapes grown in the Douro region of Portugal, these fortified wines are mostly bottled young but can be aged in casks for much longer. For these recipes, use young wines.
2 oz dry white Port
2 oz tonic
Pour Port and tonic into a glass of ice and add the lemon wheel. Stir and serve as an aperitif with nuts and soft cheeses.
1/2 lime, macerated (see below) 1 tsp of sugar Crushed ice 2 1/2 oz of Sandeman White Port (dry)
Prepare and serve in a caipirinha glass. Cut the lime into 4 chunks. With a spoon or muddler gently crush the lime against the bottom and sides of the glass. Add the sugar. Top off with crushed ice and add white Port. Stir well and pop in a straw. Best served with palm trees and a view of the ocean.
Some recipes combine ruby Port and Vermouth. I recommend using ruby because it is inexpensive and readily available. Smooth and pleasingly sweet, you can drink the rest of the bottle easily with a chocolate cake or character-laden cheese.
Vermouth (red and white, sweet and dry) is made in both France and Italy. It’s unlike other fortified wines because of added barks, spices and aromatic herbs (which could include wormwood, the ingredient that made Absinthe famous). Each manufacturer uses its own secret recipe, so there is no standard profile; you just have to try them.
2 oz ruby Port
1 oz dry Vermouth
1 tsp lemon juice
Stir all ingredients together in a mixing glass filled with ice. Strain into a glass.
1 strawberry, frozen and slightly defrosted, or fresh
1/2 oz simple syrup (1 cup sugar in 1 cup water; simmer until sugar is dissolved; cool)
2 oz ruby Port
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
Club soda, or other lemon/lime soda
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the strawberry with the simple syrup. Add remaining ingredients except soda. Shake with ice and strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Top with a splash of soda and garnish with a cucumber wheel. Then toast to warm weather. Simple syrup keeps for weeks in the refrigerator.
2 oz whisky (Canadian rye is patriotic, but Bourbon is also popular)
1 oz sweet Vermouth
Stir all ingredients with ice then strain into a cold martini glass. Garnish with a long-stemmed maraschino cherry. Supposedly this drink originated in Manhattan in 1874, but there are many versions of it and many lay claim. You don’t need a history lesson to enjoy it.
Lillet, a fortified French aperitif established in 1872, is 85% red or white Bordeaux wine and 15% citrus liqueurs. The cinchona bark from Peru adds quinine, so it is as natural a fit for gin and a martini glass as James Bond.
2 oz dry gin
3/4 oz white Lillet
To a glass half filled with cracked ice, add the gin, then the Lillet. Stir (never shake!) and strain into a chilled martini glass. Add a lemon twist and make sure you don’t get any on your tuxedo. From Casino Royale by Ian Fleming.
corpse reviver (no. 2)
1 oz white Lillet
1 oz gin
1 oz orange liqueur, like Cointreau
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp Absinthe or Pastis
Shake all ingredients well with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and sip to find each flavour clearly defined. This hearty, tasty cocktail is reputed to be a hangover cure, thus the name. Four of them would put you back in your original (near death) condition.
Marsala is produced in the area around the city of the same name in Sicily. Aged in casks in a similar solera style as sherry, it was originally fortified to withstand ocean voyages more than 200 years ago. It is still made in this manner. In sweet and dry styles, it should be noted that aged Marsala is far superior to the wine used for cooking.
1 1/2 oz ruby Port
3/4 oz Marsala
1/2 oz Lillet
1 tsp orange liqueur
3 oz lemon/lime soda
Pour ingredients into an ice-filled wine glass. Stir. Delicious and refreshing.
The grapes for Spain’s most famous fortified wine are grown in the white soil (called albareza) close to Jerez. I used Fino because I had it on hand, but any dry sherry will be fine. Serve with Flamenco music and dream of tapas. Olé!
2 oz dry sherry
1 tsp peach brandy
1 tsp Triple Sec
Peach wedge (optional)
Pour ingredients over broken ice in an Old Fashioned glass and garnish with a peach wedge, if they are in season.
1 1/2 oz dry sherry
1/2 oz white rum
1/2 oz brandy
Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Serve with sunshine.
Dubonnet Rouge is a combination of fortified wine, herbs and spices, with a little quinine. It originated in France in 1846, but now also comes in Blanc and Gold (vanilla and orange) flavours.
queenie special, aka zaza
2 oz gin
1 oz Dubonnet
Place a wheel of lemon in the bottom of a small cocktail glass. Add ice. Mix the gin and Dubonnet and pour it over the ice. This is (was) reputedly enjoyed by the both Queen Elizabeths.
Handful of fresh mint
1 tsp sugar
2 oz red Dubonnet
3 oz Bourbon
Muddle mint with sugar and add ice, Dubonnet and bourbon. Stir and serve with a sprig of mint. Y’all enjoy.
1 oz gin
1/2 oz cream sherry, such as Harveys Bristol
1/2 oz red Dubonnet
1/2 oz dry Vermouth
1/2 tsp orange liqueur, like Grand Marnier
In an Old Fashioned glass almost filled with ice cubes, combine all the liquids. Stir well and garnish with a cherry.