Hard seltzer offerings are starting to get boring, and newly released canned port cocktails from Portugal might be the next big thing. The blending of port wine and tonic is not new—in fact it’s a drink that dates back to the 1970’s, the Port & Tonic, or as the Portuguese call it, a Porto Tonico. The innovation is in the single serving canned format. Getting the cocktail into a canned format was no small achievement—it took the team at Porto-based Taylor Fladgate more than a year of data-driven wrangling with local wine bureaucrats to convince them that canned port cocktails were an idea whose time had come. Alas, this fall Taylor Fladgate officially launched the world’s first-ever canned port cocktails: Croft Pink & Tonic and Chip Dry & Tonic.
“They really are monumentally convenient,” explains Adrian Bridge, managing director of Taylor Fladgate, “better yet, they are the best way to get the perfect ratio of Port and Tonic.” They are also made with Taylor Fladgate’s bespoke tonic water recipe—something the port house decided to do to bring down the sugar levels.
Indeed, Port, which is much more versatile than its reputation allows, is not limited to a quiet evening by the fire. “What Port gives you,” explains Bridge, “is a very good base. Port has full body, good alcohol (around 20%), depth, and richness, all of which give mixologists much to work with in terms of dimension. Other spirits tend to be thinner, drier an more cutting—then you have try to bulk it out with more sugar, juices, or bitters; then you have layer upon layer upon layer and you aren’t even sure it tastes nice.”
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During the tasting trials for the canned versions, Bridge explains, they decided to go to the added trouble of crafting their own tonic water for the drinks. “The problem with most of the commercial tonic brands is that they sit around 30 grams of residual sugar. The one we made comes in at 18 grams of sugar. We needed a drier tonic because there is natural grape sugar in the port that supports the cocktail…now we have the sweetness is primarily coming from natural grape sugars, not tonic water.”
The Chip Dry & Tonic is a more subtle riff on a Gin & Tonic; the white port lends some fruity weight and it has no bitter aftertaste. Croft Pink and Tonic is made with Croft Pink Port, a delightfully fresh rosé port pioneered by Taylor Fladgate in 2008. It delivers more of the juicy red fruit notes you’d get in a rosé wine and just begs for a slice of orange peel. Even crafting the rosé port raised a few eyebrows. Says Technical Director and Head Winemaker for Taylor Fladgate David Guimaraens, “We took a big risk innovating in an industry that’s been around for 300 years. Some traditionalist producers sniffed at the rosé and questioned how we could do such a thing; of course they all make one today.”
Guimaraens is fond of a Chip Dry White port on the rocks with orange peel. Bridge suggests popping a bit of bruised mint into the drink as well. Now, however, if you want all of that and some fizz all you have to do is merely open a can and pour into a wine glass bursting with fresh ice. Guimaraens nods in agreement, “To me it’s the most fun thing we’ve done on 30 years.”
Check out more articles by Katie Kelly Bell on Forbes.com.