Port wine is not the first thing that comes to mind for a refreshing summer aperitif: as delicious as it is, it’s also alcoholic, heavy, and sweet. But this wine has been relegated to after-dinner fireside winter drinks for too long. Port can be enjoyed any time of the year if you know how to serve it (such as in port cocktails!) and when to drink it—even during the hottest days of summer.

How to Enjoy Port in the Summer

Pop Open Canned Port Cocktails

The Portuguese have been enjoying the simple Port and Tonic, or Porto Tonico, for decades, and it’s time we joined in. The easiest way to taste the tradition is with a ready-made canned cocktail—and not one of those artificially-flavored, sticky-sweet excuses of a drink! Grab the world’s first canned Port cocktail: Taylor Fladgate’s Croft Pink & Tonic—fruity and subtly sweet—or Chip Dry & Tonic—a riff on the G&T. The winery created their very own tonic, which contains less sugar than a traditional tonic, in order to craft the most perfectly balanced canned cocktail. And at 5.5% alcohol, they are dangerously easy to drink.

Add berries to your Pink & Tonic to make the flavors pop
Add berries to your Pink & Tonic to make the flavors pop

Mix up Refreshing Port Cocktails

Or, make your own Port cocktail. Because Port has such pronounced, delicious flavors, it is hard to mess up a Port cocktail even if you’re a total beginner. Here are options for those who haven’t gone grocery shopping in weeks (let alone stocked a bar), and others for the budding mixologist:

Drink Your Port Well-Chilled in a Frosty Glass

One of my favorite ways to drink Port, any season, is chilled. Keep your bottle in the refrigerator, nestle your favorite Port glass in the freezer around the frozen peas and ice, and pour small amounts that won’t lose their chill before you finish. The frosty glass technique is smart for the canned cocktails, too, and will really dress them up (though the cans themselves are pretty enough to serve!).

Try Dry Port

Have you tried dry Port yet? While normal Ruby or Tawny Port has a residual sugar content of 100-150 g/l (or more), dry Port such as Chip Dry, pioneered by Taylor Fladgate in 1934, has a much lower content at just 24 g/l. Pour it over ice and top with a sprig of mint, and you’ve got the perfect dry Port bevvy.

Pair It with Dinner

In the summer, I often forgo dessert after a meal because heat and sweat already make me feel heavy. Instead of the traditional Port and dessert, pair your Port with dinner: LBV and Ruby Ports have tannins, acidity, and fruitiness, and when chilled, pair deliciously with lighter starters, salads, and fresh vegetables. The Chip Dry & Tonic canned cocktail is excellent with olive tapenade, salty aged cheeses, or cute little cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches. And a Tawny doesn’t have to be paired only with chocolate and caramel desserts—try it out with BBQ! Classic barbeque sauce is made with sugar, which helps it play very nicely with the Tawny sweetness and caramelized notes.

Chip Dry Port pairs well with olive tapenade, cheeses, and starters
Chip Dry Port pairs well with olive tapenade, cheeses, and starters. Photo: Flickr

Drizzle Over Ice Cream

If you do save room for dessert, or if your dessert is replacing your meal entirely (hey—it happens!), then bump up the flavor with a drizzle of Port. Try Tawny Port over chocolate, vanilla caramel swirl, cookies ‘n’ cream, or coffee; and Ruby over vanilla, strawberry, pistachio, and birthday cake. Or replace the root beer in your vanilla float with Croft Pink & Tonic—the juicy berry fruit flavors and bubbles will be your newest go-to choice for this summertime favorite.

The Easiest Way to Enjoy Port on a Hot Day

Croft Pink & Tonic: Made with the original Rosé Port, the fruity notes of raspberry, cherry, and strawberry with a twist of lemon are complemented by the dryness of the tonic.

Taylor Fladgate Chip Dry & Tonic: Exceptionally refreshing, the Chip Dry notes of delicate yellow fruits and honey are well-matched with the spiciness of the tonic. A thirst-quenching riff on the gin & tonic.

Port cocktails
Canned Port cocktails – Croft Pink & Tonic and Taylor Fladgate Chip Dry & Tonic

Diana studied Anthropology at Penn State and Food Culture & Communications at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy. After living la bella vita in Italy for six years, she returned to the U.S. and landed in NYC. She has been working in wine since 2012 and holds WSET 2. Loves Nebbiolo and amaro. Talk to her about Italy.

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