Port of Call

rye whiskey, social hour, tom macy, cocktail, classic cocktail

Recipe

 ​​

  • 1 oz gin

  • 1 oz ruby port

  • ¾ oz lemon juice

  • ½ oz cinnamon syrup

  • tablespoon cranberry preserves

 

Combine all ingredients in a shaker, add ice. Shake and strain into a rocks glass over ice, preferably crushed or smaller/cracked cubes. Garnish with a blackberry, raspberry and mint sprig.  Or whatever feels festive.

Overview

The Port of Call was just the second cocktail I managed to get on Clover Club’s menu (we change it seasonally) and to this day it remains one of my most popular drinks, the Green Giant is the only legitimate challenger. Clearly, this was a serious case of beginner's luck, because I didn’t really know what I was doing back then.  But whatever, I'll take it!

 

I think primary source of the Port of Call's success is not necessarily how it tastes - sure it’s delicious as hell (if I do say so myself) but so are plenty of other drinks.  Rather, it's the warm cozy feeling that it evokes.  It's like the distilled essence of the holidays, particularly Thanksgiving. Sipping one transports you right to the table and the cornucopia flavors you encounter there - baking spices, tart cranberries, red wine - it’s a flavor combination that’s at once exciting and familiar.  

 

Another feather in the Port of Call’s cap is it’s very refreshing and not terribly strong, thanks to the gin and the lemon.  So it’ll put you in a festive mood but won’t knock you on the floor.  Which is a big bonus if you’re like my family around the holidays, we get the party started early

 

If you make a Port of Call, let me see!  

Tag a photo @socialhourcocktails on Instagram.

Port

Port is a fortified wine from that originates from Portugal.  It is sweeter than traditional wines, as well as other fortified wines like vermouth and sherry (excluding Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel). This is because alcohol (the fortification) is introduced to the wine before fermentation has run its course, meaning the yeast hasn’t eaten all the available sugars.  The higher alcohol levels kill the yeast, halting fermentation, and thus, the remaining sugar results in a sweeter wine.

 

Broadly speaking, there are two types of port:  those aged in bottles - which are known as Vintage Port, and those aged in casks, which have a variety of sub-styles.

 

Wines made in the style of port are made all over the world.  Regulations differ on how they can be labeled. In the U.S. bottles labeled port can come from anywhere.  That is not the case in Europe, where only Portuguese port may be labeled as such.

 

Vintage Port - Not for Cocktails

These are considered the creme de la creme.  After spending just 2 years in a barrel they go into a  bottle where they are left for decades.  So the maturation happens inside the bottle itself.  What's more, only the years deemed to have produced the best ports are used, which may only happen, say, 3 times decade. These are prized by connoisseurs and draw stratospheric price tags.  They are not the types of ports we would use in cocktails.

 

Ruby Port - Best for Cocktails

Any time a cocktail calls broadly for port, this is what you should use. Ruby ports are blends aged in neutral casks for only a handful of years (3-ish) to prevent any oxidation and additional wood flavors.  This keeps them clean, fruit-forward and very approachable.  They’re the most readily available style of port and, luckily, also the most affordable. 

 

Tawny Port - Good in Some Cocktails (but not this one).

Tawny ports have a bit more going on.  They are aged in wooden casks for several years, even decades, which causes them to lose their color and become a kind of brownish-orange (which is where the name comes from).  They also take on a woody, oxidized profile - think nuts and dried figs - the complexity and intensity of which will vary with age.  Tawny Ports are blends from many different vintages (if it’s form a single vintage they are called Colheita) so they don’t carry specific age statements.   Instead, they can be labeled as 10, 20, 30 and 40 or years, which is an indication of the port’s median age, as well as a suggestion of its flavor profile. 

 

While Tawny’s are fascinating specimens on their own, and far more complex than ruby port, that nuance is often lost in cocktails - or worse, it throws them off. I only use them in specific scenarios where I’m looking for that extra nuttiness, or perhaps not as much bright fruit. Try a little one in a Manhattan or Martinez. 

 

Other Styles of Port

  • White Port - Made with white wine - all other port is red wine - and is generally lighter, brighter and very approachable.

  • Late Bottled Vintage Port (LBV) - These are vintage ports that have been aged for 4-6 years before going into a bottle.   They are in a similar realm to vintage port through quite as coveted, and with a more manageable price point. 

  • Crusted - A blend of vintages that is bottled unfiltered, not cask aged, so it will have some sediment and is best served with a decanter (the same is true of vintage port).   

 

Cranberry Preserves Options

Cranberry preserves are the linchpin of this drink.  I initially used Sarabeth’s Cranberry Relish which I highly recommend. Supermarkets usually only stock it during the holiday months.  Or you can order it here.  Otherwise, making your own is easy, it’s basically cranberry sauce with a little more sugar.  Frozen or fresh cranberries will work.  Again, during the holiday months, these should be easy to find.   In a pinch, you can also use canned cranberry sauce meant for Thanksgiving turkey.  It’s not an ideal substitute, but the drink’s still tasty.  If you go that route you may need to add a ¼ oz or so more cinnamon syrup to balance it out.

 

Recipe 

I prefer to roughly chop the cranberries first because I like the chunky texture it gives the preserves.  Though if you don't, you'll still achieve a similar result.  The berries will pop open when they boil which releases their flavor.  You want to reduce the mixture until it's slightly thick, not jam-like.  It'll stiffen up as it cools.  If you take it too far just add more water.

 

  • 3 cups whole cranberries - one 12 oz bag

  • 2 ½ cups sugar

  • 1 ½ cups water

  • ¼ cup cassis

 

  1. In a food processor coarsely chop the cranberries - optional.  

  2. Over medium heat, add the sugar and water and stir until dissolved.

  3. Add cranberries and bring mixture to a boil for about 2 minutes.

  4. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  

  5. Remove from heat, let cool. Store in a mason jar or plastic storage container.  Refrigerate.

 

 

 

 

Port of Punch

The Port of Call makes a great punch, but it needs tweaking.  You can read more about converting single recipes to serve a group on the Batching Page .  The main factor to navigate here the cranberry preserves.  If you combine them along with the rest of the ingredients and whisk it up good - or blend them an immersion blender - the cranberry will be mixed in you’ll just be left with some solids.  You can strain these out or leave them, they’ll settle on the bottom and shouldn’t bother anyone. 

 

Feel free to tweak the finished product to taste.  You may want to add another splash of two of gin, a little champagne on top isn't too bad either - say 1 oz per serving, grapefruit peels are also a nice touch.

 

Serves 25-30

 

  • 2 cups gin

  • 2 cups port

  • 1½ cups lemon

  • 1 cup cinnamon syrup

  • 2 cups chilled water or 3 cups ice

  • about 1 cup cranberry preserves (or 16 tablespoonfuls)

  • raspberries, blackberries, and 1 long spiral grapefruit peel (optional) for garnish

 

  1. In a pitcher or punch bowl, combine ingredients (excluding ice, if using) and whisk or blend them until the preserves have been integrated. 

  2. Strain out the solids from the preserves, if desired.

  3. If using water, chill until ready to serve, or add ice 10-15 minutes before.  The colder it is the better. 

  4. If using a punch bowl, ideally serve over a large punch ice cube

  5. Garnish with berries and expressed the oils from the grapefruit peel if using. 

  6. Ladle/pour into glasses over ice.

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tom@socialhourcocktails.com Brooklyn, NY

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