This morning I’m making attempt number two at flying out of Portland, but before I go I’ve got one more item to take a look at. The latest bottle to slide across the bar here at blogging headquarters is Sandeman 10 year old tawny port. I love port and don’t enjoy it nearly often enough. That’s party because of the price, but mainly because I worry about oxidation. The lifetime of an open bottle of port depends on a variety of factors, including style, age, temperature, air exposure, and personal taste. Buying a 750 ml bottle without guests to share it with requires making a commitment to drinking lots of port in the following days or weeks. Oh, such a terrible burden!
For those reasons I was happy to receive a sample of this Sandeman bottling. It has a thick, viscous mouth feel, appealing hints of raisin on the nose, and both raisin and vanilla flavor notes. I just glanced at the bottle, incidentally, and those are the same flavors the label writers highlight — a rare case where I tasted exactly what the marketers thought I would. It’s a delicious port that’s been calling me back for glass after glass and easily worth its $30-40 retail price. (By the way, the 10 year old designation for tawny ports is based on the average age of wines blended into them; they’re not made from grapes aged exactly 10 years.)
As much as I like this port on its own, this is a cocktail blog and I was sent this bottle with the intent that I’d mix some drinks with it. The first one I tried is the classic Coffee Cocktail, which, weirdly, doesn’t actually contain any coffee:
1.5 oz port
1.5 oz brandy
1 tsp simple syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters (optional)
Shake well with ice, strain, and garnish with grated nutmeg. This is a fine dessert drink, but I didn’t find it very exciting.
Lately I’ve been experimenting with cocktails composed entirely of spirits, which can be more challenging than using sweeteners and juices and forces one to focus on harmonizing the flavors of ingredients. I’m not quite prepared to call the combination below a finished recipe, but it comes together nicely:
1.5 oz Cazadores reposado tequila
.50 oz Sandeman 10 yr port
splash of Benedictine
1 dash Fee Bros. rhubarb bitters
I’m especially happy with the tequila and rhubarb bitters combination. I picked up this new offering from Fee’s several months ago and it’s been sitting on my bar taunting me ever since. It has a wonderful flavor — so good that I’ll often dash some on my hand just to give it a taste — but I’ve been clueless as to what to do with it. I think the pairing with tequila has potential, the tart sweetness of the bitters just standing out above the spirit. If anyone else plays with the recipe above I’d be curious to hear your feedback.
Samantha Harrigan offers Sandeman port cocktail recipes from some other bloggers at Cocktail Culture. Robert Simonson suggests using the rhubarb bitters with Cynar; when my movers deliver the rest of my liquor in a couple weeks, I’ll have to give that a try.