Modern Cocktail Trend, Old Fashioned Ingredient

The Port Old Fashioned at Red Star Tavern in Portland. Image: Red Star Tavern / Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants

The Port Old Fashioned that’s served at Red Star Tavern in Portland is the most popular whiskey-based cocktail. And that’s saying something since this locale is known for its whiskey collection that boasts more than 300 bottles.

“The popularity of this drink is crazy,” says Brandon Lockman, bartender at the venue within the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Portland. “Port and whiskey work so well together.”

The drink ($13, with 16.6% beverage costs) sells well all year and isn’t considered an after-dinner drink, despite the addition of port. It contains bourbon, 10-year-old tawny port, Angostura bitters and maple syrup. “The port rounds it out and gives it more body. It provides nuttinesss and oakiness from the aging process, as well as dark fruit notes. These are all perfect partners with whiskey,” Lockman explains. He also prefers the maple syrup over simple syrup because it adds yet more body, he says.

The drink is stirred and poured into an old-fashioned glass, dusted with orange zest and garnished with orange peel.

Red Star Tavern’s serving another port cocktail and this one’s especially for the holidays. Cousin Eddy’s Flip ($12, with 14.8% beverage costs) contains Laird’s applejack, 10-year tawny port, double cream, maple syrup and a whole egg, with some nutmeg grated on top. One of Lockman’s bartenders was inspired to make this by a cocktail book, but Lockman thinks it wouldn’t have been successful before the cocktail craze took hold a decade ago.

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This is a very heavy, wintry drink, he says, and he runs it from mid-October into the New Year. The cream and the whole egg gives the wintry, eggnog feel, he says, and the port “brings in a little sweetness and fills the void, adding cherry notes, too.”

To make the drink, everything is shaken without ice to stretch out the egg proteins and make the drink bubbly. Then Lockman adds ice and shakes again, double strains it, and pours it into a Collins glass with ice, grated nutmeg and a fanned apple slice on the rim.

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This cocktail is more of a dessert drink, he says, and often consumed alongside dessert. “This appeals to a more savvy customer, someone who’s knowledgeable about cocktails,” he says. “People are now willing to experiment with things like a whole egg in a drink. This is for someone who’s been around to other cocktail bars, while the Port Old Fashioned is everyone’s drink.”

“Port is a phenomenal cocktail ingredient, insofar as it brings mild sweetness and moderate alcohol, with soft tannins and lots of fruit,” says Eamon Rockey, director of beverage studies at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. “Most port cocktails greatly benefit from a beautiful ruby hue that’s the hallmark quality of nearly any cocktail mixed with the spirit.

“As with most other sweet or fortified wines, there is a broad spectrum of prices within each category, and port is no exception. Luckily, a high-quality, mixable wine is rarely price prohibitive. Classic associations of holiday punches or stirred cocktails lightly spiced, and combined with rum or brandy, are natural fits for port.”

And it’s got something for everyone, he adds. “While port may not be the trendiest spirit at the moment, people of all ages should enjoy it, and passionate bartenders are the key to making introductions to new and different spirited adventures of this kind.”

Port Old Fashioned

Recipe and image courtesy of Red Star Tavern

  • 2 oz. Old Forrester bourbon
  • 0.5 oz. Ten-year tawny port
  • Barspoon maple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir all ingredients and pour into an old-fashioned glass. Dust top of drink with orange zest and garnish with orange peel.

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