Smoke in Midwinter

This post was made in collaboration with Croft Port. Opinions are my own.

Honestly, I haven’t tried a lot of Port in my life or even given it much thought. It’s not exactly a popular beverage here in the US other than maybe your grandparents pulling out a bottle after dinner.

Recently the good people of Croft Port, which turns out to be the oldest producer of port wines still active today, reached out & asked if I’d like to try some of their Tawny Port & even give it a go in a cocktail recipe. I wasn’t completely confident in my ability to mix with it but I decided to go for it anyway. About a week later, a big ol’ box full of port showed up on my doorstep, so I’m well stocked if anyone wants to come over for a "Holiday Port-y.” ;)

If you are unfamiliar with Port (like I was), it is a Portuguese fortified wine produced with distilled grape spirits. There are a variety of styles made from different varieties of grapes, but typically Port is red, sweet & consumed as a dessert wine. Many companies around the world produce port-styled wine but in order to be officially labeled “Port” it has to have been produced in the Douro Valley in northern Portugal.

The Port I most enjoyed was Croft’s Reserve Tawny Port. “Tawny” is a particular style of Port that is made from several different vintages "selected for their smoothness & mellow character.” They are carefully blended for balance & then aged in oak for up to seven years. The result is a rich & delicious dessert wine.

As I mentioned, Tawny Port is a new ingredient for me when it comes to mixing. I ended up changing directions on this cocktail recipe, as I was trying to create some sort of New York Sour riff, using the Port as a float. After a few iterations though, I decided I’d alter the ingredients slightly & turn it into a stirred drink. Pairing a peaty Islay scotch with the tawny made this sort of like a smoky Manhattan. I found that pear brandy & allspice were natural compliments & the lemon bitters helped add some clarity & overall brightness to the final serve.

What is your experience with port? Ever tried it in a cocktail before? Let me know in the comments & consider giving the “Smoke in Midwinter” cocktail a go sometime!

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1¼ oz Islay scotch

¾ oz Croft Reserve Tawny Port

½ oz Pear brandy

¼ oz Allspice dram

2 dashes lemon bitters

1 dash aromatic bitters


Combine ingredients in a mixing glass & stir with ice.

Strain into a chilled coupe.

Garnish with lemon zest & brandied cherry.