Food + Drinks

White Port: Mix Up a Refreshing Alternative to the Gin and Tonic

Put down the G&T and look to the refresher of the season. Plus: three bottles to keep at home.

Read on to see the recipe for WP&T with ginger syrup (pictured above).

White Port, the pleasant, lighter cousin of Portugal's more celebrated red dessert wine, is made from white grapes, has a higher alcohol content, and is versatile like a liqueur. Which is why Matt Pridgen, general manager at Houston's Underbelly, started mixing it with tonic for a novel take on the highball when the restaurant opened in 2012. In a city where temperatures can surge into the nineties even in spring, it's no surprise that the crisp, effervescent aperitif has become so popular it's now offered on tap. "We don't serve hard liquor," says Pridgen, who makes his WP&T with Dow's and a house-made tonic. "But we wanted to have something that people could enjoy before dinner." The Portuguese-American chef George Mendes, whose Michelin-starred Aldea in New York City added the drink to its menu for spring, calls it his country's answer to the G&T. But pace yourself. "It really stimulates the palate," Pridgen says. "So it makes you want more." In this case, that's not a bad problem to have.

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The WP&T With Ginger Syrup (pictured above)
Aldea's latest addition to its cocktail menu calls for a simple syrup that shouldn't scare you off—bring equal parts sugar and water to a boil with a small cube of fresh ginger. Strain, let it cool, then batch it for future cocktail hours.When that's done, mix an ounce and a half of dry white Port, a half-ounce of lemon juice, and a half-ounce of ginger syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a collins glass over ice; top with three to four ounces of tonic water.

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3 Can't-Miss White Ports

With Tonic
That "extra" dryness in Fonseca Siroco Extra Dry lends a crispness often found in Sauvignon Blancs. Do as the Portuguese do and add ice, a splash of tonic, and fresh mint. $20

On the Rocks
Niepoort Dry packs a tobacco finish and makes a great sherrylike predinner sipper. Its almond flavors are best experienced on their own, but try it with a slice of citrus over ice. $20

In a Cocktail
Mix Ramos Pinto with two ounces of Campo de Encanto pisco and a quarter-ounce of Cappelletti Aperitivo for a lively alternative to the negroni. $14

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Where to Find the Best White-Port Cocktails

laserpiente-white-port.jpg
The drink "La Serpiente," described below.

Grapes of Wrath
Brass Tacks, San Francisco
At this Hayes Valley haunt with a glowing bar, barman Matty Conway puts a modern twist on classics—like the Negroni using grape-based spirits (pisco, white port, and Cappelletti).

La Serpiente
Gracias Madre, Los Angeles
Tequila and mezcal dominate the drinks at this West Hollywood vegan Mexican spot, where beverage director Jason Eisner blends the former with white port and an amber vermouth for a springy slow sipper.

White Port & Tonic
Seasalt and Pepper, Miami
Sebastian Lancelot and Laszlo Buzas, mixologists at this modern surf-and-turf in Miami, have added a classic WP&T to the spring and summer menus; it's the perfect cooler to enjoy after squaring everything away on the boat docks below the dining room.

Lisbon Cooler
Aldea, New York City
At Portuguese restaurant Aldea, beverage director Maya Nadel's deceptively simple combination of sweet white port, housemade ginger syrup and a splash of lemon makes for a dangerously delicious drink.

Snap Dragon
Cliff's Edge, Los Angeles
At this Silverlake standby known for its leafy patio, bartender Richard Swan is fond of pairing white port with fruit flavors—in this instance, peach syrup balanced with green tea-infused vodka.

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Also on Details.com:
Cognac Cocktails: Brandy's Move to Bartender Favorite
You Don't Know Applejack: 5 New Cocktails That Give the Old-School Spirit an Update
Mila Kunis On Bourbon, Her Favorite Bars, Fashion Turn-Offs, and Male Models

First photograph: by Victor Prado, prop styling by Philip Shubin, food styling by Roscoe Betsill.
Second photograph: courtesy of Kelly Puleio for Brass Tacks SF.
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