Port Cocktails: The Suburban

“Drink more Port, boys and girls. Drink more port,” said Wesly.

“I like that,” I said. “May I quote you?”

“It wasn’t terribly profound; it just came out.”

“Sometimes the stuff that just comes out is the best stuff of all.”

“That’s what SHE said.”

Welcome to my life.

Ever since he saw that episode of “The Office” on the plane back from Spain, I hear that line at least once a day. But I digress.

Getting back to more relevant quotes from Wesly, he adds that “what the world needs now is more more rye cocktails,” one of my favorite expressions of his. Since this is a cocktail that’s been around for going on a century and one you’ve likely never heard of (I certainly hadn’t), in this case it’s a rye cocktail that just needs to be brought to more people’s attention. It’s also a Port cocktail that needs to be brought to more people’s attention as well — cocktails containing Port wine are delicioso. We’re still working on that bottle of Port I picked up the other day, and since it won’t keep forever I want to finish it within a few weeks. Hence, we shall continue posting about cocktails featuring ruby Port until the bottle is drained. Then I shall buy more.

See how that works? I like it.

I came across this one while browsing through Dave Wondrich’s Esquire drinks index, and it caught my eye for the same reason Dr. Wondrich finds it unusual. Rye whiskey and dark rum in the same drink, that’s a big fat yes. But with Porto as well?! That’s wacky! (In the best kind of way.) I wanted to try it right away.

The drink originated at the old Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, named for a wealthy gent who raced horses, and for the horse race in which his steeds figured prominently. What does that combination of spirits and wine actually taste like, you may ask. From the above link: “If you could distill carved-oak paneling and club chairs, leather-bound volumes and three-cushion billiard tables, this is what you’d get. Mellow, robust, comfortable. The rum mellows the tang of the rye, the port tames the raw edge of the distillates, and the bitters add a touch of the exotic, like the stuffed head of that rare Asian gazelle that hangs over the doorway.” Well … no gazelle heads at our house. The closest we come to that are the jackalope heads looking down on us when we drink at Seven Grand. We do, however, have a club chair and leather-bound volumes, both appropriate company for this lovely drink.

The Suburban is more of an autumnal or wintery drink, and not one for the summer, as Dr. Wondrich notes. As I write this summer is still a month off, and our spring has been fairly cool — we’re still getting lows in the 50s at night, so it’s still snappy and bracing enough to sip this tipple. (I’m a New Orleanian after all, and as my friend Robb once said, that means that for me anything under 70°F is “cold,” and anything under 60°F is “very cold.”) And sip it we did, and did indeed enjoy it.

The Suburban Cocktail


1-1/2 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce dark rum
1/2 ounce ruby port
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Combine with cracked ice in a mixing glass and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.

Godsdammit … this and the Curari and the others I’ve been making recently are so good that I’m going to need to keep an open bottle of Port around all the time. Can we not have stasis boxes, like in Larry Niven’s “Known Space” sf novels, boxes inside which time does not pass, so that my myriad aromatized wines won’t go bad?


7 Responses to “Port Cocktails: The Suburban”

  1. Frolic said:

    May 19, 10 at 3:45 pm

    How long does port last in the frig? Longer than vermouth? I’d guess it would, but I’m not sure.

  2. Chuck said:

    May 19, 10 at 5:17 pm

    It’s a little stronger than vermouth — generally around 20% ABV to vermouth’s 18.

    I find ports last a bit longer, but it depends on which kind of port. Younger tawnies and non-vintage ruby ports (like the Warre’s Warrior I’ve been using for cocktails) will last a few weeks even unrefrigerated, and since I’m mixing rather than sipping this one I’ve been keeping it in the fridge. I don’t like drinking chilled port on its own, so I’ll try to let it come to room temp if it’s been in the fridge, but that’s kind of a pain.

    The ’94 vintage Port that was Wes’ birthday present, on the other hand, needs to get knocked out in a couple of days at the most. Gee, won’t that be a burden.

  3. Frolic said:

    May 20, 10 at 8:58 am

    Does the higher sugar content affect how long it keeps? Which I guess also raises the questions of whether French vermouth keeps longer than Italian?

  4. Chuck said:

    May 20, 10 at 12:52 pm

    I always thought it was the higher alcohol content, acting as preservative. I find vermouths decline at about the same rate, which is why I try to buy them in 375ml bottles as much as possible.

    I do wish Carpano Antica came in sizes smaller than just one liter. Sigh.

    I’m probably going to start decanting it into smaller bottles so that it doesn’t oxidize as fast.

  5. Frolic said:

    May 20, 10 at 1:00 pm

    Guess I figured that because sugar is used to preserve fruits in syrup, then sweeter fortified wines would also last longer. But maybe not. My degrees are all in literature, so what do I know.

  6. Chuck said:

    May 20, 10 at 1:17 pm

    It makes sense that sugar plays a role as well. Some of the longest-lived wines are the sweet German and Alsatian Rieslings; my first wine instructor told us about his experiences sampling a Riesling from 1861. (!)

    My degrees are in Communication Arts, but I hope to supplement them with my continuing education in cocktails and spirits. 🙂

  7. growler said:

    May 20, 10 at 9:13 pm

    A bottle of port has never lasted me long enough to worry about it going bad, so I never had to bother refrigerating one. Tell you one think, after a real fine meal (be it a slab of meat at a steakhouse or an overindulgent tasting menu at a great restaurant), nothing beats a glass of port with dessert. Unless, of course, that dessert it a cheese course.

    I love me some good port, and I love me some rye. I think I might love this drink a bit too much. Thank you?