Wine & spirits: Fortified wines
Fortified wines, such as vermouth, sherry, port and Madeira, can be served before a meal as aperitifs in stylish glasses like these Krista Port-Sweet ones (Crate and Barrel, $5 each) on their own or in a cocktail. Whether you’re relaxing by the fire or entertaining a crowd, they’ll add a sophisticated note to your next night in.
Made in Portugal’s Douro Valley with a mix of indigenous grapes and brandy, port’s style is reflective of its colour – ruby, tawny or white, for example. Its taste is sweet and a little savoury. If a port is labelled vintage, it contains wines from a single year.
White port and soda: Fill a short glass with ice; add 1 ounce port, then top with soda water. Garnish with a lemon slice. SDC Ruby Port, $17.
A fortified wine made on Portugal’s Madeira Island, Madeira is heated then cask-aged; its colour ranges from amber to deep brown. Historically, this wine was shipped on boats and would warm up during the voyage, giving it a unique flavour. Today, the production process involves heating the wine – in fact, the finest bottles are aged for at least 20 years and warmed in natural sunlight.
Recipe perk-up: Provides a rich flavour to both sweet and savoury dishes.
Casa Dos Vinhos Madeira, $20.
Sherry is a barrel-aged Spanish fortified wine made of white grapes. Although out of fashion for a while, it’s back in vogue thanks to the cool cocktail crowd. It comes in dry, dark and sweet styles and is traditionally served in a copita, a tulip-shaped sherry glass.
Simple syrup substitute: Try a sweet sherry in place of simple syrup to sweeten a dark liquor. Alear Medium Dry Amondtillado Sherry, $13.
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Classic vermouth is dry and bitter with the addition of herbs and spices; the one you buy today has likely been adjusted for sweetness. It’s used in many classic cocktails, including the martini, manhattan and negroni.
Classic gin martini: Fill a shaker with ice; add 4 ounces gin and 1 ounce dry Vermouth. Shake and strain into two martini glasses. Garnish with green olives. Dolin Vermouth Rouge, $14.
• Serve fortified wines at 14°C in vintage glassware or beautiful rocks glasses.
• Serve port in a decanter. As a rule of thumb, the decanter should always be passed to the left.
• Once opened, fortified wines can be stored for up to a year in a cool, dark spot.