Any (hot) port in a (snow) storm…

by Mister North on December 24, 2010

There are some firm favourites which I indelibly associate with certain seasons. As the temperature plummets, and biting-cold weather beckons, the first thing I’ll turn to is a hot port… and as we’re enjoying a ferociously cold snap and it’s Christmas, this is the perfect tipple. Think of it as a speedy mulled wine with a bit more of a kick behind it…

When I was a teen, illicitly discovering the joys of alcohol, this gem of a drink (which I’ve since discovered is a traditionally Irish speciality) became a firm favourite with me and my compatriots. I think I discovered it for the first time in the original Kitchen Bar in Belfast, where the barman told us it was a long-standing favourite with the… ahem, ladies who frequented Belfast docks, plying their trade. It was allegedly the perfect tipple to help warm their cockles.

As such it became a big favourite with myself and my friends during the winter months: when I moved across to England I took the recipe with me and over the years have introduced the warming pleasures of this drink to countless folk. Over time I’ve tweaked the recipe slightly to fit my evolving taste. I’ve not had any complaints so far…

To prepare, you’ll need an unwaxed lemon, some cloves, a bottle of ruby port, and some honey. You’ll also need some thick glasses if possible. Half fill the glasses with port – you need a generous measure of the fortified wine and I tend to go no more than half-and-half with the port and water – then pour the measures into a jug or pan. I’ve found a quick warming in the microwave is an effective treatment, but if this seems sacrilegious, warm the port on the stove instead.

Meanwhile bring water to the boil and use it to warm as many glasses as you need: splash it into the glasses (with a teaspoon in place so you don’t spoil your evening unduly with boiling water shattering said glasses). Once the glasses are hot, pour the water out. Cut a couple of thick slices of lemon (round, not segmented) and then stud each section of the slice with a clove: the finished article should resemble a wheel, and it will enfuse the drink with citrusy spiciness.

Pour the warmed port into each glass, then run the back of a teaspoon under some hot water. Dip that spoon into the honey, and add a spoonful of honey to each glass, pouring hot water over it to loosen it. Give the mix a good stir, then crown it with the studded lemon. Finally sit back, chuck some peat on the fire, and fight off the winter frost with this glorious drink.

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