For an after-dinner drink or entertaining guests, here's something for everyone.
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Credit: Carey Jones

There are tons of misconceptions about port: that it’s expensive, that it’s too sweet, that it’s only enjoyed by elderly folks after dinner. But even if it hasn’t been fully embraced by the craft cocktail crowd—at least, not yet—port plays an essential part in historical drinking culture. (Classic cocktail books, like the highly revered Savoy Cocktail Book from the 1930s, has more than a dozen recipes that utilize the fortified wine.)

We’ve sung the virtues of drier white port before, but today, we’re working with the vibrant, young variety known as ruby port. Fonseca Bin 27 is an ideal choice, from one of the most respected port houses: a rich port with bright, prominent fruit that’s pleasantly sweet, not cloyingly so. It’s widely available and, happily, under $20 a bottle. Some ports are intended to age for decades, but Bin 27, you can drink right now—or pour into one of these three cocktails.

Easy: New York Collins

Credit: Carey Jones

A New York sour is one of those lesser-known classics that should really get more play—a simple shake of rye, lemon, and sugar, topped with a float of red wine. Some historical versions use ruby port, rather than a table wine; we’re taking that concept and running with it, adding port into the drink itself and topping with soda for an even more refreshing cocktail.

Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine an ounce and a half of rye, 3/4 ounce of fresh lemon juice, 3/4 ounce simple syrup, and 3/4 ounce ruby port. Shake until well-chilled, then strain into a tall glass with fresh ice. Top with an ounce of club soda, give a quick stir, and garnish with a lemon wheel.

Intermediate: Sweater Weather

Credit: Carey Jones

Bin 27’s gentle sweetness and prominent fruit flavors marry beautifully with warm spice, so we devised a hot toddy-mulled wine hybrid that keeps the port center stage, while backing it up with a host of spices and citrus. (If you quadruple this recipe for a party, not only will you have happy guests, but your kitchen will smell amazing.)

Instructions: In a small pot, heat 6 ounces of port together with one clove, one piece of star anise, half a cinnamon stick, and one long, thick orange peel. Barely simmer for 10 minutes, then strain. Combine the heated port with one ounce of water in a heat-safe glass, then drop in a dash of Angostura bitters. Garnish with a new cinnamon stick, and an orange peel studded with cloves. Grate nutmeg on top.

Advanced: Port Flip

Credit: Carey Jones

The “Coffee Cocktail,” in the seminal 19th-century book Bartenders Guide, or How to Mix Drinks by Jerry Thomas, contains no coffee; it’s named for the warm, brown tone of the finished drink, which does indeed resemble a latte. The drink itself? Port, Cognac, and a whole egg. We’re switching things up by swapping in ruby port for tawny, and a rich, dark rum (like Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva) for the Cognac. Rich and unbelievably satisfying. Keep this recipe handy for the holidays.

Instructions: To a cocktail shaker without ice, add 1 ounce dark rum, 2 ounces ruby port, and 1/2 ounce simple syrup. Crack in a whole egg. Shake all that up without ice, then add ice and shake until well-chilled. Double-strain -- that is, strain through a fine mesh strainer in addition to the cocktail shaker's own strainer—into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg.