Port and tonic – Portugal’s perfect summer sundowner

Fruity white port and bitter tonic is Portugal’s perfectly matched answer to G&T – let the honeymoon begin…

Image: Chris Burke

If you ever find yourself in Porto at sunset, make haste for The Yeatman Hotel: I don’t think there’s a finer place for a sundowner. Perched high up on a hill among the port maturation warehouses of the historic Vila Nova de Gaia, this luxurious five-star hotel has a vast terrace where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Old Town while sipping white port and tonic

If you haven’t yet tried white port and tonic, it’s only a matter of time before you do. Because this Portuguese aperitif – which I first got a taste for during my travels around the port-producing quintas of the Douro – is becoming increasingly fashionable in the UK. Mellow, refreshing and not as boozy as a G&T, it’s just what you want to wet your whistle after a long, hot day. 

White port is made from white grapes and can be bottled very young or with a bit of cask age on it. It’s fruity and light, sometimes with a slightly nutty finish, and is 20 per cent abv, which is about half the strength of a typical gin. A classic example would be Taylor’s Chip Dry White Port (£13.29 for 75cl from Waitrose). A more modern take would be Graham’s new Blend No 5 (£21.25 for 75cl from Master of Malt) that has been specially created for mixing – it’s fresh and citrusy, with lots of pretty stone fruit on the finish. The bottle – which looks more like a craft gin, scattered with illustrations of flowers, herbs and fruit – is by António Soares, a Portuguese fashion illustrator who has collaborated with the likes of Fendi, Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel.

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The delightful Portuguese restaurant Casa do Frango in Borough – a converted warehouse topped by a vast skylight dripping with plants – does a great white port and tonic with Churchill’s 10-year-old White Port, garnished with mint and orange. The Red Lion & Sun in Highgate – which won Pub of the Year in the 2018 John Smith Great British Pub Awards – does a good WP&T too.  

If you’re mixing your own, I’d recommend a relatively bitter tonic to complement the port’s sweetness. One I’m enjoying at the moment is the newish Schweppes 1783 (£2.99 for 6 x 150ml from Ocado), a more premium, all-natural version of the original (a riposte, essentially, to Fever-Tree). The antiquated-looking Barker and Quin (£1.25 for 20cl from The Whisky Exchange) –which has arrived from South Africa – also has a satisfying quinine bite. Mix one part port to two parts tonic and serve over lots of ice with a strip of orange peel.

 @alicelascelles

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