This week we’re making a Yuletide take on a classic cocktail through the clever addition of tawny Port. It’s the Christmas Negroni! We’ve also thrown a seasonal take on the Manhattan in there too. 

One of the most delightful things that you can do with the Negroni, that most versatile of cocktails, is to make a batch of it and stick it in a barrel for a few months, even years. This is what they do at Bar Termini in Old Compton Street in London. The ageing elevates, mellows and intensifies what is already a wonderful drink into something quite sublime.

It’s a fun one to try at home, if you can be bothered mucking around with wooden barrels that need seasoning, might leak and you have the patience to wait a few months for your drink. What if you want the aged experience now?

Christmas Negroni

Behold! The Christmas Negroni – which I invented

Stick some Port in it!

Well, I have the answer: stick some Port in it! We’ve written before how sherry should be the secret ingredient in your cocktail arsenal but its cousin over the border in Portugal is equally versatile. The addition of a splash of ruby or Late Bottled Vintage Port (see out Top Ten on Port) to your Negroni will make it spicier and richer. Very nice. But it’s even better with a tawny. This is Port that has been long-aged in wood so it oxidises and takes on flavours of nuts and dried fruits. Add this to your Negroni and you’re going to create something particularly festive. It is literally Christmas in a glass. 

I was convinced that I actually invented this cocktail back in 2016 but two minutes’ research on the net made me realise that somebody had probably done this before me. I still think of it as my cocktail, however. Usually, I make it with vermouth as well as Port but you could just use equal parts tawny Port, gin and Campari. Recipe below.

The Negroni isn’t the only cocktail that can’t be enhanced with a little Porty magic. Derbyshire-based Iberian wine specialist Raymond Reynolds is a fan of something called the Fox Hunter Martini. Don’t worry, no foxes were harmed in the making of it. The name is a bit of a misnomer as it’s far closer to a Manhattan than a Dry Martini, and it’s absolutely delicious. In fact, it might be my new favourite cocktail. 

How to make a Fox Hunter Martini

50ml Noval LBV 2016 Port (though he says that a tawny would work brilliantly here to)
50ml Woodford Reserve Bourbon
25ml Martini Rosso sweet vermouth
Dash of Angostura bitters

Stir well with ice, strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass and serve with a lemon twist.

How to make a Christmas Negroni

30ml Bathtub Gin
30ml Campari
15ml Taylor’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port
15ml Martini Rosso Vermouth

Stir with ice and strain into an ice-filled tumbler, express an orange twist and then drop it in.

It’s worth getting some Port in just to make these cocktails. A bottle of tawny will last at least two months open though they tend to last about two days in our house. Cin cin! And Merry Christmas!