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​A drinker’s guide to Porto

Aimee Hartley visits the vibrant, Portuguese town of Porto to discover what the locals drink beyond what the city is most famed for — port.

One of the oldest cities in Europe and a UNESCO world heritage site, Porto is steeped in a rich, cultural history. It is also the birthplace of port — a sweet, fortified wine (and terrifically British tipple) made and aged in a variety of styles varying from the nutty, butterscotch hallmarks of a 10 or 20-year-old Tawny to the fruit driven, sumptuous nature of Late Bottled Vintage Ports.

But beyond the traditional port houses such as Taylor’s and Ferreira whose caves still flank the Douro River that divides the city, there is another story to tell about the drinks that fill the local’s glasses. 

Espumante // Breakfast wine

There is nothing like a glass of fizz and a Pastel De Nata (also known as a Portuguese custard tart) to kick-start a day of ‘sightseeing’ (also known as eating and drinking). Whilst Espumante is produced in Vinho Verde, the Douro and to the south of Alentejo, it is in Bairrada that the best quality bubbles can be found. Here, the wines are made using the same traditional method that is employed to make Champagne. Keep an eye out for ‘Bairrada DOC’ on the label and stop by Porto’s only sparkling wine bar, Champanheria da Baixa, to sample some of the best.

Vinho Verde // Lunchtime Companion

As Porto marks where the River Douro meets the Atlantic Ocean, it comes as no surprise that the cities restaurant menus are teaming with delicious seafood, from clams drenched in butter, parsley and white wine (Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato) to red snapper charred on the outdoor grills of fish restaurants in the neighbouring fishing town of Matosinhos. Vinho Verde, a low alcohol style of white wine from Portugal’s biggest and most Northerly winemaking region bearing the same name, is known for its fresh, zesty character and is the drink of choice to wash it all down with. ‘Verde’, meaning ‘green’, is a reference to the wine’s youth, and the fact it is bottled early (typically 3-6 months after harvest) sometimes giving a refreshing sherbet-like fizz on the finish. Keep your eyes peeled too for red Vinho Verde which tends to be more on the rustic side and similar to a dry Lambrusco — the perfect match for the infamous pork and sheep’s cheese sandwich found at Casa Guedes in downtown Porto.

Favaios // Afternoon Tipple

As we sip on our afternoon coffee in Cafe Candelabra, one of Porto’s oldest but coolest drinking spots, we notice the bartender fixing himself an afternoon treat. The nectar in question, we find out, is called Favaios - like Port, it is a sweet, fortified wine, but made from Moscatel grapes which gives it a super fragrant and floral quality that makes it (far too) easily quaffable. He tells us that at Candelabra, served neat on ice, it is the bartenders afternoon drink of choice, bridging the gap between lunch and dinner. Once seen by locals as ‘something your grandma’ would drink, Favaios it seems has fallen back into fashion with a younger crowd. Once the evening arrives at Candelabra, the drink evolves into what the team dub a ‘Favaisky’ - a 60ml measure of Favaios topped with a 5-10ml whiskey float (Jamesons), which adds a subtle smokiness that offsets the sweetness of the fruit. 

White Port & Tonic // Into the Night

If you’re looking for a drink to carry you into the night, White Port and Tonic is your weapon of choice. Whilst it is also fortified, White Port is a very different proposition from its red counterparts and is made from local white grape varieties such as Malvasia or Rabigato that give it a more delicate and floral character. The exact ingredients of the drink can vary depending on the bar, but the general rule of thumb is a 90ml pour of Dry White Port  on ice, a twist of orange (mint and lemon are also used as substitutes), with a bottle of tonic water given to the drinker to top up at their leisure. Visit the Yeatman Hotel in Porto for a twist on the classic:

Ingredients:

1 ounce Taylor’s Chip Dry white port extra dry (in the U.S., try Fonseca Siroco Extra Dry)

2 ounces Fever Tree tonic

Mint or lemon, to garnish or taste

Directions:

1. Fill ample rocks glass with ice, white port and tonic.

2. Add mint or a twist of lemon as garnish, or more to taste.