So right after I got back from our trip, I wrote up this great guide to eating in Ireland, covering the best places we ate in Dublin, County Cork, County Kerry and Galway. It was detailed and I worked really hard on it. And then, it disappeared. I have been having a bit of computer problems recently, and this may have been the biggest casualty of my aging laptop. (I know, I know… first world problems – big time.) A few days passed, life got really busy again, and our trip slowly faded out of my mind.
But then, last night, feeling tired and cold, I decided to revisit a drink that I came across while in Cork City: hot port. Ireland is a rainy place, particularly in late November, and I often found myself craving something warm when we would tuck into a pub to get out of the weather. The first few days we were there, I drank pints of Guinness, Murphy’s and Beamish, depending on where we were, but after awhile, I wanted something other than stout. That rainy night in Cork, the bartender suggested a hot whiskey (which I think is the equivalent to a hot toddy), but I shook my head. “Hot port, then,” he stated, not really asking. I accepted it eagerly, letting the glass heat up my cold hands. I soon asked for another, loving the way the lightly spiced mixture of port, hot water, lemon and cloves spread warmth from my fingers to my toes.
Throughout the rest of the week, when the milky Irish sunlight would give way suddenly to driving, cold rain, we would take cover in a pub and I’d order a nice hot port.
In previous travels, I have fallen in love with the European tradition of hot mulled wine found on every street corner and in their festive Christmas markets. One November trip to Vienna was so chilly that I think I carried around a cup of gluhwein wherever I went. The French version is equally alluring and full of warming spices. These experiences have made me a lover of homemade mulled wine, and will make it any time I can get a crowd interested in drinking it with me.
The hot port I drank in Ireland, though, was a simplified version of this, a quick and easy thing to make in a bar that always was ready with hot water (tea is also a popular thing to order in pubs) and a bottle of port. I appreciated the extra step that was taken at every pub, where those behind the bar would take the time to pierce lemon wedges with cloves and drop it gently in the glass mug.
So last night, when life slowed down just a bit, and I craved something warm that might help soothe sore throats, I pulled out port, a lemon, honey and a jar of whole cloves. I soon had a glass full of comfort, and sat down to revisit my Ireland photographs. I remembered the vast beauty and the peacefulness I felt while we explored the country, with no time constraints, “must-sees” or complicated agendas. Quite simply, it is a gorgeous, lovely place to visit. That’s really all I need to share here. And this hot port recipe, since it is something that I imagine will become a constant around here this holiday season and throughout the chilly winter months. Cheers!
Some recipes I have read suggest 1 part port to 3 parts hot water, but from my observations in Ireland, it seemed closer to a 1 to 1 ratio of port and water. Works for me. Feel free to find your perfect balance between the two. Tip: warm up your mug with hot water before filling it with hot port to keep your drink warmer longer.
This recipe makes one glass of hot port, but can be easily doubled or tripled for a crowd (or if you really love the stuff!)
½ cup port
½ cup very hot water (as hot as you’d use for tea)
½ tablespoon honey
1 thick slice of lemon
1 tablespoon of whole cloves
Heat water in a tea kettle. Pierce lemon slice with whole cloves.
Once hot, add water to a warm mug (see above tip), and stir in honey.
Add the port, and stir. Gently drop in the clove-studded lemon slice. Enjoy!