Port of Call

A summer substitute for vermouth

With port, you either identify with the sweet ruby rendition or the nutty tawny type.

But there's a third variation that pales in comparison–in the best possible way, of course: Meet white port.

Port purists have been known to balk at branco, but such skeptics are missing a delightfully easy-drinking aperitif. Best served chilled, or with a tonic float and a twist, as it's often done in Portugal, white port was used in a handful of cocktails in the early half of the 20th century. These days, a few intrepid bartenders have rediscovered the fortified wine and are slipping it into their summer drinks.

At Metrovino in Portland, Oregon, lead bartender and prolific booze blogger Jacob Grier recently debuted the Sally Port Punk, made with blanco tequila, white port, the herbaceous Italian liqueur Dimmi, and Campari.

For home experimentation, start simple, with an afternoon-friendly twist on the traditional P&T (port and tonic) from Macao Trading Co. in New York City. Bartender Dushan Zaric uses Dow's Extra Dry White Port: "Old Portuguese men playing cards drink this all day," he says. "It's low-alcohol, so it' s great in the heat."

And once night falls, swap it for vermouth in your favorite classic recipes, giving your cocktail a summer lift.