Port in cocktails
No not regional and not new. The use of port and sherry in cocktails is very 19th century. I have seen many cocktails using these ingredients the past few years, but there has been a lot of exploration and use lately. Partly because some of the port and sherry companies are embracing their use in cocktails. Many fine cocktail bars are looking at new ways of using traditional ingredients. Also port and sherry are very fall and winter seasonal ingredients.
It gets some use here in Boston. Looking back through the blog in the last year, I had two paired with rum, one with tequila, and one in an apple brandy flip. Its full mouth feel and rich flavor can smooth over some rougher spirits.
As JMF mentioned sherry, that seems to get more move around here. In that same time period, I think I had more than two dozen sherry drinks at bars. It has a more dynamic range of flavors and doesn't dominate or smother the same way port can. With the lighter feel, sherries work well in aperitif style drinks.
I definitely feel like I see sherry a lot more often than port in cocktails. Part of this may just be that there are many styles of sherry to choose from that span a large spectrum from very dry finos to the syrup pedro ximenez. Though for port, Todd Maul's Dwight Street Book Club is probably the most recent drink that I've had that involves a manifestation of port.
I love the interplay between whiskey and port, it really pleases me. Try this one that I enjoy occasionally:
2oz bourbon (go for the good stuff, rye or non-JD TN whiskey works nicely too)
1oz ruby port
.5oz Cynar (an artichoke-based Italian amaro)
1ds Angostura bitters
Build in mixing glass over ice, stir for 30 secs or so, strain into coupe.
This has a name...if I told you I would have to drink it with you LOL!