Madeira Cobbler, courtesy the Gage

Madeira Cobbler, courtesy the Gage

Madeira is a secret weapon for dimensionally delicious seasonal sips.

There’s a lot to love about Madeira. It’s made in lots of different styles from bone dry to lusciously sweet, but all bottles share a vibrant acidity that keeps it balanced. Its notes of raisins, nuts and caramel have an affinity for ingredients we crave this time of year from bourbon to aged rum to figs. And Madeira has a unique production method that makes it indestructible. To replicate the temperature fluctuations the wines underwent hundreds of years ago during transport on long ocean voyages, today Madeira is either heated in vats surrounded by warm circulating water, in rooms heated by hot water-filled pipes or in the case of the highest quality wines, in high-temperature warehouses or out in direct sunlight. This maderization process “cooks” the wine, keeping most of them shelf stable and fresh indefinitely, meaning that you don't have to finish a bottle in a week or two like you do with sherry or vermouth. Get to know the wine that can effortlessly create multi-layered libations:

Madeira Cobbler

Recipe courtesy of Torrence O’Haire, Beverage Director and Sommelier, Gage Hospitality Group, Chicago, IL (and on the menu at The Gage)

The Cobbler is a nineteenth century tipple that typically shakes sherry with ice, sugar and fruits or herbs, served over crushed ice. O’Haire encourages more imbibers to try them (and the Portuguese fortified wine) with this Madeira version. “I wanted this cocktail to be both classic and seasonal, playing into the Maderia's raisin-y, nutty notes without falling into the trap of expected ‘fall flavors,’” he says. “The cocktail owes its depth to the Madeira, and the bright acidity, rich caramelized apricot aromas, and toasted walnut finish make this so much more than a ‘fruity wine drink.’”

  • 2 ¼ oz. Blandy’s 10 Year Bual Madeira (FYI, Bual, a.k.a. Boal, is the grape varietal)

  • ½ oz. pineapple cordial (instructions follow)

  • ½ oz. apple juice (they use one made from Gravensteins)

  • Small bouquet of fresh thyme, for garnish

  • Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish

  • Sliced apple, for garnish

Add all ingredients except garnishes to a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain over crushed ice in a small wine glass or julep cup and garnish with the thyme, nutmeg and sliced apple.

Pineapple cordial

Add one well-washed, unpeeled, diced pineapple, 3 oz. lime juice, 2 quarts water, 2 pounds of granulated sugar and 1 tbsp. citric acid to a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to set overnight. Strain out solids and store the cordial in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Wine O’Clock, courtesy Kingbird

Wine O’Clock, courtesy Kingbird

Wine O’Clock

Recipe courtesy of Kal Lemma, Bar Manager, Kingbird at The Watergate Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Lemma’s drink is inspired by the onset of fall in the Washington, D.C. area. "The Madeira adds an equal balance of bitterness, earthy sweetness, and dryness, and gives a nice balance to the cocktail,” he says. “I prefer to use a younger Madeira—in particular, one that has been aged for 5 years—because it is stronger than its older counterparts."

Add the apple brandy, cognac, Madeira and both bitters to a shaker, add ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain the cocktail into a rocks glass over fresh ice, top with the foam and garnish with the fennel flower, rosemary twig and honey-roasted peanut.

Grand Marnier foam

Combine 4 egg whites, 3 oz. Grand Marnier, 2 oz. lemon juice and 3 oz. water in an iSi charger. Charge it, shake it until you feel there is no space left inside and charge it a second time.

Madeira Gold

Recipe courtesy of Vineyard Brands

Madeira has especially pronounced acid levels, so it is the best wine for supplying the acidity needed in a cocktail without the aid of citrus or shrubs. And since it’s produced in a variety of sweetness levels, it’s versatile for a wide swath of drink styles. The 5-year old dry adds nuttiness and dried fruit notes without added sugar.

  • 1 ½ oz. Miles Madeira 5 Year Old Dry

  • 1 oz. orange liqueur

  • ⅓ oz. fig syrup (instructions follow)

  • ¾ oz. lemon juice

  • ½ oz. simple syrup

  • Orange twist, for garnish

Add all ingredients except garnish to a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice and garnish with the orange twist.

Fig syrup

Add a dozen stemmed and quartered figs, 1 cup sugar and ½ cup water to a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and figs start to soften, mashing them a bit. Remove the mixture from the heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain out solids and store syrup in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Cape Town Cup, courtesy Vineyard Brands

Cape Town Cup, courtesy Vineyard Brands

Cape Town Cup

Recipe courtesy of Vineyard Brands

This libation is as exciting and exotic as the South African city for which it’s named. The musky notes of the light black tea are intensified by the sweet rich Madeira, while the aromatic and slightly bitter Byrrh flavors along with almond and rose notes from orgeat lend further complexity to the cocktail.

Add the lemon wedge and orgeat to a mixing glass and muddle. Add the tea, Byrrh and Madeira and swirl briefly. Pour into a chilled Collins glass, fill the glass three-quarters full with crushed ice and mix briefly with a bar spoon. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with a mint sprig.

Space Truck, courtesy Galáxia Sky Bar

Space Truck, courtesy Galáxia Sky Bar

Space Truck

Recipe courtesy of Galáxia Sky Bar, Savoy Palace, Funchal, Madeira Island

The Negroni is reinvented at this rooftop bar overlooking the ocean on the island where the wine is produced. “Each ingredient has its purpose: the gin with hazelnut soothes the gin's strength, adding dried fruit notes that mix with the orange flavor of Campari,” says mixologist and food & beverage assistant manager Nelson Antunes. “To top it off, the medium sweet Madeira wine adds just enough sweetness to the blend, making this a great aperitif cocktail.”

  • 1 oz. hazelnut-infused gin (instructions follow)

  • 1 oz. Campari

  • 1 oz. Henriques & Henriques Medium Rich 3 years old Madeira

  • orange zest, for garnish

  • Salted caramel candy, to serve alongside (optional)

Fill an Old Fashioned glass ice cubes and set aside. Add the gin, Campari and Madeira to a mixing glass, add ice and stir for 30 seconds until well chilled. Remove the ice cubes from the Old Fashioned glass and add a large ice sphere. Strain to the cocktail into the glass, garnish with the orange peel, and serve with the salted caramel candy if it’s on hand.

Hazelnut-infused gin

Add 3/4 oz. roasted, shelled and lightly crushed hazelnuts to a cup of gin. Cover and let set for 5 days. Strain out solids through a fine mesh sieve and store.

Madeira Vieux Carré

Recipe courtesy of St. Anselm, Washington, D.C.

The Madeira program at this D.C. steakhouse and tavern is strong. This variation of the classic New Orleans cocktail swaps out sweet vermouth for a blended Madeira made up of tinta negra, the most common red varietal planted on the island. "We are always looking for ways to use Madeira in a cocktail at St. Anselm and it is a great substitution that stayed true to the integrity… [with] notes of raisin, cooked caramel, and toasted almonds [and] a punch of acidity.”

  • ¾ oz. rye whiskey (the bar uses Old Overholt)

  • ¾ oz. Broadbent 5 Year Reserve Madeira

  • ¾ oz. VS cognac (the bar uses Maison Rouge)

  • ¼ oz. Bénédictine

  • 3 dashes Angostura Bitters

  • Lemon twist, for garnish

Build the drink in the glass, add ice and stir to combine. Garnish with the lemon twist.

The Atlantis, courtesy Kimball House and Watchman’s, Atlanta

The Atlantis, courtesy Kimball House and Watchman’s, Atlanta

The Atlantis

Recipe courtesy of Miles Macquarrie, Beverage Director and Co-Owner, Kimball House and Watchman’s, Atlanta, GA

“With The Atlantis, I aimed to create a bright, tropical Manhattan,” Macquarrie says. “[Madeira] adds a toasted almond nuttiness, a subtle sweetness, and acidity. It’s the closest thing to juice that’s not juice.” If you don’t have access to an immersion circulator to infuse the pineapple rye you can just macerate a few pieces in a bit of the whiskey, though it may take a few days to impart more intense flavor.

  • 1 ½ oz. pineapple-infused, bonded rye whiskey (instructions follow)

  • 1 oz. bianco vermouth

  • ½ oz. Rainwater Madeira (a light, dry style name for the rainfall and cooler temperatures in the regions where the grapes for it are grown)

  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters

  • 2 dashes orange bitters

  • Lemon peel, for garnish

Add all ingredients except garnish to a mixing glass, add ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, express the lemon peel over the surface of the drink and then discard it.

Pineapple-infused rye whiskey

Add 2 cups cored, peeled and diced pineapple and a 750 ml bottle of bonded rye whiskey to a food-grade plastic bag, and cook at 140 degrees in a sous vide immersion circulator for 2 hours. Chill the mixture overnight in a sous-vide bag, strain through chinois and an oil filter and store in the refrigerator.