This Valentine’s Day, whether you’re staying at home (and I know most of you are) or venturing out to brave the elements or the indoors for a welcome bit of normalcy, chances are you’re going to want a pre-dinner cocktail. Maybe an after-dinner drink, too. It’s been that kind of year for all of us, which is why we’re giving you plenty of options for fun, delicious, and easy lockdown libations to make the upcoming holiday memorable, no matter the setting.
Between The Sheets
Created by Harry MacElhone
Here’s hoping the name of this cocktail is where you’re heading at the end of the evening, especially if you already live with your significant other. If not, a couple of these will definitely get you moving in that direction. Despite the risqué name, this cocktail is an old classic from the Prohibition-era, created by Harry MacElhone as a riff on the better known Sidecar and served at his famous Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. Even during the freewheeling days of Prohibition, it was a controversial drink for the higher-than-normal amount of alcohol in the recipe, so go easy on this one. The mix of rum, cognac, and triple sec creates a sultry, tropical experience that will have you dreaming of that long overdue beach vacation you’ve been planning together.
1 oz. Plantation Three Stars rum
1 oz. Cognac
1 oz. triple sec liqueur
.5 oz. lemon juice
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Created by Tony Devencenzi
The thought we all hope crosses through our significant other’s mind frequently, but especially on Valentine’s Day. If you’re drinking this one, you better be dressing the part, even if your Valentine’s Day consists of takeout, the dog, and several viewings of Love Actually (speaking from personal experience). This one is definitely a cocktail for the whisky-lover, and it works particularly well with bartender-friendly Bulleit bourbon (look for their Blenders’ Select). It also calls for the ever-polarizing dash of peaty, Islay Scotch, but trust me, the unique addition of Cardamaro and Benedictine really helps to integrate that kiss of salty smoke with a wonderful mix of sweet and spice.
1.5 oz Bulleit bourbon
.5 oz. Cardamaro vino amaro
.5 ounce Bénédictine
2 dashes chocolate bitters
1 tsp Laphroaig (or other Islay Scotch)
Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a flamed orange peel*.
*To flame an orange peel, gently squeeze the skin-side over the cocktail while exposing it to a lit match or lighter flame, 1-2 inches from the heat source.
Created by Ada Coleman
Every good Valentine’s Day deserves a little romantic mischief, and this cocktail will surely help set the appropriate mood. This one is also a classic that’s been around as long as actual hanky-panky. Well, almost. It was created a century ago by Ada Coleman for a famous regular at London’s legendary American Bar in the Savoy Hotel. As the story goes, he asked for something with a kick, Coleman produced this cocktail, and he exclaimed: “That is the real hanky-panky!” Just what makes it “the real hanky-panky?” Well, the extra helping of sweet vermouth adds a rich body to compliment the herbaceous qualities in the gin (use Monkey 47, if you can find it) while the Fernet-Branca adds a subtle bitterness. Silky, sweet, with just a bit of punch. I don’t know about you, but that’s my kind of hanky-panky.
1.5 oz. Monkey 47 gin
1.5 oz. sweet vermouth
2 dashes Fernet-Branca
Combine all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with an orange twist.
If all of the wine and chocolate haven’t convinced you to call it an evening, you can keep the night’s imbibing humming along with another cocktail or, better yet, an after-dinner digestif. Fun fact: the word “digestif” comes from the French medecin digestif, an alcoholic beverage enjoyed after a meal to aid in digestion. So, depending on the kind of Valentine’s Day dinner you’re planning to enjoy, this may be a crucial ingredient in your evening. Read on for a few classic offerings, as well as some unique craft-made spirits that we highly recommend.
Remy Martin V.S.O.P / Charbay Brandy No. 83
Not surprisingly, the best known digestif actually comes from the country that coined the term: France. Specifically, the Cognac region of France, where world-class brandy is made. One of the biggest and oldest of the Cognac producers is Remy Martin, and the distillery’s V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale) offering is a great way to conclude a Valentine’s Day evening on an indulgent note.
If you’re looking for a brandy a little less ubiquitous but no less delicious, California’s Charbay Distillery produces several American brandies of exceptional quality. Their No. 83 release was double-distilled from 100% Folle Blanche, the classic grape variety of Cognac, then aged in new French Limousin and Nevers Oak barrels for 27 years. The result is a buttery and beautifully balanced spirit with notes of dried fruits, nuts, and spices.
Amaro Nonino / Baltamaro Fernet
Amaro, the Italian word for bitter, is an increasingly popular type of digestif (as well as a great cocktail enhancement) that comes in a wide variety of flavors and styles. While the word itself may mean bitter, Amaro Nonino is one of the mildest on the market. Made from a grappa base and infused with alpine botanicals and herbs, it’s just the right mix of sweet and herbal with lovely citrus notes and a minimally mouth-puckering finish.
For something a little more robust, Baltimore Spirits Co.’s Baltamaro line includes a playful American riff on the popular, and exceptionally bitter, Italian style spirit amari, Fernet-Branca. Dubbed Baltamaro Fernet, this is a drink that will get your attention, but not nearly like the original, with a beautiful aroma of licorice and a well-balanced, minty palate.
Avion 44 / OWL Extra Anejo
Tequila may not seem like the best way to end a quiet, romantic evening, but studies have shown that agave-based spirits are actually some of the best digestifs. As tequilas go, Avion 44 Extra Anejo is an otherworldly tipple, aged 44 months in ex-bourbon casks that impart cinnamon and expressive oak notes to complement the earthiness of the agave.
For an equally enjoyable experience with a side of mindfulness (not a bad thing to have during these difficult times), small, organic producer One With Life offers another exceptional extra anejo. Aged five years in both American and French oak, this tequila shows notes of aromatic honey and creamy butterscotch. Plus, there’s an inspirational message inscribed on the back label of each bottle. That’s my kind of fortune cookie.