I don’t know about you, but Valentine’s Day usually sends me into a tailspin of stress. I always want to find the perfect grand romantic gesture, something that would have Lloyd Dobler — John Cusack’s character in Say Anything — nodding in approval.
Of course, this mostly revolves around upping our food and drinks game, not holding up boom boxes playing Peter Gabriel songs (though Mr. Five O’Clock does think it’s romantic when I sing to him, which happens maybe once a month). Sick of buying champagne every year, then, I decided to mix things up and seek out some creative pink and red drinks for my valentine this February.
Whether you’re in the mood for love or hanging out with your BFFs for Galentine’s Day, we’ve got you covered in the Valentine’s Day drinks department. Read on to see our colorful roundup of cocktails, wine, and beer!
Similar to its name, this cocktail ($15) gave me butterflies the first time I tried it at Garfunkel’s in the Lower East Side of New York City. Word to the wise: you’ll want to make a reservation to score a seat at this speakeasy, which is accessed by entering through The Burgary. The intimate, dark setting is absolutely perfect for impressing your date, whether it’s your first time meeting or your twentieth.
The Butterflies cocktail may look deceptively plain, but it’s not: it contains applejack, gin, lemon, and pomegranate shaken and served up. The pomegranate lends a refreshing taste to the cocktail, and it’s very easy to drink, as it’s not overwhelmingly sweet.
Drink This on Valentine’s Day If… you adore Audrey Hepburn, red roses, and boxes of chocolate. In short, you like a traditional Valentine’s Day, but want just a little tweak to keep things interesting.
Liefmans Fruitesse Beer
After a full day attending the New York Times Travel Show last month with Ashley of My Wanderlusty Life, I decided to take her to one of my favorite beer bars in New York City, Burp Castle (yes, that’s its real name–don’t judge). It’s a monastery themed bar, complete with paintings of monks floating on barrels on the walls and bartenders who shush people if they get too loud. I mean, you are at the “Temple of Beer Worship,” after all.
During this visit, we got around to chatting with a fellow gentleman with a last name that reminded us of coffee. I had ordered a sour beer, but mentioned that I wasn’t quite feeling it at the moment; Mr. Coffee Grounds then offered us a taste of his beer, Liefmans Fruitesse ($9). For me, it was complete love at first taste. This beer rocked my world: not only was its vibrant ruby color quite striking, but its aroma and taste of raspberries, dark cherries, and berries transported me to a warm summer’s day. It forever altered my perception of what fruit beers could taste like.
Drink This on Valentine’s Day If… you wish you were in Europe, you’re confident enough in yourself to admit that you like drinking a fruit beer, or you look dandy in a dirndl. Or if you just want your mind blown in the beer department.
During a recent visit to my local wine shop, I inquired if there were any pink wines that might be good for Valentine’s Day.
“Oh, you’ll want this wine. It’s a winter rosé,” one of the employees suggested.
Should we just call a spade a spade? A rosé by any other name is just as sweet.
As you can tell, I’m a bit dubious as to whether or not the term “winter rosé” is a real thing (can’t we just call it rosé and drink it at any time of year?), but it’s hard to quibble with what’s written on the bottle I purchased. The label for the 2016 Grain de Glace, which comes from Provence and is produced by Les Maîtres Vignerons de la Presqu’ile de Saint-Tropez, explicitly says it’s “le rosé de l’hiver,” which is French for “the rosé of winter.”
The wine itself has a beautiful pale pink color, with aromas of lychee and stone fruit. It’s a dry rosé made from grenache, cinsault, and syrah; because it’s dry, it doesn’t automatically feel like just a summer wine to me.
Drink This on Valentine’s Day If… your ideal romantic date is a picnic on a beach with the wind running through your hair and nobody else around for miles, or you like snuggling under layers of blankets and watching When Harry Met Sally while sipping hot chocolate.
Big Frenchy Cocktail
If brown spirits are more your jam, you’ll probably fall head over heels for the Big Frenchy cocktail ($14) at Tanner Smith’s in Midtown Manhattan. It includes Monkey Shoulder Scotch, Lejay Crème de Cassis, lemon, sugar, and Laphroaig mist. You’ll get some of the smoky, peaty flavors of scotch, but it won’t completely overpower the drink.
Pro tip: Tanner Smith’s has a main room at street level which serves food and drinks, as well as a cozier cocktail bar downstairs. They also offer a Tipsy Tea Brunch, should you want to go during daytime hours.
Drink This on Valentine’s Day If… you’re a regular James Bond or Lara Croft: adventurous, sultry, and determined to get what you want.
Bella Luna Cocktail
Don’t feel like going anywhere far from your apartment during the winter? We’re with you on that one. The Bella Luna cocktail — which was created by Brian Miller at Death & Company in 2009 — is one of our favorite cocktails to make in the comfort of our own home. It’s got Plymouth gin, St Germain, Crème Yvette, lemon juice, and simple syrup. We originally made this cocktail by accident when we were attempting to experiment with variations on the Aviation cocktail.
Want to make it yourself? You can find exact recipe amounts in the book Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails.
Drink This on Valentine’s Day If… you’re a rock star who doesn’t need NOBODY to tell you how awesome you are.
I never really understood Lambrusco until I had it at August Laura in Brooklyn. (August Laura, you may recall, is a place where staff take their drinks seriously, but seriously know how to have fun.) Or, rather, until I had Lambrusco in a cocktail. This Italian drink, called Spagliato ($12), has Fortify, Antica Carpano Sweet Vermouth, Lambrusco, an orange twist, and a red grape. The Lambrusco gives the drink an extra pop, making it slightly fizzy and sweet, but 100% delicious.
Drink This on Valentine’s Day If… you’re trying to convince that special someone to go to the next level or you want to have a fantastic night out with your crew.
Bonus: An Unnamed Drink That May or May Not Be Pink
One of my favorite things to do at cocktail bars is opt for the “bartender’s choice.” You provide some guidance to the bartender (e.g. “I want something with gin, and something that’s refreshing,” or “Bourbon, please, and citrusy”) and they’ll whip up a drink that matches your preferences.
On this particular occasion at Garfunkel’s, we asked for a drink with “bourbon” that was “like dessert.” Derek, the Beverage Director at Garfunkel’s, took on our challenge and returned with the drink pictured above. While we don’t know its name (alas, it is lost with time), we do know it had bourbon, creme de cacao, allspice liqueur, cream, nutmeg on top, and a blackberry garnish.
While there was no mystery about whether or not we liked it, we forget if it’s truly pink or purple. But hey, at the end of the day, that’s Valentine’s Day is all about: having a good time with people you love.
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