Valentine’s Day Cocktails Worth Sipping (and Some to Avoid)

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Poul Lange

There’s nothing I hate more than sugary sweet cocktails. Yet, every year around this time my Inbox is inundated with pitches about brilliant “mixologist” creations involving ingredients like cherry vodka, tres leches liqueur, and melted chocolate–sometimes all in one drink (and no, I’m not joking).

So here’s my blind-item tribute to the most cringe-worthy concoctions to have come across my desk recently:

  • Which typically well-regarded hotel is making a specialty Valentine’s cocktail of vanilla vodka, watermelon liqueur, cranberry juice, and pineapple juice topped with Champagne?
  • Which vodka brand is marketing its chocolate vodka with a mixologist-created cocktail featuring chocolate vodka, strawberries, mint, sugar, lemon juice, and champagne?
  • Which Asian restaurant is betting that a cloying confection of sake, amaretto liqueur, chocolate liqueur, raspberry purée, and chocolate syrup will pair well with its cuisine?

Sorry, but heartburn is not the throbbing sensation that I’m looking for on Valentine’s Day. Instead, if you are looking to partake in, ahem, exploratory deep-evening activities, perhaps something a little more elegant and restrained is in order, in the meantime.

In this regard, the classics never let you down. For a lighter cocktail, I recommend a Champagne cocktail (place a sugar cube into a Champagne flute and add 3 dashes of Angostura onto it. Then add Champagne almost to fill, and finish with a dash of Cognac. Garnish with a lemon twist). For a seductive winter warmer, my go-to is a riff on a Manhattan that features Carpano Antica Vermouth, a richly spiced vermouth that is delicious on its own. With Carpano, I’m a little more generous with the vermouth to let its warming spices come through in the cocktail. I typically make a 50/50 Manhattan (half bourbon, half Carpano) or go a little stronger with a 2:1 ratio (3 ounces bourbon to 1.5 ounces vermouth). Since the Carpano Antica Vermouth has so much flavor, and a bit of bitterness, no additional bitters are needed. Finally, for that celebratory touch, add an amarena cherry.

Both of these cocktails are sexy, festive, delicious–and not too sweet. Enjoy!