What’s the perfect Valentine’s Day drink? Depends on what the day means to you.
An exciting rendezvous might call for something adventurous. Is this a celebration of longevity? Something with champagne. If you can’t stand Valentine’s Day, perhaps you need something to take the edge off quickly. In creating the perfect drink, local bartenders, mixologists and cocktail curators rope in all the variables they can for the perfect night, and then ask: Does it taste good?
“We try to pair it with what we’ll be serving; this is a celebratory occasion. Then we gussy it up with Valentine’s Day colors, like a lot of reds and pinks,” said Mike Day, bartender at Giorgio’s (707 Milford Road, Merrimack).
For some, the ultimate choice is the martini, an elegant, malleable drink that can be garnished. Champagne and strawberries usually work for the occasion but need to be timed correctly. Giorgio’s is serving a prix fixe menu, so the best time to have a fancy cocktail is before or after the food starts rolling, he said.
“They need to be light and fruity, but not something that will get them so full they won’t enjoy the meal,” Day said. “Though we do wind up serving a lot of drinks with champagne or strawberry puree in them, and they go good with a little bit of fish and chicken.”
At Cotton (74 Arms St., Manchester), mixologist Peaches Paige crafts some of the best sellers on the bar menu.
“Long ago we realized that a raspberry martini is typically not going to complement the meal,” she said.
Valentine’s cocktails, especially martinis, are all about having fun, Paige said. The Hangar One Flirtini, Cotton’s biggest Valentine’s drink, uses raspberry vodka with a pop of champagne for a bubbly, special-occasion feel. Cotton’s after-dinner Valentine’s cocktail, the Royal Godiva, uses rich chocolate with raspberry and decadent garnishes.
“Anything you can come up with that’s kind of romantic works. Chocolate and raspberry go together a lot better than chocolate and strawberry, I’ve found, and it’s something that’s going to spark something in people,” Paige said.
Some diners will only go so far; women tend to try something new, Paige said. When it comes to guys, they might only go for one.
“On Valentine’s Day guys might have to drink a champagne,” Day said. “One of our most popular is an after-dinner chocolate espresso martini that is popular with both guys and girls, but then they go back to their old staple.”
And if that’s bourbon, the Hanover Street Chophouse has you covered with two dozen of them on a special “bourbon aficionado” list that owner Steven Clutter put together.
“I bought a barrel that I just received last week; they are all hand-selected brands that we wanted to spotlight. We do a lot of them after dinner and serve a lot of Manhattans and things like that,” Clutter said.
Blanton’s Single Barrel, Jim Beam Black, Maker’s Mark 46 and Woodford Reserve Double Oaked are among the hard-to-find brands they’re offering. Hanover Street Chophouse is serving a dinner package that focuses on wines and a champagne amuse served at the beginning of the meal. A lot of sit-down diners will order big-selling martinis like the blueberry lemon drop or the Asian pear, Clutter said, but it all depends.
“We focus on the wines and champagnes to set a fun mood in the beginning and get them off to the right start. The bourbon is a nice thing at the end of the meal, especially in a steakhouse, and we find women are bourbon drinkers too,” he said.
And for those who hate the holiday, fret not. Clark’s Tavern (40 Nashua St., Milford) owner Liesl Clark is saying “If You See Kay” to it.
“We’re taking some If You See Kay wine and making it into a sangria,” she said.
The drink’s name, which faced some criticism last year from consumers who were offended by how it sounds when said aloud, embodies how some people feel about the day, Clark said.
Clark’s will be serving menu items like broken-hearted pizzas and hosting games that singles can play, like Twister and bingo, but she says the main attraction for Valentine’s Day, or rather, an anti-Valentine’s Day, is the booze. Clark hopes to attract the single, the recently crestfallen and the couples who are looking to get a little looser than normal.
“I think it’s something a lot of people say about Valentine’s Day. You could go to the nice restaurants, or come here and not have a date and be grumpy on purpose and make fun of it,” she said.