Wine & Spirits: Be (or Don’t Be) My Valentine

by WL Author

V-Day libations to get lovers in the mood (and make the lovelorn forget).

By Kelly A. Magyarics

The sweet-tart ‘Seduction’ cocktail by mixologist Cory Cuff. (Photo courtesy of Solomon Oh)

Those who adore Valentine’s Day just can’t get enough of the hearts, the red, the satin boxes of chocolate. But for those unattached, jilted or just plain jaded, the holiday can be a bitter little pill. Whether you are romantic or romantically challenged, we’ve got the cocktail for you this February 14.

For the Lovers:

Four Seasons Hotels recently hosted a virtual cocktail class, during which three of their mixologists created sultry Valentine’s Day-inspired sips. (I mixed up the same drinks at home with them, thanks to the complete kit o’ ingredients and tools they graciously sent me, and you can view all of the recipes, images and videos here.) Duane Sylvestre of D.C.’s Bourbon Steak concocted a duo of his-and-her Rye-based libations. Adam is strained into a chilled rocks glass, while Eve goes into a flute and is tempered with Champagne. You can watch Duane mix both here.

The ‘Adam’ cocktail combines rye, Cointreau, lemon and bitters; add Champagne to it and it becomes ‘Eve.’ (Photo courtesy Solomon Oh)

Adam and Eve
Recipe courtesy Duane Sylvestre, Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons, Washington, D.C.
2 oz. Knob Creek Rye Whiskey
1 ½ oz. Cointreau
3 Dashes Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters
4 Dashes Peychauds Bitters
Lemon peel
4-5 oz. Piper Heidsieck Champagne

Add Rye, Cointreau and both bitters into a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain about 1 ½ ounces into a chilled Champagne flute, and the remainder into a chilled rocks glass. Top off the flute with the Champagne, and garnish both drinks with a lemon twist.

Cory Cuff
, mixologist at the Four Seasons St. Louis, whipped up the Seduction, another rye-based cocktail. The addition of Pinot Noir lends it a little bit of earthiness and berry flavor, and blackcurrant liqueur (otherwise known as Crème de Cassis) ramps up its tartness. Watch him make it here.

Recipe courtesy Cory Cuff, mixologist, The Four Seasons, St. Louis, Missouri
1 oz. Pinot Noir (Cuff uses Mission Point from California, but any fruity one will do)
2 oz. Knob Creek Rye Whiskey
½ oz. Mathilde Blackcurrant Liqueur (or another Crème de Cassis)
½ oz. Lemon juice
Lemon peel, for garnish

Add all except lemon peel to a cocktail tin. Add ice, and shake vigorously until chilled. Strain the cocktail into a chilled rocks glass that has fresh ice, and garnish with a lemon twist.


For the Love-less:

If you find yourself firmly in the camp of Valentine’s Day haters (either by choice or not), ease your feelings of sour grapes with a vinegar- or shrub-based cocktail. San Francisco bartender Carlo Splendorini is fond of using Balsamic vinegar in his sips — which he says add depth and nuance to cocktails. He replaces bitters with Balsamic in the traditional Champagne cocktail, soaking a sugar cube in it before topping with rum and Champagne, garnished with an orange twist.

And Splendorini’s “The Spy Who Loved Me” combines vodka, gin and strawberry purée with bitter (Aperol or Campari) and sour (fig-infused Balsamic.)

The Spy Who Loved Me
Recipe courtesy Carlo Splendorini, mixologist, San Francisco, CA
1 oz. Vodka
1 oz. Gin
2 Tbsp strawberry purée or finely crushed strawberries
1 ½ Tsp (1/4 oz.) fig-infused Balsamic vinegar
1 oz. Lemon juice
½ oz. Aperol or Campari
Pink and black peppercorns, for garnish

Add all except garnish to a cocktail tin. Add ice, and shake vigorously until chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with freshly ground pink and black pepper.

Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website,, or on Twitter @kmagyarics.

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