Valentine’s Day dinner service is all about creating a special and romantic experience for the couples dining with you. With a restaurant full of candle lit two-tops, VDay service will also be a bit different than your everyday service. One perfect way to create a unique experience for the hallmark holiday is to create a speciality cocktail menu. Here are tips for creating trendy Valentine’s Day cocktails that pair well with each food course.
Where to Start?
Pairing cocktails with food can be tricky. With wine pairings or beer pairings, the drinks must compliment the flavors of the food. That’s the same for cocktails. But when pairing with hard liquor, the strength of alcohol can easily overpower the flavors of food. It’s why stiff drinks like a traditional manhattan or even a mixer like vodka and soda don’t work well as side kicks for entrees.
Think Low Proof
A quick and crowd-pleasing fix to combat heavy hitting alcohol flavor is to create cocktails with low alcohol content. Amaro, fruit liqueurs, and sparkling wines are great ingredients for low proof cocktails that are exciting and creative.
When I was managing bars, our dinner services for Valentine’s Day always include a preset menu with a predetermined progression of courses. With this in mind, you should create cocktails that work with each course.
The best drink to begin a meal with is sparkling wine or champagne. You can create an easy to drink Champagne Cocktail that sets the right tone for a romantic meal. A sparkling wine cocktail is perfect to pair with light starters like salads or even hardier vegetable dishes like Brussels sprouts.
Here’s one recipe for a Champagne Cocktail:
.5 oz. Aperol
1 sugar cube
3-4 dashes of Angostura or other Aromatic bitters
4 oz. Champagne or dry sparkling wine
Garnish with long lemon twist
To build the cocktail:
Add sugar cube to Champagne flute or coupe
Drench cube with bitters
Garnish with twist and serve.
This is a classic recipe that will cause your guests eyes to sparkle when it’s presented.
Getting Fancy With It
If you’d like to elevate this drink, a great way to do it is by creating a caviar of a fruit liqueur. What the heck is liqueur caviar? It’s a squishy solid ball that you make from a liquid. Fruit juices are great to use here, but to mix with sparkling wine or Champagne, I really like to use a fruit liqueur like Framboise.
Another term for this is spherification. It’s a fancy term that exists in the realm of molecular mixology. If you’re rolling your eyes here, I don’t blame you! But hear me out. This is a relatively easy process, as long as you have the right ingredients.
The ingredients you will need to purchase are sodium alginate and calcium chloride. Here’s a recipe you can follow for Cointreau caviar. Just swap whatever liqueur or juice you want for the Cointreau.
Buy Premade Spheres
And if you don’t have the time or interest in becoming a mad scientist behind the bar, you can buy pre-made spheres from Cocktail Caviar.
What’s the Point?
Adding a liqueur caviar to sparkling wine adds flair and a wow factor to your drink. You can also prep them before service, and simply add them to your glass of sparkling wine, and voila, you’ve created a delicious drink that won’t slow down service.
Fish or Seafood Pairing
One of my favorite cocktails is the French 75. It’s a very refreshing mix of gin, lemon, and sparkling wine.
If we want to stick with the philosophy of low-proof cocktails for Valentine’s Day, then we can swap out the gin in favor St. Germain or another elderflower liqueur. This is a great drink to pair with seafood, as the floral notes of the St. Germain will add depth of flavor, while the effervescence of sparkling wine and the citrus of the lemon will add balance and acidity.
This is also a great pairing for a lighter chicken dish, and won’t overpower salads.
Elderflower 75 Recipe
.75 oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
4 oz. Cava Brut sparkling wine
1 dash angostura bitters
Garnish with lemon twist
Beef and Meat Course Pairing
If you’re pairing a cocktail with a steak, or even lamb or rabbit, you shoot for a bold flavor profile with your cocktail pairing. You will still want to keep the alcohol content low, so you don’t want to just a mix an old fashioned to plop next to your meat course.
This recipe calls for just a small float of mezcal to add smoke and depth of flavor.
Deep Velvet Recipe
.5 oz. Lime juice
1.5 oz. Aperol
3 oz. Pomengranite juice
Garnish with lime wheel
After Dinner Digestif
A good after dinner drink should help a diner digest after a wonderful meal. For this digestion aid, I suggest an amaro flip. A flip is a cocktail with a full egg added to it. This gives it a thick texture that is perfect if you’re the type that wants to drink their dessert. To make it a bit more decadent, you can add chocolate bitters.
We will also use Montenegro amaro, one of the most popular amari in Italy. Montenegro is on the sweet side of Italian bitters, so it is perfect for guests who may not take to the more herbal styles of amaro.
Montenegro Flip Recipe
1 oz. Montenegro amaro
.5 oz dark rum
.5 oz simple syrup, or .25 oz. demerara syrup
2-3 dashes Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate bitters
1 whole egg
Pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon to garnish