We all know that Valentine’s Day is a commercialized holiday designed to sell cards, chocolates, and flowers. These days, we could all use a reason to celebrate even if it is on a Monday. This year, in addition to all the usual suspects when it comes to presents, we’re going to be making some unique and decidedly Valentine’s Day-themed drinks to celebrate as well. You can add “red” to just about anything and call it a Valentine’s Day cocktail, but there are a wide variety of simple and sophisticated cocktail options that take things to the next level. These are the best Valentine’s Day cocktails.
Valentine’s is all about celebrating, so there had to be at least one fizzy cocktail with sparkling wine. Instead of straight champagne, we’re taking a trip to Italy with the ever-popular Aperol Spritz. The combination of Prosecco, Aperol, club soda, and a fruit garnish is the kind of refreshing and effervescent drink that’s more traditionally reserved for the summertime, but Italians drink it as an aperitivo all year round so we see no reason it can’t also be enjoyed on Valentine’s.
Next to the spritz, the Negroni is probably the most famous Italian cocktail. You could fill an entire bookcase with tomes written about this cocktail despite the fact it’s one of the easiest drinks to make. Equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth come together to create a refreshingly bitter and herbaceous cocktail that is as balanced as it is bright (in both color and flavor).
When it comes to Valentine’s Day gifts, the two things most synonymous with the holiday are roses and chocolates. This martini is the perfect evening drink for the chocolate aficionado looking for something a little less red. While there’s no official recipe, we like this rich and creamy version with vodka, Irish cream, creme de cacao, heavy cream, simple syrup, and cocoa powder. (Just don’t skip the grated chocolate garnish).
We know we said it didn’t have to be about the drinks being red because of the inclusion of Campari. But we’ll make an exception for the Negroni’s cousin the Boulvardier. It’s essentially a Negroni with bourbon instead of gin (though we do tend to pour more heavily with the base spirit so it’s whiskey-forward) but the whiskey substitution tones down the herbaceous notes just enough to make it more nuanced. Plus, you know, it’s red.
Sparkling Cranberry Sangria
Wine is the go-to Valentine’s Day drink for obvious reasons. But we like to spice it up Spanish-style by making Sangria. This particular version brings all the traditional Sangria flavors from wine and fruit together with cinnamon sticks, more cranberries, brandy, and club soda to create a more boozy, effervescent, and complex beverage. But be careful because they will sneak up on you.
While it’s not our particular cup of tea–nor is it anywhere near as popular as it used to be– but, if the Hallmark version of Valentine’s Day had an official cocktail it would probably be the Cosmopolitan. Vodka, cranberry juice, triple sec, and fresh lime juice (don’t use the stuff from the bottle) are married in this classic cocktail that’s a combination of sweet, tart, and tang. Don’t let the bright color or the history fool you, they’re actually incredibly boozy.
Clover Club Cocktail
Take an herbal, bitter, and distinct spirit like gin, add berries (raspberry syrup in this case), and fresh lemon juice to get the base for the eponymous Clover Club Cocktail from New York. Clover Club takes their cocktail to the next level with the addition of dry vermouth and an egg white that elevates this libation from simply deliciously drinkable to pretty enough to have a restaurant named after it.
Leave it to the French to transform a few very simple ingredients into a drink greater than the sum of its parts. In the case of the Kir Royale, that’s Crème de cassis (a sweet, dark red liqueur made from black currants), Champagne, and berries layered in that order into a champagne flute. The end result is a perfectly balanced and sweet drink that’s bright, effervescent, and–dare we say it–romantic.
Blood Orange Gin & Tonic
When it comes to timeless cocktails, the classic gin and tonic is near the top of the list. Herbal, zesty, citrusy, nuanced, and infinitely customizable depending on your tastes, it’s a classic cocktail good anytime. For Valentine’s Day though, sweeten things up a bit with the addition of blood orange juice (or substitute sparkling blood orange for the tonic) for flavor and color.
Bésame (Kiss Me) Cocktail
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more romantic cocktail than the Bésame. The Bésame–which translates from the Spanish to “kiss me”–uses Agavero liqueur that is made with 100% agave, anejo, and reposado tequila and flavored with the essence of the Damiana flower to create a sweet, agave-like taste with herbal and floral notes. Combine the Agavero with fresh fruits, berries, and juices and you have the recipe for a special drink with a tropical twist. (Bonus points because the Damiana flower is allegedly a very potent aphrodisiac.)