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The Perfect Valentine’s Day Adult Beverage

Happy Valentine's Day - from Russia with Love

Celebrate love and friendships with this favorite cocktail recipe.

There’s more to a mixed drink than a chunk of fruit, a swizzle stick, and a little paper umbrella. Most people think of mixed drinks as “cocktails” and some mixes are so popular that they’ve become cultural standards. Practically everyone knows, for instance, that a Martini (either Gin or Vodka) can be shaken or stirred. What would tacos be without Margaritas? And, I can’t think of many adults who haven’t heard the Eagles song “Tequila Sunrise,” and then tried a glass at least once in their lifetime.

Mixed drinks can be so much fun, sweet or savory, and they have a ton of history behind them. The Oxford English Dictionary says that the word “cocktail” originated in the U.S., but this may have referred to any mixed drink but it didn’t have to be alcoholic. Then there are a few obscure American publications from the early 1800s that actually define cocktails as a “stimulating liquor” mixed with other spirits. But, the word ‘cocktail’ (unless you’re talking about shrimp or crab) is commonly used to refer to any generic mixed beverage that contains at least two ingredients (could be a whole lot more!) with one of those ingredients containing alcohol.

A friend of mine is a career bartender. He has a huge bookshelf dedicated to what seems like every type of mixed drink known to humankind. Some of his books even date back to the 1920s. I mean, it’s really an impressive collection. That bookshelf would be so easy to get lost in – if you’re like me and you like to read recipes!

But, what most people don’t know is that there’s more to “mixology” (the art of creating and mixing alcoholic beverages) than just preparing mixed drinks. It’s also a study of trends and style. I’ve gone to many parties where professional bartenders in black and white uniforms mixed fabulous drinks with tools like jiggers, shot glasses, stirring rods and strainers. I’ve also been to events where the bartenders dressed in t-shirts and swimsuits and poured ingredients into holes at the top of huge ice sculptures where the drinks dribbled out – already mixed – from spigots near the bottom.

Some of the best drinks I’ve had were mixed by friends – or ones that I mixed for them. The drink is always far more memorable when shared with friends for a celebration like a birthday, an anniversary, or in this case, Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day just happens to be one of those “special days” that people tend to focus on love. And, of course, since we’re talking Valentine’s Day, there are so many special cocktail recipes to choose from.
One comes from a favorite website – thekitchn.com – they always have great ideas. I searched their site and this year they have a really fabulous Valentines Champagne Cocktail recipe that caught my eye.  It was simple to create, had only a couple of ingredients (chocolate!) and was so pretty.

It combines Chambord – a raspberry liquor, Dark Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, with one of my favorite champagnes – Veuve Clicquot. Not sure if it ever gets better than raspberries, dark chocolate, and champagne for Valentine’s.  They garnished theirs with coco nibs but I love how raspberries look floating in champagne so I just changed the garnish!

This recipe makes one drink.

  • 1/2 ounce Dark Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce Chambord
  • Champagne, to fill
  • Fresh Raspberries, for garnish, optional

Drop a couple of raspberries into a champagne flute and pour in the Godiva and the Chambord. Then top with chilled Champagne. This is so easy you can set up a whole tray to be ready at your front door as your guests arrive if you’re having a party – OR – if it’s just you and your ‘SO’, then this special cocktail is perfect for you. When you want that second drink, it’s so fast to make.

Recipe for a Quick Pickle

A quick pickle VERT

An easy “pickle” recipe that’s great for home or as a gift.

I had a great Bloody Mary at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, and they served a simply wonderful vinegary/garlicky green bean as one of the vegetable garnishes – no celery stalk!   I was so impressed with the taste and simplicity, I brought the idea home and decided to try it for myself.

What I found out was that quick pickling is very easy. It requires no specialized equipment or skills, and it’s not at all like canning food. The recipe itself takes VERY little time, and it can be done with just about any firm vegetable – green beans, carrots, cucumbers, onions, asparagus, etc.

The main ingredients for the pickling “sauce” (brining liquid) are vinegar, water, Kosher salt (or pickling salt), and maybe sugar. You can use apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, rice wine vinegar, and so on depending on the flavor you are going for. Do not use balsamic or malt vinegar (no aged vinegar). Know that table salt is just way too salty and too hard to control so you want to stay away from that. I use Kosher salt because it is so easy to manage the taste.

Also, the veggies do not have to be cooked, but I recommend that you blanch them to bring out their natural color. Check out my video on the simple way to blanch veggies.

Before you start, think about the flavors you want for your pickled vegetables. There’s no science to it – it’s all to taste. For instance, I used lots of mustard seed and sliced garlic because I love garlic and I think the pickling tastes great when there’s a nice little kick at the end. I may also use more salt and vinegar than you want. If you want sweeter vegetables, add more sugar to the brine mixture.

Finally, for presentation (critical!) I settled on these 8oz (240ml) tall jars that have 2” mouths, about 6” tall, and gold colored lids. They’re not too big, just right for pickling, and you can get them from Amazon. They make a lovely presentation – especially if you’re planning on giving them out as gifts. And you’ll want to add gift tags to your jars. I found some cute rustic looking gift tags from Amazon as well that I think adds a nice touch.

Here’s my video for quick pickling veggies. You can see that everything is mix and taste. My recipe is loosely based on Michael Symon’s recipe for pickled onions. And you can find some helpful instructions for pickling from one of my favorite websites thekitchn.com.

Instructions:

  1. Wash the jars and dry thoroughly.
  2. Prep your veggies to the shape you want to fit into your jars. Tall stuff should be a tad below the “shoulder” of the jar (below the rim). And don’t forget to blanch the veggies for great color!
  3. Pack your blanched veggies into the jars and set aside on a tray so that when you add the liquid the excess stays in the tray and you don’t make a mess.
  4. Mix your pickling brine. Start by pouring equal parts of vinegar and water into a large pan. Add kosher salt. Add sugar (if you want it). Add more vinegar (if you need it). Add spices. I used mustard seed, black peppercorns, bay leaves, coriander seed, fresh dill, and sliced garlic. Remember, this is to taste, so start easy and work your way up to the flavor you want.
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar (if used). Taste the brine as you reach boiling and adjust seasoning (e.g., add salt, vinegar, spices).
  6. Ladle the brine mixture into the veggie filled jars. Make sure that you scoop up some of the spices. Be sure to add enough brine to cover the veggies, but leave some room at the top of the jars. If you decide to use the jars I suggested, then you’ll want to fill the liquid to the “shoulder.”
  7. Tap the jars to remove air bubbles that may have formed.
  8. Screw the lids on loosely and let them cool to room temp.
  9. Tighten lids and then refrigerate.

Your pickled veggies will get some flavor in as little as 6 hours, but I think you should leave them for at least 24 hours so that the vegetables absorb the full flavor of the brine. Remember that this is not like canning so they won’t last very long. Keep them in the refrigerator.  Recommended shelf life is about 2-3 weeks.

The whole experience made me think about how simple it is to make something that tastes great. And how cool is it to give a gift that you’ve made yourself.