15 Pretty Cocktails to Make for the One You Love

15 Pretty Cocktails to Make for the One You Love
Photo: Claire Lower

Wining and dining is a Valentine’s Day tradition, but I tend to prefer snacking and cocktailing. If you would like to make a similar pivot, you’re going to need some cocktail recipes. Lucky for you and your beloved, we have plenty.

Get highly personal with a Gibson

Photo: DevojkaPhoto: Devojka

As Devojka explained in her article on the under-appreciated cocktail, there are many reasons to introduce your love to the martini’s sassy fraternal twin:

When I finally came across a Gibson, I was intrigued and delighted. Of course, I still adore a good olive-garnished martini, but on the spectrum of brine, olives skew more on the salty side, leaving my acid-loving heart something to be desired. The Gibson, on the other hand, seemed to hit all points with aplomb. Vinegary, salty, a touch sweet — and what’s more Balkan than eating an onion while sipping on booze? I was in love.

To make a Gibson, you will need:

  • 60 ml Gin
  • 30 ml Dry Vermouth
  • Barspoon onion brine if you like it a little dusty

Pour the gin and vermouth into a chilled stirring glass, and add cracked ice. Stir for about 25-30 seconds, then strain into a chilled coupe. (If going for a dusty Gibson, rinse your chilled coupe with the barspoon of brine, or add the brine directly to your mixing glass before stirring.) Garnish with as many cocktail onions as you’d like.

Keep it classic with a martini

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

There are nearly as many ways to make a martini as their martin drinkers, but it’s hard to go wrong with the classic 3:1:

Some people might call this a “classic” or “standard” martini, while others might yell at me for doing that. (I do feel like cocktail writing is 50% trying to help people drink and 50% trying to not get yelled at, but it’s still very fun!) This is a martini where the vermouth is definitely present, which is a good thing because vermouth is delicious.

To make it, you need:

  • 66.5 ml gin
  • 22 ml dry vermouth
  • An olive (or 3) or strip of lemon zest for garnish

Stir all ingredients in a chilled mixing glass over cracked ice for at least a minute to make sure the cocktail is properly chilled and diluted, but still dense and silky. Strain into a coupe and garnish with your olive or strip of lemon zest.

A pretty pink cooler

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

This vibrant little number calls for a DIY strawberry syrup, but that syrup is very easy to make, and well worth the effort (use frozen berries if you can’t find any fresh ones in February):

If you’ve ever had a shaken Campari before, you know that a bit of dilution and a lot of agitation can transform something sweet and viscous into an airy, guzzle-able libation. The same is true for Hood strawberry liqueur. Combine them and shake them together, and you get a fruity but complex beverage…

To make it, you will need:

  • 44 ml Campari
  • 44 ml Strawberry Liqueur

Add both liqueurs to a shaker with a big ol’ ice cube and shake as hard as you can, for as long as you can. Strain into a coupe glass or over crushed ice. Serve with a lemon wedge if you need a little hit of acid.

“Pink” gin

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

OK, so maybe this should be called “orange gin” but there is something very sexy serving a drink that’s this stiff:

Some people make Pink Gin simply by rinsing a chilled glass with bitters, but I like mine with many dashes of them — about six. Since this drink is mostly gin, dilution is very important, so stir it for longer than you think you need to. If this still seems like too much gin, you can add tonic for a Pink Gin & Tonic, which is a little more reasonable. Pink Gin is traditionally served with a strip of lemon zest (oils expressed into the glass), but you get extra points if you can find pink lemons (pictured above).

To make Pink Gin, you will need:

  • 60 ml gin
  • 6 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 strip of lemon zest (ideally from a pink lemon)

Add gin and bitters to a stirring glass full of ice and stir until it is very, very cold. Strain into a coupe and express the oils from the lemon zest into the glass.

A blushing sparkling cocktail

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

Good rosé doesn’t need any additions, but mediocre pink sparkling wine is vastly improved by the addition of sugar and bitters:

The Champagne cocktail is a drink so simple, I might even hesitate to call it a “cocktail.” A sugar cube, soaked in Angostura bitters and topped with dry, chilled Champagne is so easy to execute, it almost feels like cheating, but the resulting drink is surprisingly flavorful and very refined. (Plus, it looks very pretty.) To make it even prettier, and slightly more summery, I used sparkling rosé instead of Champagne, and swapped out Angostura bitters for orange.

To make your own, you will need:

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 4-5 dashes of orange bitters
  • Dry sparkling rosé

Place the sugar cube in the base of a Champagne flute, and saturate the sucrose with bitters. Gently pour your sparkling wine down the edge of the flute, and get to sipping in a most sophisticated fashion.

Invite love to stay with an Intro to Aperol

Photo: DevojkaPhoto: Devojka

This veritable love potion of a cocktail will ensure love stays the night (and perhaps the next day):

I have a cocktail that I think is superb for this bewitching endeavour. The Intro to Aperol is a dazzling drink, perfect for stimulating the appetite and inspiring the heart. It demands nary a syrup, swizzle, or garnish; only your good intentions and a god’s honest shake. Love will love it.

To make it, you will need:

  • 2 hearty dashes of Angostura
  • 22 ml lemon juice
  • 60 ml Aperol
  • 30 ml gin
  • Optional: an orange twist

Pour all the ingredients into your shaker, then fill with ice when you are ready to shake. Seal your shaker and shake vigorously — this is no time to be demure — for a slow count of 15 seconds. Strain immediately into a chilled coupe and serve right away.

Get cheerful with a Cheerwine kalimotxo

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

I like my drinks like I like my dates: cheap and cheerful. And this Southern twist on a Spanish classic is just that:

I want something I can eyeball, and I want it to be fun. This kalitmotxo — which is made with the burgundy-hued, cherry flavored soft drink, Cheer Wine — is all of that. To play up the cherry factor, and keep the drink cold without diluting it, I added frozen cherries as our third ingredient.

To make one for yourself, you will need:

  • Some quantity of dry-ish, cheap red wine (A blend is fine. Boxed is fine. It’s all fine.)
  • An equal amount of Cheerwine
  • 4 or 5 frozen cherries per glass

Add the cherries to your drinking vessel, fill it up halfway with real wine, and then fill it up the rest of the way with Cheer Wine.

Say “За здоровье!” to love with the Soviet Spritz

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

Most of my love interests share my passion for vintage porn and Soviet history, and this sparkling beverage is perfect for sipping on while watching any of these classic skin flicks:

The Soviet Union no longer exists, but you can still find Сове́тское шампа́нское at Russian food markets (and Kachka, if you happen to live in Portland). When mixed with sour cherry syrup, it tastes like a cherry soda, so much so that two ounces of vodka will go completely undetected by your tongue. If you cannot find Soviet Champagne, any sweet sparkling wine will do. As for the cherry syrup, you can make your own, or you can buy a bottle of Zergüt (or similar brand).

To make this Soviet Spritz, you will need:

  • 60 ml of vodka
  • 1 tablespoon of sour cherry syrup, such as Zergüt
  • 88 ml Сове́тское шампа́нское (Sovetskoye Shampanskoye) or another sweet sparkling wine

Add vodka and syrup to a champagne glass and stir to combine. Top with chilled Сове́тское шампа́нское, and sip.

Have an affair with Gloria

Photo: DevojkaPhoto: Devojka

Negronis are great, but they’re more of an every day cocktail. The Gloria, on the other hand, is a fancy lady best suited for special occasions:

The Gloria cocktail is often spoken of as the lovechild of the Negroni and the Martini, but she’s also totally her own person, too, ok? I think she might be a Libra. The point is that she is delicious and very, very pretty, with a translucent red glow reminiscent of a rare ruby.

To meet her, you will need:

  • 45 ml Gin (dry, London)
  • 15 ml Campari
  • 15 ml Dry Vermouth
  • 15 ml Cointreau
  • Lemon twist for garnish

Pour ingredients into the chilled mixing glass first (you don’t need anything fancy, a Boston glass or similar will do) then fill with cracked ice, larger pieces first and smaller shards last. Stir carefully, keeping the back of your bar spoon against the glass and adding ice if needed. The wetter the ice, the less time you have to work with, so keep that in mind.

Generally, you want to stir until the mixing glass has re-frosted, about 30 seconds. Once sufficiently stirred, remove your coup from the freezer (not a moment sooner) and strain into the glass. Express the lemon peel over the glass and garnish.

Take your love to new heights with a Paper Plane

Photo: DevojkaPhoto: Devojka

For a more leisurely take on the juicy modern classic, try serving your Paper Plane over ice:

I imagine this is what the experience of sipping a Paper Plane for the first time must be like for so many people — a kaleidoscopic hit of lacquered nectar that is fresh, juicy, bright, sweet, tart, bitter, and unexpectedly complex all at once. It certainly was for me. In the genre of what I like to think of as “sherbet cocktails,” Sam Ross’s beloved classic is a standout. And like its peers, it needs to be served shaken up, fizzing and giggling in its coupe, ready to knock back while it’s still very much alive. But shaking a cocktail into perfection is hard work. It demands energy that (for me at least) is easily sapped by July heat and, you know, the weight of living in the modern world. For a cocktail that goes down in a few easy sips, sometimes the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

To make a Paper Plane, you will need:

  • 22 ml lemon juice (fresh only please)
  • 14.5 ml Campari with ¼ oz simple syrup or ¾ Aperol
  • 22 ml Amaro Nonino*
  • 22 ml Bourbon

*No substitutions, I’m afraid. Though I’ve seen it done with other amaro, there is no way to approximate what is essentially the centrepiece of this cocktail. While I groan at the annual markup of the stuff, a bottle of Amaro Nonino is relatively easy to find and a wonderful addition to your home bar.

Add the ingredients to a tumbler, and give it a good swirl. Fill a glass with crushed ice, strain a quarter of the mixture into it, then tamp down the ice with the bottom of the tumbler. (The liquid will melt the ice a bit, creating more room in the glass for you to achieve maximum crushed ice capacity.) Add more ice and strain the rest of the liquid into the ice-filled glass. Top with more crushed ice. No garnish necessary, but if you must accessorize, an orange slice will do.

End dinner on a sweet and energising note with boozy cold brew

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

Valentine’s Day night is not a night for tucking in early, and this cocktail is equal parts sweet nightcap and energy drink:

If this [drink] seems familiar to you, it’s probably because of its similarities to the Vietnamese iced coffee, which is good, and often paired with rum. I’ve been in more of a whiskey mood recently, but the great thing about this cocktail format is that you could use any dark spirit you want, and it would most likely be delicious. Made with Irish whiskey, you get (obvious) Irish coffee vibes with (subtle) grownup chocolate milk notes.

To make it, you will need:

  • 88 ml cold brew or other strong, cold coffee
  • 60 ml Irish whiskey (or other whiskey, or dark rum)
  • 30 ml sweetened condensed milk

Combine everything in a cocktail shaker, add ice, then shake until the shaker becomes too cold to hold comfortably. Strain into a coupe and enjoy.

Get juicy with a jam cocktail

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

If I could recommend a cocktail formula to commit to memory, it would be the jam cocktail. It’s wildly versatile, just take your pick of booze, citrus, and jam, and shake and strain:

I’ve used jam in gin-, vodka-, and cognac-based beverages and each time I’ve thought “I could drink this for breakfast.” I’ve also yet to find a preserve that doesn’t work in a cocktail format (though mango was a fave). It’s a mix-and-match beverage that lets you switch out both booze and fruit, with the ratios staying the same. Besides jam and spirit, the only other ingredient you need is lemon juice. (I’m particularly excited to try orange marmalade and tequila.)

To make this jammy delight, you will need:

  • 60 ml of spirit
  • 3 tablespoons of high-quality jam or preserves
  • 6-29.5 ml of fresh lemon juice (depending on how acidic your jam is)

Combine everything in a shaker filled with ice and shake until it becomes uncomfortably cold. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a coupe glass or a lowball filled with crushed ice (depending on your mood), and enjoy with your morning toast.

Just shake some Campari

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

This one-ingredient wonder is barely a cocktail, but shaking the bejesus out of the liqueur will wow the pants off any amaro appreciator:

Nothing demonstrates the power of dilution and agitation quite like a shaken Campari. When vigorously shaken with ice, the syrupy, somewhat medicinal liqueur is softened, aerated, and diluted into something that is light, citrusy, and balanced. It’s (obviously) very easy to make, and perfect for times when your bar cart might be looking a little sparse.

To make it, you will need:

  • 74 ml Campari

Pour the Campari into a shaker full of ice and shake hard until the shaker becomes too cold to comfortably hold. Strain into a coup, enjoy, and repeat as needed.

Keep it classy with a Boulevardier

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

I’ve always thought of the Boulevardier as winter’s answer to the Negroni, and Valentine’s Day is a winter holiday (plus the garnet hue fits the theme perfectly):

Where the Negroni pairs Campari and sweet vermouth with gin, the Boulevardier takes a spicy, more wintry approach with rye whiskey (you can also use bourbon, but I think that gets a little too sweet). This simple swap makes for a very different drink, and what a drink it is. Basically, it’s how I get my Campari in the cold, when a Camp & Soda seems too crisp, and a Negroni seems too lean.

To make one yourself, you will need:

  • 44 ml rye whiskey
  • 30 ml Campari
  • 30 ml sweet vermouth

Pour everything into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a coupe glass or a lowball over a big rock, and enjoy.

Pack a pretty punch with a Pink Pineapple

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

This pretty, pink, fruity yet bitter beverage is much more aggressive than it looks:

Cachaça, pineapple, and Campari may not seem like a natural trio, but the funky sugar cane spirit benefits from sweet pineapple and bitter Campari in ways I didn’t see coming. It’s a gentle rollercoaster of complementary and contrasting flavours, and it will mess you right up. (It’s also surprisingly morning-appropriate, which is something else I didn’t see coming.)

To make this pretty pink pineapple number, you will need:

  • 60 ml cachaça
  • 29.5 ml pineapple juice
  • 22 ml ounces Campari

Pour everything into a shaker filled with ice and shake hard until the shaker becomes too uncomfortable to hold. Strain into a classy coupe. Enjoy.

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