Leslie Sbrocco, author of "The Simple and Savvy Wine Guide," show the best ways to toast to love this Valentine's Day, with fun twists on a gin-and-tonic and the classic Manhattan cocktail.
With Valentine's Day fast approaching, head Thirsty Girl Leslie Sbrocco treats Kathie Lee and Hoda to retro-chic drinks ideas packed with romance. From the classic glamour of a sparkling cocktail to hearty red wines to pair with chocolate fondue, these ideas will take you from cocktail hour through dinner to end-of-the-night gift giving in style.
Cocktails to kick off the evening
This is my modern take on the classic champagne cocktail, which pairs bubbly with brandy and sugar. Instead, I use rose cava from Spain and infuse it with a dash of lightly sweet, elegant Chamomile liqueur:
- Villarnau Brut Rose Cava, Spain $16
Deep garnet in color, this is a beautiful bubbly over which to gaze at your lover. Scents of red berries are followed with a crisp, dry finish in a wine that goes from the beginning of the meal to the end of dessert.
- Montanaro Liquore di Grappa alla Camomilla, Italy $60
This unique spirit is made with grappa infused with chamomile flowers. Honey and floral aromas jump from the glass while a hint of sweetness rounds out the finish. This luscious drink is calming and curative and can be served alone, over ice, or with a dash of tonic or sparkling wine.
Ruby G&T (gin & tonic)
Taking one of the standards of the cocktail world, the gin and tonic, I've turned it into a Valentine’s night sip. Use top quality tonic and gin then add pomegranate seeds frozen in ice cube trays to add the ruby color:
- Bloom London Dry Gin, $30
Made by the first female master gin distiller in the world, triple distilled Bloom is an aromatic and refreshingly smooth gin. Using chamomile, honeysuckle and pomelo as botanicals, this gin captures the essence of nature in a bottle.
- Q tonic, $8 for (4-pack)
This artisan tonic is made from hand-picked quinine from the Peruvian Andes and is sweetened with organic agave making it less caloric and sweet-tasting than other tonics.
Moving from drinks to dinner is easy if you head back to the 70’s and warm up with fondue.
Fondue brings back memories for many of us of Friday nights at home dipping frozen fruit draped in chocolate. Well folks, fondue is back. I recommend a dark chocolate called BRIX, made to pair with wine. Instead of using only sweet bites to dip in chocolate, add savory tidbits to your offering. Skewer sliced figs and bacon chunks then pair with dry-styled red wine.
- 2008 Numanthia "Termes" Toro, Spain $30
A sexy Spaniard is always a Valentine's night treat. The region of Toro is home to some of the oldest grape vines in the world and Christopher Columbus is said to have brought wine from this area when traveling to America. Numanthia is a leader from Toro and their intensely seductive red made from Tinta de Toro grapes is ideal with foods from steak to chocolate.
- 2009 Clos de los Siete Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina, $18
Cupid would enjoy sipping this sultry red. Wines made from Malbec are perfect paired with dark chocolate, and this complex version is an affordable luxury.
End the night with a little vino and gift giving. These fun, holiday-appropriate wines are affordable allowing you or your mate to spend more money on flowers, lingerie, chocolates or other gifts…whatever your heart desires.
- 2009 Simply Naked Chardonnay, California $10
Go ahead, get naked. This zesty, snappy white with the hot name refers to the wine being made without using oak barrels. If you think you don't like Chardonnay, give this one a try.
- 2010 Red Knot Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia $13
Their motto is “Get Knotty” and that goes without saying on Valentine’s day. Spicy, smooth Shiraz from one of Aussie’s top regions, McLaren Vale, makes for a lovely wine to sip or give as a gift. By the way, the knot refers to the knots in the wood of the local gum (eucalyptus) trees.
Leslie Sbrocco is the author of "The Simple & Savvy Wine Guide" and founder of ThirstyGirl.com.
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