Love it or loathe it, Valentine’s Day is less than a week away, and that means it’s time to discuss dinner plans. Which, of course, should include drinks. (And, yes, chocolate in some form.)
While the Covid-19 pandemic continues to rage, and many unexpected parts of our lives have changed significantly in the past year, enjoying a romantic dinner with your special someone, even if that’s just yourself, doesn’t need to be off the table. Valentine’s Day might hit differently in 2021, but you can still eat your heart out, without missing a beat.
Whether you plan on celebrating the night cooking a multicourse meal or supporting your favorite local restaurant or bar by ordering takeout, you’ll likely feel the love with a libation in hand. To help guide your dinner pairing, we asked a dozen drinks experts — including bartenders, beverage directors, and brewers — to share what they’ll be sipping with their meals this Valentine’s Day. Here’s what the pros had to say. (If you’re looking for even more inspo, read some more recommendations from our team here.)
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The Best Valentine’s Day Beverages Recommended by Drinks Pros
- Le Ragnaie Rosso di Montalcino
- Braulio Amaro
- The Bruery Natty Noir
- Kirin Ichiban
- Dassai 23 Junmai Daiginjo
- Moet & Chandon Rosé Imperial
- WhistlePig Rye Old Fashioned
- Quady Essensia Orange Muscat 2017
- Argonaut “The Claim” Brandy
- 2018 Istine Chianti Classico
- Gin Martini
- COS Zibibbo in Pithos Orange Wine
- Jerome Prevost
- Jacques Lassaigne
- Moralizzatore Cabaret Pét-Nat Rosato
- Rose-infused vodka with Champagne
- Le Vins Pirouettes Glouglou Pinot Noir
- Valle dell’Acate Cerasuolo di Vittoria
- Domaine La Grange Tiphaine “Rosa Rosé Rosam”
Keep reading for details about all the recommended beverages!
“Since my husband and I both work in restaurants, our energy on Valentine’s Day usually goes to taking care of cute two-tops and pouring pink bubbles. This year, it falls on a Sunday, so we‘ll likely treat it as a cozy date night at home. Nothing says ‘I love you’ like Lucali, so I’ll cruise to Carroll Gardens and pick up a plain pizza with tons of basil (my favorite) along with a ricotta and garlic stromboli (his favorite). To pretend we’re in Italy and not the same tiny Brooklyn apartment we’ve been stuck in since March, a Negroni to start with some olives while I open up a bottle of Le Ragnaie Rosso di Montalcino. Le Ragnaie is a small, young producer working with some of the highest-elevation sites in Montalcino. This 100 percent Sangiovese wine is very bright with pops of red cherry, tomato, and fresh savory herbs like basil and bay leaf. It’s got enough texture to cut through that delicious cheesy goodness while still being really elegant and light on its feet. We’ll probably eat the whole pizza, so a digestif of Braulio, an Alpine amaro from Valtellina, will be in order after dinner.” — Rebecca Flynn, General Manager and Beverage Director, Red Hook Tavern, Brooklyn
“We’re releasing a beer-wine hybrid called Natty Noir. It’s a barrel-aged beer naturally fermented with Pinot Noir grapes. We’ll be pairing it with steak, lobster ravioli, and a few Kumamoto oysters on the half shell. If all goes as planned, of course. Wild beer for wilder times.” — Keith Pumilia, Production Manager, The Bruery, Placentia, Calif.
“I’m doing something a little extra special this year and having fish flown in from Honolulu Fish Company, which does sushi-grade nigiri boxes that deliver in less than 24 hours. Usually, I’d go out for a sushi dinner. But this year I’m going to make it at home. I even have a mini torch to up my garnish game. I’m pairing it with the classic lager Kirin Ichiban and a nice sake, Dassai 23 Junmai Daiginjo.” — Morgan Sullivan, Bartender, Cure, New Orleans
“This year has to be something special considering what we all went through and are still facing with the pandemic. Instead of making reservations in a restaurant or traveling, I decided that this Valentine’s Day I will be the host, bartender, sommelier, and chef. I’m starting out with excellent bubbles, Moet & Chandon Rosé Imperial, with lightly spiced salmon, divine. The second course is creamy butternut pasta with truffle oil, and I’ll be stirring a very classic Old Fashioned using WhistlePig rye whiskey at 50 percent ABV. The high alcohol is going to balance the sweetness and aromatic flavors in the cocktail. Finally, we will have a sweet bite of rice pudding with the Quady Essensia Orange Muscat 2017, which has a beautiful aroma reminiscent of orange blossom and apricot, and a lingering, refreshing aftertaste. This wine is lightly fortified to about 15 percent ABV and aged for three months in French oak. This pairs excellent with creamy texture in classic rice pudding.” —Hemant Pathak, Bar Manager and Head of Education, Junoon, New York
“My wife and I will keep it low key, getting takeout from Amboy Quality Meats. Two cuts of Wagyu beef from Snake River Farms, seasoned to perfection and cooked in my old cast-iron skillet, paired with The Claim from Argonaut, a brandy that has subtle chocolaty and super-decadent notes. My mouth is watering already. Salty and sweet perfection.”—Briggs Brown, Bartender, The Varnish and Bar Clacson, Los Angeles
“One thing I’ll be drinking is a 2018 Istine Chianti Classico from the hilltop village of Radda in Chianti. Crisp and bright, this wine is perfect for the more laid-back, spaghetti-and-meatballs kind of Valentine’s Day dinner.” —Carlin Karr, Wine Director, Frasca Hospitality Group, Boulder, Colo.
“Though I’m not much of a Valentine’s Day person, Scotch is my first love. So, I’m planning to have a Penicillin cocktail. It brings cheerful winter flavors and is a bit of a nod to Saint Brigid’s Day. I love making steak at home and the Maine grass-fed Heartstone Farm meat stands up to the Scotch while the citrus acid contrasts the salty crust on the steak.“ —Maggie Campbell, Master Distiller, formerly of Privateer Rum, Ipswich, Mass.
“My current love affair is with the seafood bounty found here in the Pacific Northwest, and being recently from New Orleans, oysters are still my favorite. In fact, there would be no better way for a fella to sweep me off my feet than to take me up Chuckanut Road to Taylor Shellfish Farms where we can sit on the bay and shuck some fresh oysters. I’d like to drink an ice-cold gin Martini with the first dozen, then with the second dozen a Bamboo, a classic sherry cocktail using equal parts dry vermouth and dry fino or manzanilla sherry with a dash of orange bitters and a lemon twist. The bright salinity of the fino or manzanilla is a perfect match for the oysters. In fact, keep that bottle of sherry handy so you can slurp it out of the spent oyster shells. This was a little lagniappe (a Creole term for something a little extra given to customers) that I used to do for my guests at the bar in New Orleans, and now I cannot imagine eating oysters without slurping sherry from the shells. But how will I really spend Valentine’s Day? Darling, I work in the service industry. We don’t get to go out for holidays because we’re the ones that work them! My Valentine will be the table that leaves the biggest tip! After all, studies now show that money can indeed buy you happiness, so why not love?” —Abigail Gullo, Bar Manager, Ben Paris, Seattle
“I plan on dining at Leo’s Wine Bar in Asheville. They make delicious pasta there, but rarely with red sauce. I imagine I’ll get one of these dishes and pair it with a nice European orange wine like COS Zibibbo in Pithos, a Sicilian Muscat. I think European orange wines pair really well with pasta because they tend to have a nuttiness to them which goes well with the earthiness of pasta. Orange wines typically have some savory herbaceous qualities, too, which will contribute to the enjoyment. I don’t particularly care for red wine and red-sauce pasta together. The acidity is just overwhelming. So stick to the olive-oil-and-butter pastas with green herbs like sage; a nice mellow orange [wine] will go great with it.” —Luke Danner, Bar Manager, Forestry Camp, Asheville, N.C.
“It may be a tried-and-true cliché, but I honestly always want Champagne for Valentine’s Day. I think unless someone has the budget to regularly indulge in high-quality grower Champagne, it’s important to embrace those extra special moments and splurge if possible. Even if you aren’t celebrating with a loved one, why not join with friends (maybe via Zoom for now), and toast the notion of love with something not only delicious but that also betters the social and environmental impact of viticulture in Champagne? My all-time favorites are Chartogne-Taillet, Jerome Prevost, and Jacques Lassaigne. Cozy up by the fire with a bottle of one of these gems, get your oyster-shucking on, and be prepared to swoon all night. I also love pairing Champagne and crab, dungeness in particular. For me, the simpler the better: drawn butter, lemon, crunchy salt, and Champagne. It’s absolutely heaven.” —Jess Hereth, Wine Director, Olympia Provisions, Portland, Ore.
“Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest days of the year for our industry, so I’ll be sipping something on the fly in between fulfilling orders and bites of spicy-pickle pizza from our neighbors, Hot Box. A recent fave is Il Moralizzatore Cabaret, a sultry, sexy pét-nat rosato of Cabernet Sauvignon made by two friends in Italy’s Veneto. Folks don’t necessarily associate the French grape with Italy, but its history in the country dates back to the Napoleonic era. Cabaret is juicy and refreshing enough to keep me going on a wild shift, but ripe enough to temper the heat of the ghost chili cheese on Hot Box’s famous slice. I’ll be showing myself a little love with this pairing on the 14th!“ —Lauren Friel, Owner, Rebel Rebel, Somerville, Mass.
“I’m starting with a cocktail and embracing the holiday [by] combining two of the most cliché elements, Champagne and rosés. In this case, I’m making rosé-infused vodka and adding an ounce of that to a glass of dry Champagne to make a perfect Valentine’s Day cocktail to start. After that, we’re drinking as much Binner’s Le Vins Pirouettes Glouglou Pinot Noir as we can. It’s the perfect red for V-Day, with red to black fruit, perfect structure, and a price everyone can afford.” —Aaron Thorp, Co-founder, Supergay Spirits, New York
“One of the most decadent bites of food I’ve tasted this year came from our chef de cuisine’s kitchen. I was asked to taste-test a dish he was working on for our upcoming Valentine’s Day menu: a rabbit Wellington, with the flakiest, most sensual crunch from the immaculate pastry, then drizzled with a lip-licking bay laurel jus! My taste buds desired a sanguine, fruit-packed, and tender red, as tender as the most succulent morsel of rabbit, so I considered the Valle dell’Acate Cerasuolo di Vittoria, a seductive blend from southeastern Sicily. It’s a beautiful cherry-red-colored wine dense with complex fruit, spice, and minerality. It was a marvelous pairing! Cerasuolo di Vittoria is a love story between two grape varieties, typically 60 percent Nero d’Avola (for rich black fruit and ample tannins, supporting the rabbit tenderloin without overpowering its delicacy), and 40 percent Frappato (with the most joyful ripened raspberry and white pepper aromatics). The pairing is a new Valentine’s tradition for me.” —Michael Smith, Wine Manager, Common House No.2, Richmond, Va.
“My preferred pairing for this Valentine’s Day is a Méthode Ancestrale sparkling rosé, the Domaine La Grange Tiphaine ‘Rosa Rosé Rosam,’ with roasted salmon and a side of quinoa mixed with seared mushrooms, spinach, and pomegranate seeds. After the roller coaster of a year in 2020 my goal in 2021 is to eat cleaner and drink less expensively. Méthode Ancestrale sparkling wines offer great value compared to Champagne proper and this naturally focused winemaker from the Loire Valley in France uses a blend of classic Loire grape varieties — including Cabernet Franc, Cot (Malbec), Gamay, and Grolleau — all with vines averaging around 80 years in age. This particular blend comes together to make a naturally focused, refreshing, fruity yet savory rosé that can be enjoyed in the heat of summer but could also be appreciated with a meal such as this, in the middle of winter on Valentine’s Day. And it’s pink! The color of love!” —Robin Wright, Sommelier and Beer Director, NoMad Hotel, New York