Food & Drink

The heart is a lonely drinker: Fancy Valentine’s cocktails made from cheap booze

You can class up your V day drinking a bit while still saving money. Via istockphoto.

If all the Valentine’s Day talk by our lovable Brokelyn bros has made you believe that Feb. 14 is anything but a glittery, kitten-filled fuzzy-wuzzy hug to break you out of your mid-winter murk, I’m here to fix that. Now maybe we don’t all bow down to kittens, or share the same penchant for pastel hearts. Maybe rose petals dipped in chocolate and worn as a bra would be the kind of thing that would make most of us vomit in our mouths. But what if I told you I knew a way to get you out of the massacre you’re imagining will be Valentine’s Day 2012, and cooing like a newborn baby to boot? Get your arrow and your underpants out, you’re going drinking.

I had the pleasure of saddling up to the bars of my favorite Brooklyn drinking spots this week, where I asked the handymen and women calling the shots (and the pints) to share some tips for mixing up love potions like a broke pro. What they offered was even more generous — see, the season of love! — and I walked, er, stumbled, away with three cocktail recipes that are so cheap to make, even that broke-ass baby could swing one.

The key to winning hearts with your winning cocktail? A cheap, but smooth, bottle of booze that can mask itself easily with minimum additions. For whiskey drinks, food and beverage consultant Shannon Mustipher recommends Benchmark Old No. 8, a Kentucky bourbon that can be dressed up and sells for 7.49/750 ml. Her go-to pick, however, is a $14 bottle of George Dickel, a red label whiskey good enough to drink all by itself. And by onself, per my recommendation.

Our friends at Good Co. in Williamsburg filled us in on all things spicy by letting us taste their thai-chili-infused tequila, a nice but certain troublemaker which can be mimicked at home using a silver bottle of Sauza ($11) and sliced hot peppers. The mix takes about a week to infuse its magic, so if you want to spice things up, but are in a pinch, expert barkeep Willie told us redhot cinnamon candies or an atomic fire ball will add some sweet and subtle heat on the spot.

Vodka is another cheap option that can be easily transformed from paint-thinner to fancy inhibition-remover. Steve at Bed-Stuy gastropub Black Swan shared a simple trick for giving vodka a cleaner taste, by adding muddled fruit, like blackberries, to the cocktail shaker just before mixing. We think Papov ($7/750 ml) is a fine bet and even better when given the fruity makeover. Steve also said basil or dill add a pleasant freshness and increase drinkability. And hey, if you really want to get BFF with your vodka, a bit of cream smooths out the harsh aftertaste. A scoop of ice cream in vodka?! Being a grown-up is the best!


Black Swan Swoon
2 oz Raspberry Vodka (or vodka muddled with raspberries)
1 1/4  oz Merry’s Irish Creme
1 1/4 oz Frangelico
1 oz half and half

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake and strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with chocolate sauce or berries. Since Frangelico can be a stiff ingredient for your wallet (though a long-term accoutrement for the liquor cabinet),  Steve suggests a substitute of whole milk and chocolate sauce for a similar taste and fewer dollars. Because you love your tiny wallet. And you love vodka, and your teddy bear from kindergarten and your roommate’s tv set, too. You love them all so much, it’s unbelievable.

El Caliente Chihuahua
1 ½ oz tequila
3 oz ruby red grapefruit juice
2 dashes of tabasco sauce

Combine all the ingredients in a pint glass, shake and pour into tumbler, or mason jar, or whatever you kids use these days, and serve over ice. If salting the rim is way too standard for you, Willie notes that crushed atomic fire balls can be a fun touch. We like that because it allows you to get any remaining rage out of your system by pounding candy balls. This little doggie packs quite a punch, but it’s just devilish enough to sip the whole night through, whether you’re going out to find a new dog to sniff, or staying at home, setting fire to your Heidi and Seal scrapbooks.

The New Yorker
2oz whiskey (Canadian or very dry)
1oz  fresh lime juice
1 tsp grenadine
lemon twist

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker.  Shake vigorously with ice (large cubes from a tray are better than deli ice, which will melt and weaken the drink) for 10-12 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist. Shannon tells us that this number suits both light and heavy-hearted moods and is well-matched to the savory drinker or the get-drunk-quick one. It also goes well with chocolate. Who said sophistication and frugality would never hook up?

Looks like you made it! Tuned up like a vintage Chevelle, with three new reasons to tell someone you love them. Even if it’s your mom, at three in the morning.

Follow (and buy drinks for!) Karina: @Karinabthatsme.

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