Say what you will about Valentine's Day, the Catholic holiday bastardized by Hallmark, the chocolate industry and the color red, but every February we fall for the same heart-shaped routine. Whether you're single or off the market, I think we can all agree a little extra love in the air isn't a bad thing come mid-winter. Of course, restaurants and cocktail bars recognize this too--I say take advantage of the holiday menus and put some lovin' in your cup. Here's seven sexy cocktails served in seven sexy bars in NYC to get you in the mood (you can thank me later):
Le Fraise Sauvage at Employees Only: 1 1/4 oz. Plymouth Gin 3/4 oz. lemon juice 1/4 oz. simple syrup 1 oz. strawberry puree 2 oz. Mumm Joyesse Demi-Sec Champagne Directions: Pour all ingredients except Champagne into a mixing glass. Add ice, cover and shake vigorously for 7-8 seconds. Pour champagne into a chilled cocktail-martini glass and pour the cocktail over it. Garnish with half a strawberry.
Employees Only (510 Hudson St.), a veteran on the cocktail scene, should be considered an ace in your deck of NYC date spots. Of course, with a solid reputation for smart drinks, impeccable service and a seductive vibe complete with a fireplace, the small bar fills up fast--put your charm on the doorman to better your chances of getting in. Once inside, let this fizzy, summer-y cocktail (pictured above) put its charm on you.
Andean Dusk at Raines Law Room: 4 to 5 muddled red grapes 1/2 oz. lemon juice 1/2 oz. simple syrup 1 oz. La Diablada Pisco Directions: Shake with ice and strain into a flute and top with rose Champagne (Raines uses Moet & Chandon Rose.)
The private tables at Raines Law Room (48 W. 17th St.) were built for PDA--velvet sofas cocooned in black gauze, each outfitted with buzzers to call for the server so you're never disturbed when you don't want to be. With capacity for about 50 people, you'll want to arrive early if you're planning on cozying up here for Valentine's Day. Meaghan Dorman's Andean Dusk, with its sunset hue and floral notes, is on the current menu, but there will be other romantic specials that night too.
East India Trading Company at Death & Co: 2 oz. Appleton Reserve Rum 3/4 oz. East India Solera Sherry 1/2 oz. Ramazotti Amaro 2 dashes Bittermens Mole Bitters
Chances are, getting into Death & Co. (433 E. 6th St.) on Valentine's Day is going to be arduous, so do yourself a favor and go early in the evening or pick another night. Winner of Tales of the Cocktail's Best American Bar award in 2010, this dark-as-a-coffin-lit-by-chandeliers speakeasy wrote the book on sexy design, with some of the city's best drinks to boot. Brian Miller's sherry-spiked concoction, a balance of rich flavors, continues to impress.
Code Noir at 1534: 1 1/2 oz. rye whiskey 1 1/2 oz. Pineau des Charantes 3 dashes Angostura Bitters 2 dashes of Fee Bros. Peach Bitters Lemon oil Directions: In a chilled mixing glass, dash peach bitters and Angostura bitters. Add the Pineau des Charentes and Rye Whiskey. Add cracked ice and Kold Draft ice. Stir 20-25 times. Add some fresh ice, strain and pour into a frozen coupe glass. Garnish with lemon peel.
Nolita newcomer 1534 (20 Prince St.) is catering to singles this Valentine's Day--check out their Summer Fling party from 8 to 11 p.m. on Feb. 14, designed to chase away the winter blues with spe tiki punches like "Love Potion #9." On any other night, the subterranean enclave feels cozy and inviting, much like this sophisticated cocktail featuring an aperitif made from Cognac eau-de-vie and unfermented grape juice.
The Hong Kong Cocktail at Macao Trading Co.: 2 oz. Gran Centenario Plata Tequila 3/4 oz. Ruby Port 1 oz. lemon juice 3/4 oz. Pandan Leaf syrup
While a seat at the main bar at Macao Trading Co. (311 Church St.) offers plenty of ambience, for a more illicit scene, head downstairs to the opium den-inspired lounge. Best be sure you like the person you're drinking with before you settle into the brothel theme, as the seating is a bit cramped. Loosen up with this tequila tipple featuring syrup made from the aromatic, vanilla-like Pandan Leaf.
Hot Zombie at Painkiller: 3/4 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice 1/2 oz. demerara syrup 1/2 oz. passion fruit puree 1 1/2 oz. 151 rum Directions: Top with hot water and a pat of salted, spiced butter. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.
Painkiller (49 Essex St.), with its den-of-bad-decisions vibe, leopard print banquettes and pictures of half-naked island girls, already had a lot going for it before recently increasing its tiki menu exponentially. A selection of hot tiki drinks are especially tantalizing, and the Hot Zombie, with a slug of 151 rum, will fast-forward you through any awkward moments.
Xanté Crush at DBar: 1 1/2 oz. Xanté 1 1/2 oz. lemon juice 1 oz. simple syrup 3 strawberries Directions: Muddle strawberries and all other ingredients in a shaker with ice, strain and serve in a cocktail glass with sugar coated rim. Garnish with fresh berry.
I have to admit, DBar (263 W. 19th St.) has been off my radar despite some mixologist friends working there--I just don't find myself in Chelsea very often. But should you be rolling Westside, this sleek cocktail bar is not to be missed. Annexed to Donatella Arpaia's pizzeria, the lounge offers an intimate atmosphere and crafty drinks--both of which are hard to find in this scenester 'hood. Xanté, a pear-infused French Cognac with hints of vanilla, is sultry enough on its own, but this Valentine's Day special by bartender Duane Fernandez is D-lish.