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Valentine’s Day Love: Red-Hot Cocktails Shake Up Your Happy Hour; Cheese Treats, & More

Let’s just get right to it, shall we? Sexy cocktails are the foreplay to a celebrated evening of romance and fantasy. What could be more suggestively sizzling than a red-hot, “Shut up and kiss me” spicy martini?

Cran-Spiced Martini


  • 2 parts Reyka Vodka
  • 1 part cranberry 100% juice
  • ¾ part Vanilla spiced syrup

Glass: Martini

Method: Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker (with 2-3 ice cubes) and pour strained, foamy ingredients into the glass — Shake, strain & garnish.

Garnish: Skewered cranberries. I like those picks with the red ball top – pretty; plus the ball helps anchor the pick. You can also use ruby or garnet stick pins as the skewer.

*Vanilla spiced syrup: Add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, ¼ tsp. ground black pepper, 5 tsp. allspice, 1 cinnamon stick (2 ½”). Bring to a boil in a pot. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Let cool completely.
Fine strain and add ½ oz vanilla extract.

The Exene


  • 1.5 parts Hudson Baby Bourbon
  • 1 part Aperol aperitif
  • .5 part fresh lemon juice
  • .5 part honey syrup
  • Half-dropper of Bittermens Elemakule Tiki Bitters (comes in dropper format—2 dashes if decanted into dasher bottle )

Method: Add ingredients to shaker with ice, and shake to chill.

CENTER IMAGE – (my favorite) : shaken with egg white or .75 oz aquafaba (chickpea water), strained into cocktail glass
Garnish with lemon twist

LEFT IMAGE: strained over ice and topped with soda
Garnish with lemon wedge

RIGHT IMAGE: strained over the rocks

Garnish: Lemon wedge & cherry

If you want to spice up your Valentine evening but keep it light, here are a few cocktail confections to explore. I love the rich, nuanced Ancho Reyes so much — and also the heat of the Milagro Reposado — therefore I can wholeheartedly recommend this Spicy Milagro Paloma.

Spicy Milagro Paloma: by Jaime Salas, National Milagro Ambassador


  • 1 ½ Parts Milagro Reposado
  • ½ Part Ancho Reyes
  • ½ Part Fresh Lime Juice
  • 3 Parts Grapefruit Soda
  • Grapefruit Wheel

Using a lime wedge, wet the rim of the glass and salt half the rim. Add ice, Milagro Reposado, Ancho Reyes and grapefruit soda. Squeeze a wedge of lime and discard.

Garnish: Add a thin grapefruit wheel to the glass

Glassware: tall Collins glass (or Pilsner if you have that in your collection)

“Were kicking up the Paloma recipe with the spicy and savory notes of Ancho chiles along with Milagro Reposado’s caramel and hints of pepper. The winning Mexican combination makes for a next level riff on an already amazing Mexican classic.” – noted Jamie Salas, National Milagro Ambassador. Agreed!

Strawberry Mamie Taylor: By Giuseppe Gonzalez (Suffolk Arms, NYC)


  • 2 parts Monkey Shoulder
  • .5 parts Lemon juice
  • .75 parts ginger syrup
  • .25 parts strawberry puree

Method: Shake. Top with soda.

My suggestion for a Garnish — chocolate dipped fresh strawberry, or a fancy twist, or a candied ginger or two on a pretty pick such as jewelry pin or a barbershop red and white straw cut in half.

Prickled Pink by Jaime Salas, National Milagro Ambassador


  • 2 Parts Milagro Silver
  • 1 Part Fresh Lime Juice
  • 2 Parts Pink Agua de Tuna**
  • 3/4 Part Agave Nectar

Method:Pour all ingredients into a Boston shaker, shake and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass.

Glassware: Old Fashioned or Rocks glass

Garnish: Add a lime wheel to the glass rim

**To make Agua de Tuna: Peel and roughly chop 5 prickly pear fruits (green and red), add to blender and puree until smooth. Pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds and pulp, discard.

The Freshest Margarita
“This delicious, yet simple three ingredient take on the classic margarita allows Milagro to shine front and center among the freshest trifecta of flavors.” – said Salas, Milagro ambassador.

I think this cocktail not only works for Valentine’s Day but you can also practice for National Margarita Day, February 22nd!

Mexican Garden Margarita by Jaime Salas


  • 2 Parts Milagro Silver 
  • 1 Part Fresh Lime Juice
  • .5 Part Light Agave Nectar 
  • 2 Parts Pineapple Juice 
  • 1 Cilantro Leaf

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and add ice. Shake, strain, and pour over fresh ice into rocks glass. 

And because you can never have enough artful Garnishes – I love that this cocktail offers no less that three garnishes! So you might think of as a fashion layering – meaning one or two or all garnishes. 
Garnish: A pineapple leaf, lime wheel, and a cilantro leaf.
Garnish: 1 Pineapple Leaf
Garnish: 1 Lime Wheel
Garnish: 1 Cilantro Leaf

Spicy Verde Margarita by Jaime Salas, National Milagro Ambassador


  • 1 Part Milagro Silver
  • 1 Part Ancho Reyes Verde
  • ¾ Part Fresh Lime Juice
  • ½ Part Light Agave Nectar

Method: Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.

Glassware: Rocks

Milagro Tequila (milagro means ‘miracle’ – which is just so darn apropos for Valentine’s Day imbibing ) is made from 100% estate-grown, hand-selected, blue agave in the town of Tepatitlan in the Jalisco region of Mexico. The agaves are harvested about 8 to 12 years after planting and the juice is extracted from the heart of the plant by roasting in clay ovens made from the estate’s volcanic soil. Milagro Tequila is triple distilled and aged longer than most tequilas to obtain its distinctive flavor. Be still my heart….

The available expressions include Milagro Silver, Reposado, Añejo, Select Barrel Reserve Silver, Select Barrel Reserve Reposado, and Select Barrel Reserve Añejo.


If you want to bring a bit of ahem, “spirit” to your Valentine – you will win over his or her heart with a bottle of one or more of these quality brands:

Proper No. Twelve: Proper No. Twelve is an Irish whiskey launched in September last year by MMA champion, entrepreneur, family man and philanthropist, Conor McGregor. The brand and its name were inspired by McGregor’s love of Ireland, its people and Irish whiskey. Proper No. Twelve is a blend of Ireland’s finest golden grain and single malt. Plus, this treat will last you through St. Patrick’s Day celebrations! Price: $25 – $30

D’USSE:D’USSE is a bold new expression of Cognac that dares the palate like never before. It’s VSOP varietal is a perfectly balanced blend of selected Cognacs aged at least 4 ½ years in French oak barrels in the Chateau de Cognac’s unique dry and humid cellars. It’s a full-body blend with a powerful, complex taste and a pleasantly smooth finish. D’USSE VSOP Price: $49.99 – $54.99

Hillrock Distillery: Hillrock Estate Distillery is on a mission to produce the finest hand-crafted spirits using its onsite Malt House and three different Estate Grains. Its Double Cask Rye’s deep golden amber color is highlighted by warm and inviting aromas of vanilla and caramel with hints of prune, apricot and rye spice. Double Cask Rye Price: $92 – $99

You didn’t think I’d leave you without a recipe to whip up using these exotics, did you? Heaven’s no. Here’s some racy, red cocktails to woo your beloved.

The D’USSE Red Velvet – perfectly elegant for Valentine’s Day


  • 2 oz- D’USSE Cognac
  • 1.5 oz- Crème de Cacao
  • .5 oz- Simple Syrup
  • 3- Fresh raspberries
  • 3 Dashes- Chocolate Molé Bitters
Muddle Raspberries and Simple Syrup in a shaker. Add D’USSE Cognac, Crème de Cacao and Bitters. Shake vigorously with Ice. Double strain into a chilled Coup or Martini Glass. 

: Coup or Martini

Garnish: Fresh raspberries on a metal skewer. I would suggest you could skewer the raspberries on a bejeweled hat pin for some extra bling..

KNOCK OUT: Created by Sonny Verdini, Bar Manager, TRADE (Boston, MA)


  • 1.5oz Proper Twelve Whiskey
  • 1 cinnamon syrup
  • .75 oz house made ginger liqueur 
  • .5 oz lemon
  • 3 dashes Angostura Bitters

Method: Shake into a single rocks glass.

Garnish:Adorn the glass with a dehydrated lemon or orange wheel and a cinnamon stick. I might add that you could lim the rim of the glass with cinnamon sugar; and add a dehydrated ginger candy slice.

Apple of My Eye – created and available at db Bistro Moderne – where we just enjoyed a sterling pre-theater lunch — and returned post Network performance to talk about and decompress from this kinetic Broadway masterpiece. Ohhhh Bryan Cranston – you are a treasure. Sorry – I’m smitten with this actor of stage and screen….

While not red in hue, this darling cocktail is beautiful and elegant with notes of Cider Apples, Honey, Cherry (a wee bit of red for the Valentine holiday), and Almond. So warming…


  • 1 oz Calvados Ménorval
  • 2 oz Henriques & Henriques Rainwater Madeira 3yr
  • .5 oz Honey Syrup
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

Method: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir.

Glassware: Serve straight up in a coupe glass.

Garnish: Dress the glass with an apple slice and cinnamon stick. You can use a Granny Smith or for this holiday – a ripe, red apple such as a Fuji would work.

If you’re like me – you can’t resist indulging in cheese love. I prepare a salumi plate every evening for my husband, Bill, to enjoy when he gets home from the office.

But Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to up the cheese game. And who better than my friends at Murray’s Cheese — THE defining cheese mecca to offer a portfolio of Valentine’s gifts – not only for your lover but for friends and family.

I love Murray’s outreach — “Will you Brie Mine?” How cute is that?

OK – I dare anyone to resist the Sweetheart Tower ($55)
Get ready for romance with your one and only by indulging in this delicious cheese tower. Complete with Murray’s Cavemaster Reserve Hollander, Murray’s Mini Brie, and Pico Picandine, it’s the ideal tower for every palate and will have your Valentine’s Day date swooning.

This Cheese Indulgence is a Truffle up and wheel, high roller—piled high with a magnificent mélange of flavors and textures. The base is loaded with black truffle—everyone’s favorite fancy fungus—and from there it builds through a pair of renowned wheels, up to a sublimely creamy peak. This is a tower that simply has it all.

And then — there’s the Valentine’s Day Collection ($100)

This gift could surely inspire a romance in your life. It includes Mast Brothers Dark Chocolate, Moliterno al Tartufo, La Tur, Cambozola Black Label, and Urban Oven Olive Crackers.

Did you know? Fun Facts about Valentine’s Day, according to a recent WalletHub survey:

Valentine’s Day Trivia:

  • $20.7B: Total Valentine’s Day spending projected for 2019 ($161.96 per person celebrating). Candy is the number one item folks buy for their sweetheart – followed by cards, flowers, an evening out, and jewelry. I say, why settle for one of these items when you clearly deserve all of them!! 
  • $196 vs. $100: Men spent nearly twice as much as women, on average, for Valentine’s Day 2018.
  • $7.6 Billion: Amount Americans will spend on jewelry ($3.9B), flowers ($1.9B) and candy ($1.8B).
  • 9 Million: Number of marriage proposals made each Valentine’s Day.
  • NYC is number one for florists per capita – so no excuse for not bringing home a bouquet.

You can enjoy the full WalletHub survey.

And I just got back from reviewing a new restaurant in Chinatown, PhobarNYC And so I can share a quick shout out here (formal review to follow).

The reason why I’m including PhoBar in a Valentine’s Day overview is that after tasting and testing at the new restaurant today, I could understand how this Vietnamese menu could be not only a delicious Valentine’s evening out for the food –oh wow – but also – and hear me out on this — at Phobar one “builds” their “Perfect Bowl” of Pho. Sooo, if you’re still with me — you could better connect with your date or mate – as you observe how they build their Pho!

Love is in the ingredients.

So glamorous.

Love, love and more love to you, my readers. I so appreciate your support and input.

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"Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

 I adore plants. Plants are my muse ~ they are my paramour… I’m a garden artist; a nature lover, & horticulturist. I’m an author & writer. My passion for culture & beauty, along with my trait curiosity, brings you an authentic celebration of life. I’m a storyteller ~ weaving the artful gifts of horticulture, garden design, tablescape decor, floral design, cocktail culture, garden-to-glass recipes & their glamorous garnishes, homegrown edibles, food & drink; & cooking, to bring you my flair & what I’ve been told is an avid elan ~ as well as the stories from those who inspire me ~ to pursue an elegant, enduring, & joyful, entertaining lifestyle. It’s an honor & a privilege to do what you love.

Join me to celebrate a romantic, garden-infused, entertaining lifestyle filled with artful design, sparkling dinner parties, peerless martinis, and copious magnums of champagne!





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