The “War of the Roses” cocktail by head bartender Mike Ryan of Sable Kitchen & Bar combines Pimm’s, Bombay Sapphire, Chase Elderflower, mint and fresh lime.
Updated: February 8, 2013 12:50PM
Chicago’s creative mixologists have come up with countless sexy cocktails especially for Valentine’s Day that are sure to set the mood for a romantic evening. Whether couples are going out just for cocktails or for dinner, they can enjoy a variety of drinks concocted especially for the occasion, being offered primarily Feb. 14-16 but in some instances beyond . Naturally, many establishments are serving drinks that are in the color of the day, red or pink. And, they don’t even have to use artificial dyes to achieve these shades.
Here is a sampling of what’s available.
The Bar at the Peninsula, (108 E. Superior, 4th fl., 312-573-6766, www.peninsula.com). The Pink Persuasion, a vodka and St. Germain-based cocktail with passion fruit puree and vanilla bean-infused pear puree, comes in a martini glass with a strawberry cut into a heart shape as a garnish. This pink drink is served in the hotel’s clubby lounge, complete with fireplace, easy chairs and atmospheric red walls.
City Tavern, (1416 S. Michigan, 312-663-1278, citytavernchicago.com). The Bundler is also a pink drink, garnished with a strawberry and served in a martini glass, but it’s made from strawberry-infused rum, St. Germain and fresh lime juice. This community gathering place and some of its cocktails are inspired by the 18th century tavern tradition but with a contemporary spin.
Sable Kitchen & Bar, Chicago, (505 N. State, 312-755-9704, www.sablechicago.com). War of the Roses may not be a romantic name, but this pretty, rose-colored combination of gin-based Pimm’s No. 1, elderflower, mint and fresh lime juice in a coupe (vintage Champagne saucer glass) could get hearts a-fluttering at Sable’s 40-foot-long bar on any cold night this winter.
Sepia, (123 N. Jefferson, 312-441-1920, www.sepiachicago.com). Sepia Rose is the featured Valentine’s Day libation at this restaurant known for its cocktail program. This special drink is mixed with gin, St. Germain, lemon and grapefruit juices and Averna, a sweet Sicilian liqueur, served in a coupe. “The Sepia Rose was created as a cocktail that appeals to men and women,” said Josh Pearson, head bartender. “It’s a slightly bitter and sour cocktail that will complement Chef Andrew Zimmerman’s special Valentine’s menu.”
Nacional 27, (325 W. Huron, 312-664-2727, www.n27chicago.com). El Corazon, which means “the heart” in Spanish, combines a smooth white tequila with the fresh juices of pomegranate, passion fruit and blood orange. A passionate drink indeed, its martini glass holder is rimmed with salt and pepper. It can also be ordered by the pitcher, which should really get patrons in the mood to show off their Latin dance moves.
Libertad, (7931 Lincoln, Skokie, 847-674-8100, www.libertad7931.com). This unassuming neighborhood Nuevo Latino restaurant is serving El Afrodisiaco, a name that needs no translation, by combining a tequila pomegranate liqueur with fresh-squeezed blood orange juice and passion fruit juice in an ice-filled red wine glass. It’s topped with sparkling wine and bitters and garnished with a red rose petal.
Bakersfield, (330 E. Ogden, Westmont, 630-568-3615, www.bakersfieldresaurant.com). The Sake Blossom is a potent combination of ginger beer, sake, sparkling cava, orange liqueur and lemongrass simple syrup served in a Champagne flute and garnished with a diced strawberry and an orange blossom. Craft cocktails are a specialty at this west suburban restaurant known for steaks, seafood and sushi.
Chicago Firehouse, (1401 S. Michigan, 312-786-1401, www.chicagofirehouse.com). Between the Sheets is a cleverly named dark spirits cocktail consisting of brandy, rum, Cointreau, lemon juice and sugar and served in a martini glass. A twist of lemon is the garnish. This South Loop mainstay helped spark the area’s regentrification.
Cantina Laredo, (508 N. State, 312-955-0014, www.cantinalaredo.com). Valentine’s cocktails may be ordered separately or as an optional pairing to the three-course Valentine’s menu through Feb. 16. The first course cocktail is White Honey Sangria, made with Moscato wine, ginger liqueur, honey liqueur and fresh lemon, lime and orange juices. Main course cocktail is the Passion Fruit Margarita with silver tequila, passion fruit syrup and lime juice. With a dessert choice of churros or strawberry bunelos, the recommended cocktail is the Heart Warmer — anejo tequila, Bailey’s Irish Cream and coffee, perfect for sipping near one of the fireplaces.
The Local Chicago, (198 E. Delaware, 312-280-8887, www.thelocalchicago.com). “His and hers” cocktails are the Valentine’s specials, under the direction of Dustin Drankiewicz, head bartender. For the ladies, he created a sparkling wine cocktail with prosecco, St. Germain and housemade rose hips. Garnished with a rose petal, the bubbly drink is served in a Champagne flute. The more masculine cocktail is an old fashioned with rye whiskey, bitters, saffron sugar, a float of orange oil and an orange peel garnish from a pre-Prohibition era recipe.
Nellcote, (833 W. Randolph, 855-635-5268, www.nellcoterestaurant.com). “His and hers” cocktails also are the theme of the day at this stylish establishment where hipsters like to see and be seen. “His” is a twist on an old fashioned featuring small batch bourbon, raw sugar, Parfait Amour — a liqueur flavored with rose petals, almond and vanilla — lemon juice and bitters. “Hers” is a sparkling wine cocktail with prosecco, Parfait Amour and chocolate bitters.
Umbriago, (6 W. Hubbard, 312-494-1200, www.barumbriago.com). The Hot Tub is a cocktail for two served in an oversized crystal glass with two straws. Contents are vodka, Grand Marnier, pomegranate juice, and blood orange-infused sparkling water with a blood orange segment garnish.
Henri, (18 S. Michigan, 312-578-0763, www.henrichicago.com). Mon Coeur (English translation—“my heart”) is especially appropriate before dinner at this sophisticated modern French-influenced white tablecloth restaurant. Spirits Director Clint Rogers creates the cocktail with cognac, blood orange liqueur, blood orange and lemon juices and rose water over a molded ice sphere in a Georgian glass.
Wickets Bar & Grill, (601 N. Martingale Rd., Suite 100, Schaumburg, 847-619-1400, www.wicketsbarandgrill.com). Cupid’s Arrow is a foamy drink best suited to after-dinner, made with cinnamon cream rum and Bailey’s Irish Cream and served in a martini glass. This cocktail is on the fancy side for Wickets, a sports bar and restaurant.
Epic, (112 W. Hubbard, 312-266-2300, www.epiccafe.com). The popular salted caramel combination has found its way into a flavored vodka. The Salted Karamel cocktail also contains Bailey’s Irish Cream and Godiva dark chocolate liqueur.
Storefront Company, (1941 W. North, 773-661-2609, www.thestorefrontcompany.com), also has a chocolate cocktail for the occasion, especially appropriate for after-dinner or with dessert. Simply called Cacao, this sweet and strong libation is made with a small-batch bourbon, cocoa liqueur, Ratafia de Bourgogne — a spirit made with red grape stems and seeds — pomegranate juice and bitters.
Singles without Valentine’s weekend dates need not feel left out. Old Town Social, (455 W. North., 312-266-2277, www.oldtownsocial.com), will feature a singles party with drink specials and DJ throughout the evening on Feb. 14. Some of the featured drinks will be shots of Malort, a bitter-tasting, cultish liquor made from wormwood. The Bitter Gin Fizz cocktail mixes Malort with gin, St. Germain and bitter lemon soda.
Singles without dates, as well as couples, are welcome throughout the weekend at the casual O’Donovan’s Pub and Restaurant, 2100 W. Irving Park, 773-248-2100, www.odonovansbar.com). Drink specials from Feb. 14 through 17 include $5 Love Bombs (cherry vodka and Red Bull), hot drinks and specialty martinis, with suggestive names such as Sex A-Peel and Chocolate Seduction.
Finally, couples who prefer to celebrate each other at home, Binny’s Beverage Depot, multiple locations, www.binnys.com, recommends a bottled, pre-mixed cocktail called X-Rated Fusion Liqueur. Spokesman Greg Versch says to simply serve the mix of premium French vodka, Sicilian blood orange, mango and passion fruit juices over ice or blended with Champagne.
Carolyn Walkup is a local free-lance writer.