Having worked in restaurants and bars most of my adult life, I've seen the best and worst Valentine's Day has to offer. Opportunistic operators tend to take advantage of couples seeking to splurge with supplements of caviar, truffles and foie gras, while the front of house places pricey wines and spirits on the menu.
I, for one, am guilty of letting clichés get the best of me over the years in creations prepared with rosé Champagne, Parfait Amour liqueur, rose petal garnishes and crème de cacao. (I'm a big chocolate and Champagne fan: I can't say I don't practice what I preach.)
Though my wife loves the finer things the day proffers, after 10 years and many amazing Valentine's Days, she's much more appreciative of gifts that demonstrate my affection without a gaudy price tag. She usually makes me something, and I marvel over how much time and thought went into it. Which got me thinking about cocktails that communicate a more mature love, and the Adonis came to mind.
Instead of a brawny rye whiskey or a botanical gin bomb to pair with the vermouth in a Manhattan or martini, the Adonis calls for sherry, which transforms this late 19th century looker into something you can sip all night. The exquisite coupling can be ordered in most bars, thanks to Sherry's newfound popularity, or mixed at home with ease if the crowds aren't your thing.
I'd recommend preparing a few to celebrate and bottling the rest for next Valentine's Day. Like wine, from which vermouth and sherry are made, the ingredients will meld over time. You'll be able to chart their evolution if you're patient. And like your relationship, you'll be rewarded by devotion to a bond.
Food editor's notes:
Palo Cortado is a rare type of sherry similar to amontillado that comes about when a fino sherry goes awry and begins to experience unplanned yeast activity. Its dry smokiness helps balance the floral sweetness of the vermouth for the perfect drink to sip with your date.
You can turn this drink into a batch cocktail that you can bottle-age: In a clean, resealable 750-milliliter glass bottle, add 12 ounces each of the sherry and vermouth with 16 dashes of orange bitters. Store the bottle in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.
Recipe from TT Drinks Editor Jim Meehan
Yield: 1 cocktail
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: N/A
Total Time: 5 minutes
1½ ounces Lustau Palo Cortado sherry
1½ ounces Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
2 dashes Angostura orange bitters
Orange twist, for garnish
In a glass, combine the sherry, vermouth and bitters with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with an orange twist and serve.