Whether you're treating your significant other to an overly romantic night out on the town this weekend, or want to stay in and cuddle, you should probably be able to find or whip up a formidable cocktail for any occasion. The Current visited a few of the city's sexiest bartenders, including an old favorite, to help you score this Valentine's Day.
Karl Schwender has the tats of your (stereo)typical 'tender, but he comes by much of his creative cocktail creds the homeschool way: read, mix, taste, try again. Regardless, during his tenure as bartender/phone answerer/waiter at Bite (1012 S Presa, 532-2551), he has managed to turn the cocktail menu at the diminutive bar into a document worthy of exploration. The recipe below, custom-created for the Current, was inspired by one he already creates with rye (minus the bubbles), but his Southtown Sazerac and Navy Proof Old Fashioned with rum are also worth a sip or three.
Two to three fresh blackberries
¾ ounce honey lavender syrup (see below)
1½ ounces Plymouth gin
½ ounce crème de framboise or other red fruit liqueur (see below)
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce or more Cava or other dry sparkling wine, to taste
For the cocktail: Muddle the blackberries and syrup together in the bottom of a shaking tin. Add gin, liqueur, lemon juice and ice and shake until well-chilled. Double-strain (use a Hawthorne on the tin and pour through a fine sieve to remove any blackberry seeds) into a chilled coupe or martini glass and top with the Cava. Garnish with two skewered blackberries, a twist of lemon peel or even a sprig of fresh lavender.
For the syrup: Mix 3-4 teaspoons of dried lavender (available in bulk at Central Market) into four ounces of hot water. Let steep 15 minutes or so, then strain to remove the rehydrated lavender. Mix approximately a quarter cup local honey into the lavender "tea" and chill. Feel free to play with adding more or less lavender to suit your taste.
Note: In lieu of the framboise (raspberry) liqueur, you might use crème de mùre (blackberry) or crème de cassis (black currant); it's all good. Any of these would also be good in a classic Kir Royale with just the sparkling wine and liqueur.
If we went the classy route with the Lovers 75 at Bite, then let's head into a slightly more, shall we say, adventurous direction. As one of the most laidback cocktail bars around town, Stay Golden Social House (401 Pearl Pkwy.) has carved itself an accidental niche as the home of many a Tinder date. Bar manager Jacob Burris teamed up with pal Joshua Brock of TBA to create a foxy 'tail that will knock you on your ass if you're not careful. Although it mixes a few more ingredients — brandy, pomegranate liqueur, Benedictine, simple syrup, Cava and rose water — than we're used to at Stay Golden, the combination is definitely worth recreating, or at least sipping while swiping right at all the cuties. Who knows, you may find a diamond in the rough with just the right mix of random ingredients.
1 ounce Lustau brandy reserve
½ ounce Pama liqueur
1 bar spoon Benedictine
¼ ounce simple syrup
2-3 drops rosewater
For the cocktail: Stir brandy, pomegranate liqueur, Benedictine, simple syrup into a chilled coupe glass, leaving one ice cube in the glassware. Top with Cava of choice and follow that up with drops of rosewater.
For the syrup: In a pinch, Burris says AppleJack brandy may be substituted for the Lustau. If you're trying to bring the alcohol content down, or are on a tight budget, Burris suggests taking pomegranate (sometimes considered the original Forbidden Fruit) juice and mixing it with equal parts sugar, in essence creating pomegranate syrup. You're already making your date a nice steak, why not go the extra mile?
Note: Want to gather up the courage to keep swiping? Stay Golden's also known for their homemade Fireball whiskey shots. At $5 a pop, the fire-y blend will warm you right up.
For $10, you can have the cutest little date this side of the San Antonio River at Cappycino's. The space is basically begging for an intimate getting-to-know-you session where you can either split a Brandy Alexander or ask for the bar to prepare a cooler version of their coffee-based drinks. In place of hot coffee, you'll get a nice blend of ice cream along with equal parts Bailey's, Frangelico, Amaretto and Kahlua. Served with a healthy swirl of chocolate syrup at the bottom of a beer snifter and topped with a dollop of whipped cream, the Café Cappy shake calls for two straws.
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