To hell with the long-stemmed roses, chocolate soufflé for two and overpriced Champagne. Just because you don’t have fancy dinner plans doesn’t mean you have to stay home on Valentine’s Day and watch reruns of Golden Girls. Drag your own ass to one of these seven cocktail lounges where the fab drinks are guaranteed to help drown your singleton sorrows, whether you’re drinking alone or out with a group of friends.
1. This Drink is My Date, The Ice Cream Bar, San Francisco
Sorry, we just couldn’t resist this one. The name pretty much says it all. At The Ice Cream Bar, a 1930s-style soda fountain in San Francisco tht serves artisan ice cream, handcrafted sodas and other spiked “remedies,” owner Juliet Pries feels your pain. She originally set out to create a bitter cocktail to match all the bitterness that comes along with the holiday, but instead she settled on this—an over-the-top beer and ice cream float that's “as good as, or in some cases better than, any Valentine's date.” The decadent confection features Allagash Curieux bourbon barrel aged ale that’s poured over three of the shop’s most-loved ice cream flavors (milk chocolate, banana pudding, butterscotch), and topped with caramelized banana, whipped cream and an Amarena cherry. Because, hey, you deserve a cherry on top. Photo by Erik Deiters
2. Hog’s Head Butterbeer, Sotto, Los Angeles
Byrnn Smith, self-professed Harry Potter nerd and the bar talent at Sotto Restaurant in LA and the Bartending Pretty blog, has created the perfect cocktail for indulging your single self. Smith (who dreams about being a bartender for Andy Cohen one night on Watch What Happens Live), geeked out when Universal Studios revealed how they made the infamous wizard brew. She was determined to make her own from scratch. Her version of butterbeer features housemade butterscotch liquor that she makes with Tito’s vodka, butter, brown sugar and corn syrup combined with real vanilla bean simple syrup, which she then carbonates and “bartenders up” with angostura whipped cream as a topper. “Nobody on a hot date would want to order a indulgence like this, just in case they're getting lucky later,” jokes Smith. “But when you're single, you can have your own six-pack and no one will judge ya! Plus, you can lick the leftover whipped cream out of the glass without worrying about impressing anyone.”
3. Vegan Sacrifice, Range, DC
Still getting over a bad break up with that cute vegan? Here’s your ultimate revenge cocktail. Dubbed the Vegan Sacrifice, this carnivorous riff on a Scotch Old-Fashioned comes from Top Chef and Top Chef Masters finalist Bryan Voltaggio’s D.C. restaurant RANGE. He wanted to create a drink that would evolve and add new depth of flavor as you sipped it. He starts with a heavier scotch such as Sheep Dip Islay Blended Scotch that already has lots of umami properties (smoke, sea air, ripe fruit and honey grain) and then balances it out with housemade spicy ginger-cayenne honey syrup and floral anise notes from Peychaud's bitters. But the piece de resistance is the frozen consommé “popsicle”, made from cured and smoked meats, tomato water, classic mirepoix and lots of seasoning; it's added at the end to create a total umami bomb. Guests are encouraged to stir the cocktail with the popsicle to facilitate faster dilution, or pick it up and suck on it directly. So long, sucker.
4. The Selfie, The Treasury, San Francisco
What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a singleton than with some selfies— of the boozy variety, that is. At The Treasury, a stylish new craft-cocktail lounge in San Francisco's Financial District, bar director Carlos Yturria likes to elevate his drinks with tinctures, sous vide syrups and housemade jams. For the occasion, he’s created the Selfie, a sassy remix of the classic gin and tonic, updated with housemade tangerine-and-ginger-infused ice cubes that continues to release their zingy flavor into the cocktail as you drink it. In between enjoying selfies (both the cocktails and actual ones), treat yourself to some next-level bar bites such as pigs in a blanket stuffed with duck, pork and foie gras sausage, and Tsar Nichouli caviar with all the fixin's. Photo: Tory Putnam Photography
5. Bottle Rockets, Gem, Boston
Gather up your best friends (the one without benefits) and partake in some raucous group drinking at GEM Italian Kitchen Nightclub & Lounge. Known as Bottle Rockets, this show-stopping communal Champagne creation (straws included) features an entire 750-milliliter bottle of Moet upended directly into a giant punch bowl, along with Pavan and soda, fresh fruit and dry ice. It has become a rite of passage among Boston’s after-work and late-night crowd, and will certainly make your Valentine’s Day memorable, unless of course you have one too many. Pricing starts at $98 (per person) and goes up to $365 for high rollers with expensive taste in bubbly. Plan on day drinking for this one. Bottle Rockets service will be available during the blowout DJ brunch party on V-day, but the restaurant will be closing by 7pm that evening.
6. The Force, Bit House Saloon, Portland
Looking for something to bond over as you pound drinks with your fellow Star Wars fanboys? The Force, a newly created cocktail from the Bit House Saloon in Portland, uses something other than Jedi power to keep the dark and light sides separate. To create the sleight of hand, bar manager Jesse Card adds Olmeca Altos reposado tequila and honey to the glass, and then floats cherry bitters and Fernet Vallet on top and garnishes it with a flamed lemon. (The real reason why the layers stay separate has to do with the different weights and viscosity of the alcohol.) After you’ve polished off your drink, plan on sticking around for No Boys Allowed, a huge '90s slow-jams dance party going down at the saloon from 10pm-2 am, where boys are, in fact, allowed. Photo: Kari Young
7. Juliet & Romeo, The Violet Hour, Chicago
Think you’re the only star-crossed lover? Swallow all your regrets about what-could-have-been with this aptly named signature cocktail at the The Violet Hour, where the house rules include no light beer, no Jaeger-Bombs and no companions that you wouldn’t bring to your mother’s house for Sunday supper. On Valentine’s Day, dinner is a ticketed private event, but for those of you who don’t have any Romeo or Juliet to bring to your mother’s house (classy or not), the bar will be welcoming walk-ins all night long. Head mixologist Toby Maloney created the Juliet & Romeo, a gin-based cocktail featuring Beefeater, cucumber, mint, lime, Angostura Bitters and rose water for “people who hated gin.” The drink’s most notable characteristic is its floral aroma, which comes from the cucumber and rose water and is meant to be “reminiscent of walking into a fresh garden.” Just don’t think about your summer fling while you’re downing it. Photo credit: Cassandra Stadnicki
8. Bright Lights, Betony, New York City
With a name that pays homage to the opulent excess of New York City a la Jay McInerney, Betony’s Bright Lights is a celebratory Champagne cocktail featuring all the theatrics you’d expect on Valentine’s Day, albeit with a twist. Where else do they present rose petals to the ladies, only to plunge them into the freezing cold abyss and shatter them to smithereens? Bar maestro Eamon Rockey creates the drink to order, plucking off a fresh petal, dropping it into a tin glass and then pouring in liquid nitrogen, which freezes the petal into rose chips. He then drops the chips into a glass, muddles it into an ultrafine red powder that has the consistency of blush, adds the spirits and shakes it. The result is an incredibly vibrant, racy-red cocktail fully imbued with the color, flavor, aroma and even silky texture of an actual rose. Except, well, it's not quite as sweet.
Photo: Cecilia Busick
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