Suburban nightspots get creative with specialty cocktails for Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day without chocolate is like Thanksgiving without turkey.
That bit about chocolate is especially true when it comes to Valentine's Day-inspired cocktails on the menu this weekend at suburban bars and restaurants. It comes as no surprise to Ursula Borodzinska, owner of Elgin's Martini Room, who says all varieties of chocolate -- white, dark and spiced -- will likely dominate holiday cocktail recipes.
She compares the sweet treat to an aphrodisiac and says sparkling wine and champagne are other likely ingredients, along with strawberries and raspberries, which provide "secondary notes."
The Martini Room is among the nightspots and restaurants that have reopened in response to the recently loosened restrictions on indoor dining. To commemorate Valentine's Day, the Martini Room's ever-creative mixologists created the Love Potion Martini Flight made sweeter with the addition of white or dark chocolate ganache from Herb's Bakery in Elgin. Making up the flight are the French Kiss (crème de cacao, vanilla vodka among other ingredients), Cupid's Error (with apple, watermelon and peach schnapps), Kiss Me (with vanilla vodka and pomegranate liqueur) and Chocolate Truffle (which includes crème de cacao and Baileys Irish Cream).
For those preferring lighter fare, the lounge serves up a Sparkling Amore Spritzer made with St. Elder Elderflower Liqueur, white cranberry juice, Fee Brothers Peach Bitters and sparkling wine among other ingredients.
Single cocktails and flights are also available to-go.
"It feels good to be open again," said Michael Pruitt, president and co-owner of The Vine Martini and Wine Bar in Grayslake. "To be honest the thing we've missed the most about being closed is the social aspect and being able to see the joy on our guests' faces when they're enjoying our cocktails and food."
Among the Vine's Valentine's Day offerings are its Strawberries & Cream, which includes whipped vodka, vanilla vodka, strawberry schnapps and other ingredients, and The Casanova, with Grey Goose La Poire Pear Vodka, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and passion fruit among other ingredients. Both are available to-go.
The Vine, Martini Room and other suburban venues will limit capacity and require patrons to wear face coverings when interacting with employees and when away from their tables. Patrons will be physically distanced and employees will sanitize and disinfect areas frequently, according to managers.
CoCo & Blu, a combination coffeehouse and cocktail lounge that opened last March in Arlington Heights, this weekend debuts The Honey Bear, a whiskey-based cocktail that includes honey and orange simple syrup. Co-owner Michael Brown says a successful specialty beverage depends on concept, presentation and garnishes.
To that end, Coco & Blu's bright pink Clover Club is made with housemade raspberry syrup and gin while the Three Hearts includes housemade cinnamon vodka and is garnished with sugar hearts.
"It's exciting for us to have people back inside," said Brown, who describes CoCo Blu as a neighborhood hangout.
Also on the Valentine's Day menu are live music, a s'mores charcuterie, and a pretzel and cheese charcuterie.
Valentine's Day specials at Copper Fiddle Distillery in Lake Zurich include the Queen of Hearts, a version of the Moscow mule available in a to-go bucket for two containing a bottle of vodka, blood oranges, bottles of ginger beer and other ingredients.
The hibiscus-infused Dusty Rose Tattoo is made with rye whiskey and dark rum, while the Rose Vice features Copper Fiddle's housemade strawberry puree, according to bar director Don Jewell.
On tap at Liquid Love Brewing, which opened in August in Buffalo Grove, is a holiday-inspired imperial stout. Dubbed Delilah, it incorporates chocolate and strawberry, said co-owner Matt Lakota. He will introduce the new brew on Saturday, Feb. 13.
To commemorate its first Valentine's Day, Bartlett's One Twenty Live, which opened in May, will serve up The Love Bug, which combines cranberry, lemon vodka and grenadine.