Anyone can mix a cocktail, but a cocktail worthy of a special occasion? Turns out you don’t have to be a bartender to make an impressive drink at home. All it takes is one ingredient—a pinch of salt, even—to mix a drink so good it will rival anything you’ll get out at the bar. So, stay in this Valentine’s Day. Whether you’re celebrating with a sweetheart or not, avoid the crowds and price tags on one of the busiest dining nights of the year and make it special by trying our easy yet impressive cocktail tricks. They’re simple enough for anyone to do at home, even if your only experience at the bar is knocking one back.
Add a Pinch of Salt
We salt our food to bring out flavor, so why not our beverages? Try adding half a teaspoon of a salt water solution (4 grams —a generous ½ tablespoon—Diamond Crystal kosher salt and 96 grams—6 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon—water) in this French 75. You’ll wonder why you haven’t been salting your cocktails all along.
Skip the Champagne Flute
A Champagne flute might be nice for presentation, but it’s not actually the best glass for the job. The same narrow shape that showcases pretty columns of bubbles limits the drinker’s ability to smell the sparkling wine, and aroma is the root of taste. Coupes, with their wide bowl, solve that problem, but come with their own drawbacks: The bubbles dissipate quickly in the shallow cup, and swirling (recommended even for bubbly) can more easily lead to spills. Whether you're making that French 75, another Champagne cocktail or just sipping it straight, use a regular white or red wine glass and you’ll be able to smell Champagne more clearly and swirl it worry free.
Spread Nutella on Your Glass, Because Why Not?
Chocolate covered strawberries, which have become synonymous with Valentine’s Day, are fine, but we suggest a step up: a chocolate covered strawberry-inspired cocktail. Mixing vodka with Luxardo liqueur and strawberry jam (don’t worry — just for the flavor, you strain it out) makes a festive drink. But the real punch here comes from a smear of Nutella inside the glass. Yes, you now have permission to smear Nutella inside your cocktail glasses.
See below for our Jammin’ Chocolate cocktail recipe.
Garnish with a Fancy Twist
Citrus twists look great and add aroma to cocktails, whether you’re using the zest from a lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit to decorate or submerge in a glass. They’re easier than you think, too. Use a channel knife (cheap and easy to use) to cut a 3-inch strip of zest from any citrus fruit. Then, gently but firmly wrap the zest around the neck of a spoon in a spiral. Release and the twist should stay in a loose coil.
Burn a Cinnamon Stick for a Smokey Aroma
For a trick that’s as easy as it is dramatic, smoke the glass. Use a match or gas stove burner to light the end of a cinnamon stick. Set it on a heat-safe surface, such as a baking sheet or in a skillet, then overturn a glass over it. Let the smoke fill the glass for several minutes while you make your cocktail. Turn the glass right side up, fill it and enjoy. The smoke will perfume the glass and add another dimension to your drink. You could also burn an orange peel, rosemary, cardamom pods or even coffee beans, but we like cinnamon because we usually have it on hand, and it’s reusable. Try this technique in our Cinnamon-Smoked Whiskey Sour and you’ll feel like you’ve just cozied up to a campfire.
Jammin’ Chocolate Cocktail
1 to 2 teaspoons Nutella
3 ounces vodka
½ ounce Luxardo liqueur
1 tablespoon strawberry jam
1 fresh strawberry
Use a butter knife to smear the Nutella over the inside of one half of a rocks glass. In a cocktail shaker, combine the vodka, Luxardo and jam. Shake with ice cubes. Double strain into the glass with 2 standard ice cubes. Garnish with the strawberry.