Valentine's Day is underrated as a drinking holiday, particularly if you're single. It's no New Year's or St. Patrick's, but everybody is either toasting or drowning their sorrows. Sometimes both.
If you're going out to celebrate/brood, Arcata's Plaza Grill has a pretty enough bar for a date (you don't want to do hipster-dive-slumming on Valentine's), and it's bustling enough for a single person not to feel like he or she is an extra in someone else's proposal scene. It also has the Harlequin Romance-named Poetic Passion in a Glass — the drink equivalent of a shirtless Fabio on a horse ($8). When asked for a romantic drink, bartender Rick Vance (who had a shirt) whipped up the concoction with Mango Passion Sorbet Smirnoff, cranberry juice, sour mix and passion fruit purée. Are you getting the passion theme? Jillian Thayer, another Plaza Grill barkeep, invented it for just such occasions.
The dark pink and orange ombré drink is tangy and a bit like a gummy peach ring with a less obnoxious aftertaste. The consistency is nice, the purée adding a pulpiness that almost convinces you that it's juice. (Healthy!) Adding to this illusion is the total absence of any taste of alcohol. If you're over 25, this is a one-a-night drink. It's tasty enough to toss back a few without effort, but the sugar hangover would be murder — is that a crime of passion?
Staying in for the night? No reason to mail it in on the drinks. The iconically decadent Russian Tea Room in New York (giant, revolving bear-shaped aquarium, gilded everything) used to serve a champagne cocktail that was Fabergé-egg glamorous and easy to make. Sadly, the Czarina, a blushing flute of champagne with floating pomegranate seeds, has been retired to make room for more aggressive cocktails like the Ivan the Terrible and a caviar martini. (The very idea puts Sochi in stark relief.) If your budget doesn't allow for a corker of a champagne, don't skimp and risk a cheap bubbly headache. Instead, go for prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine that, at a fraction of the price, is just as lovely and festive but casual enough for lunch. Look at you, striking the perfect balance between the aristocracy and the proletariat.
1 flute of chilled champagne or prosecco
1 teaspoon pomegranate syrup
1 spoonful of fresh pomegranate seeds
Drizzle the syrup slowly down to the bottom of the flute and drop in the little garnet seeds. Cheers, darling!