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Sensual sips: Romance in a glass

From the sparks that fly with “Can I buy you a drink?” to the quietly intimate “Let’s just grab a bottle and stay in tonight,” and every stage of relationship between, there’s a drink that can capture and define the moment. Here are some seriously sensual cocktails to try out this Valentine’s Day.

The Flirt

For the perfect prologue to any romantic evening on the town, start with the Verona Spritz (receipe from Lamberts in Austin). Muddled strawberries establish the luscious, fruity base, accented with hints of cinnamon from the Zubrówka Bison Grass vodka. Italian bitter Aperol gives the cocktail its blush and levels out the sugar with a tangy rhubarb kiss and prosecco tops off the mix, adding feisty bubbles and amplifying the smooth vodka. Ideal for stimulating the appetite before dinner, this aperitif is flirty and confident.

Shake all with ice and double strain into a champagne flute. Fill with sparkling wine.

The Second Date

The Texas Wildflower cocktail from the Paggi House encourages a subtle and sweet courtship. Tito’s vodka absorbs the flavors of zesty grapefruit juice, which in turn invigorates ethereal St. Germain elderflower liqueur. Soothing lavender bitters elevate the mix to make a gentle nectar with sophistication and elegance. There’s no serious commitment here, just amiable, approachable flavors, compiled with grace.

Getting Serious

To infuse a sense of adventure into the evening, conjure up the spirits of poets, painters and artists of 19th century France with a traditional absinthe drip at Peché. Anise, the licorice-like personality in absinthe, can be a polarizing flavor, but it also historically functions as a stimulator of carnal desires and dreams. As water drips delicately into the glass, transforming the clear liquor into a swirling cloudy elixir, passions will certainly ignite.

A Little Hanky Panky

Designed in the early 1900s by Ada Coleman, the Savoy Hotel’s first female bartender, the Hanky Panky cocktail is just as fresh and vivacious as if it had been invented yesterday. When mixed properly by the crew at Drink.Well, the fragrant foundation of gin blends evenly with opulent sweet vermouth, and Fernet Branca adds just a dash of cheeky mint and spice, binding together the other ingredients. The result is a luxurious, silky cocktail bursting with rich cherry and juniper, with just enough sass to spice up the dullest of dates.

Going Steady

At Second Bar + Kitchen or Bar Congress in Austin, the All This and Heaven Too cocktail promises a seductive punch of booze wrapped in a steaming cloak of velvety chocolate. Bartender Darren Makowsky created this winter warmer, which features not one but two ingredients with aphrodisiac qualities. Dark, sumptuous Jivara chocolate induces increased dopamine levels and overwhelms the vodka base, and saffron, the main ingredient in Italian herbal liqueur Strega, is rumored to have amorous qualities as well. According to some, the spice was sprinkled on the marital beds of newlyweds to encourage sexual activity and fertility in Persia.

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