Whether you are dining out or making a romantic dinner at home this Valentine’s Day, no night of romance is complete without the requisite drinks to begin the evening and end the evening. Here are some ingredients you’ll want to include in your love elixir:
- Ginger– has been highly regarded in many cultures for its medicinal and aphrodisiac qualities. (New York Museum of Sex) The 10th century Salerno Book of Health, which incorporated elements of Classical, Jewish, and Arab medicine, described its properties as such:
“Within the stomach, loins, and in the lung
Praise of hot ginger rightly may be sung.
It quenches thirst, revives, excites the brain
And in old age awakes young love again”
- Coffee– we all know it as stimulant for both the body and mind, but did you know that the mid-15th century, monks of the Sufi monasteries of Yemen were the first to roast and brew coffee as it is known today. They gave it the name, kawah, or ‘that which excites and causes the spirits to rise. Legend has it that Turkish husbands were legally required to provide their wives with a daily quota with the beverage, upon penalty of divorce.
- Vanilla– derived from an orchid native to Mexico and was originally cultivated by the Totonac people. Its local name, ‘Xanath’, references the myth of Xanat, the youngest daughter of a fertility goddess who had fallen in love with a mortal. Since she was a goddess and he a human, they were unable to marry. In one version of the story, the lovers ran off together but were captured and beheaded. The vanilla orchid grew where their blood touched the earth, and the intoxicating aroma of vanilla embodies the transcendent experience of love.
- Chiles– The use of chiles as an aphrodisiac was common in both Aztec and Inca cultures, and recorded by early Spanish explorers after contact in the 16th century AD. These are easy to include in cocktails and even in a rich chocolate dessert: smoky chipotles work well with mescal, fresh jalapeños with tequila and a hint of cayenne or milder adobos with chocolate.
- Honey– the nectar of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty and sexuality from whom ‘aphrodisiacs’ take their name.
- Chocolate– The famous Aztec emperor, Montezuma was known to drink an ancient beverage called atextli. “Although few written records survive, Francisco Hernandez (1514-1587 AD), a naturalist and court physician to the King of Spain, recorded a recipe for a chocolate-based aphrodisiac … made from a thin paste of cocoa beans and maize, mixed with macaxochitl (Mexican Pepperleaf) and tlilxochitl (Vanilla)” before visit his numerous wives (New York Museum of Sex).
- Cinnamon – used in many aphrodisiac preparations throughout the world, this Biblical passage in Proverbs 7, Warning Against the Adulteress, cautions against the allure of its scent,”I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. Come let us take our fill of love till morning.”
Sensual cocktail suggestions: tequila as the liquor of choice for Private Chefs of the SFBay’s mixoligist this Valentine’s Day! Here are several variations on the theme, combining some of the above “love potions”.
(Note: Typical proportions are 1.5 oz. of primary liquor to .5 oz. of secondary liquor and other ingredients (i.e. syrups and fresh juices), other ingredients to taste. Experiment until you get it right sounds like fun, right?!
Habanero Martini– tequila, dry vermouth, habanero (use very sparingly, wear gloves when working with habaneros)
Egg White Tequila Piña– tequila, lime and pineapple juices, simple syrup, foamed egg white topping with a hint of sugar
Double Spice– jalapeño tequila, ginger liqueur, lime juice, agave, chipotle-salt rimmed glass
Spicy Sweet 3-Fruit Piña– tequila, pineapple and orange juices, grendine, jalapeno pepper, pineapple ice cubes
Spicy Tequilito– (like a mojito but made with tequila) tequila, lime juice, mint leaves, simple syrup, jalapeño or use mescal and substitute chipotle and agave for the last 2 ingredients
Vanilla Margarita– tequila, vanilla liqueur, jalapeno, agave, cinnamon stick garnish
Azteca (dessert cocktail) – “Vanilla has a warm, intoxicating aroma, and chocolate and chile peppers have been known as aphrodisiacs forever,” notes bartender Tomas Delos Reyes. Epicurous features Delos Reyes in a video that give you easy, step-by-step instructions for this “based on the beverage the Aztec emperor Montezuma would sip before seducing his harem of women”.