Forget chocolates and flowers on Valentine's, here are four spirits to make the day a little less predictable
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Weird as this might sound, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson aren’t the only ones making their way through life with eyes for each other and no one else. Other animals who subscribe to the philosophy of “Why go out for hamburger when you’ve got grass-fed, hormone-free rib eye steak at home?” include, in no particular order, Atlantic puffins, bald eagles, beavers, Shingleback Skinks, red foxes, grey wolves, and the adorably monikered Macaroni penguins.
As for the rest of us, after the first couple of weeks of lust and deeply-connected bliss has faded away, it’s important to keep things interesting and fresh when it comes to relationships. On that front, anyone can show they care on Valentine’s Day with a jumbo-sized box of handmade European-style artisan chocolates from Temper, or a Mon Paris Louis Vuitton Chocolate Bag (yes, it’s actually a thing). Same goes for a Nothing Compares 2 U bouquet of roses and eucalyptus in a bespoke vase from Studio Full Bloom on Commercial Drive, or a handmade gift card that reads “Good for one massage that I promise I won’t attempt to turn into sex.”
But you know what’s an almost fool-proof gift for Valentine’s Day? Liquor. Assuming you aren’t married to Charles Bukowski, Shane MacGowan, or Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas, a bottle is going to last longer than a box of chocolates (typically demolished in two days) or a bouquet of flowers (wilted on day three, dead and attracting clouds of tiny flies within a week). And secondly, when you’ve been together as long as the average Macaroni penguin couple—or Tom Wilson and Rita Wilson—sometimes you just want to sit there quietly with a drink instead of talking about your day at work, what’s for dinner, or whose turn it is to do the laundry. Here are four bottles to show you really care.
One of the greatest things about travelling—at least until the Mastercard bill arrives—is doing things like the locals do, whether it’s learning to love fresh feta cheese and olives for breakfast in Turkey, or straight-from-the-farm chicken sashimi in Tokyo. Hands up if you’ve had your mind blown by the pine-nut majesty of Mastika in Greece, or thyme-based Farigoule in Provence. Back in the days before the world exploded into a global village, you either had to make the trek to South Africa to get your hands on Amarula, or you tried your hand at growing a marula tree in the backyard (and failing spectacularly).
Now available in Canada, the obvious reference point for Amarula is Bailey’s, mostly because it looks and pours creamy and goes down like liquid velvet. Where the liqueur, which is actually vegan-certified plant-based, carves out its own delicious path is marula fruit, an exotic ingredient that gives things a fruit-heavy gorgeousness that suggests Carabao mangos and Mexican Cream guavas. The key word there is suggests because Amarula is definitely its own thing—a sinfully, sinfully delicious thing where the second you’ve finished one shot, coffee, or Texas Mickey-size bottle, you immediately want another one.
Fun facts—baboons have been known to get bombed on fermented marula, and elephants eat them straight off the tree, which is why the Amarula logo is an elephant, with the company active in preservation efforts in South Africa.
Glenmorangie The Original 10 Years
Adulthood is a weird thing in that it kind of sneaks up on you, to the point where you’re not even aware there’s been a transition. Need a couple of signs you’ve arrived? One of them is the wisdom to recognize that two Oh Henry!s and a package of Turtles with one of them removed because you got hungry isn’t going to impress anyone on February 14. Another one is that you’ve learned to appreciate Scotch—which, rightly or wrongly, brings up images of high-backed leather chairs, in-home libraries, and guys who look like Winston Churchill only more dignified.
These days the correct word there is wrongly, with the likes of Kate Middleton on record as loving a dram or three, and Rachel Barrie making waves on the head-distiller front. The beauty of Glenmorangie The Original 10 Years starts with its accessibility, the whisky finding that elusive sweet spot between smooth and complex. If you’re looking for reference points start with caramelized brown sugar, heady oak, soft copper, bruised vanilla beans, and mashed apples. There’s always going to be that someone in your life who claims to not get Scotch whiskey for reasons that range from a weird aversion to peat-smoke (um, honestly....) to the burn. The Original will not only change their way of thinking, it’ll leave them feeling like an adult—scary as that might be.
Cloud House Cold Brew Infused Colombian Rum
There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “Coffee gets you through the morning, liquor makes the nights semi-tolerable”. Actually, that’s not really an old saying, but it should be. Normally coffee liqueur is just another name for Mexico’s most famous liquor export not named tequila. Cloud House is out to change that with a cold brew-infused rum from Colombia. Even though it punches in at a potent 31 percent, the liqueur goes down so easily that no ice, cream, vodka (or Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski-approved mix of all three) is required.
There are pleasing layers here, the star being caramel-laced rum aged in old bourbon oak casks. Ultimately though, this one’s all about the knock-out coffee flavour, which starts with Arabica coffee beans sourced from the 4,000-feet-above-sea-level farms in the mountains of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. (The name Cloud House is a tribute to the view from the coffee fields). You know how Continental Coffee’s delectably dark French Roast has spoiled you on every coffee other than Continental Coffee French Roast? That almost-burnt goodness is a great leaping-off point for what you can expect here.
Hooked yourself up with someone who believes that the three greatest things in the world are coffee, coffee, and coffee? The danger here is that Cloud House Cold Brew Infused Colombian Rum will replace your loved one’s 9 a.m. latte, afternoon cappuccino, and five p.m. espresso. There are worse things, because, really, this is a liqueur that’s going to make the mornings seem every bit as tolerable as the evenings.
Odd Society Wallflower Strawberry Gin
With the caveat that you don’t have to worry about a spoiler here, there’s a moment in HBO’s uber-amazing The Last of Us that will change, possibly forever, the way that you look at, taste, and savour strawberries. And by strawberries, we’re talking the fresh-from-the-garden variety, not the waxen Driscoll’s ones you find on the shelves at Superstore. Yes, the scene is that transcendently beautiful. While the word transcendent might sound hyperbolic for Odd Society Wallflower Gin, truthfully it’s not that far off.
You know how mass-produced flavoured vodkas and gins can taste like someone dreamed them up in a tasting lab—the flavours both real and artificial? Twelve different botanicals go into Wallflower Strawberry Gin, including lavender, bitter orange, and rose. But what hits you here is the intensity of the strawberries, which hang out like a, well, happy-in-the-background wallflower at first, and then roar out of nowhere to become the star of the party on the back end. As one might expect, Odd Society leaned into the idea of buying local for the distilling process, sourcing its berries from Driediger Farms in Langley. Want a suggestion? Watch it with The Last Of Us, where the strawberries serve as a metaphor for love at its most pure and powerful. And, don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler.
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