While every Valentine’s Day we want to do something wildly impressive for our loved ones, sometimes life conspires against us. When you take your S.O. to a nice restaurant, there’s a good chance it will be so packed full of other couples that it feels more like an overpriced cafeteria. When you buy them an extravagant gift, your partner might not love that you dipped into the joint savings account without checking in with them first. And when you try cooking them dinner, you might leave your S.O. in the awkward position of pretending to enjoy your dangerously undercooked chicken. We all have the best intentions, but Valentine’s Day can be a tough holiday to pull off.
Luckily, there’s a solution that is intimate, romantic, and special while also being cost-friendly and easy to execute. And it involves bourbon.
In preparation of this Valentine’s Day, scientists (me) have been rigorously testing (tasting) bourbon and food pairings, and have arrived at the perfect bourbon and food menu for Valentine’s Day. Not only does it taste awesome, it’s also more creative and unexpected than your standard wine pairing dinner. Your S.O. will be psyched.
When I started out planning this menu, I kept the classic Valentine’s Day pitfalls in mind so they could each be avoided. That meant all items had to fulfill certain requirements:
- Everything has to be available at a non-specialty grocery store. Nothing can be too inaccessible or niche.
- Items shouldn’t be wildly expensive. No filet mignon dusted in gold flaked caviar allowed.
- It can’t require any cooking. No ovens, no stoves, no crock pots. Everything must be totally foolproof (and the fact that I was able to pull it off is evidence of just that).
You might be skeptical at this point. Is getting your partner a Valentine’s Day meal at a grocery store tasteless, cheap, and crass? No. It’s clever, thrifty, personal, and fun. Especially if you plate it well and are charming company. And that’s on you.
I chose 1792 Small Batch Bourbon for both tasting menus. It’s a bourbon with great character, and its caramel, maple-y flavor and spice make it an excellent choice for pairing with many delicious foods. It does an exceptional job of fulfilling the requirements above; lucky Californians like me can pick it up from the grocery store, and it’s not crazy expensive. High quality and convenient. Yes please.
On to the menus.
Valentine’s Day Dinner At Home
These pairings are great for a romantic night at home. Light assembly and no cooking required.
Appetizer: Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Prosciutto
This appetizer goes well with bourbon because the sugary richness of the dates is reminiscent of the caramel flavors of the spirit. The fresh creaminess of the goat cheese and the saltiness of the prosciutto complement both beautifully.
To make these, remove the pits from dates and then fill them with rich, creamy goat cheese. Finish them off by wrapping them in prosciutto.
Entree: Barbecue Rotisserie Chicken and Roasted Brussels Sprouts
A barbecue rotisserie chicken for Valentine’s Day might feel like cheating because it’s so easy, but presenting it nicely and pairing it with bourbon makes it feel like a special event. And just because it doesn’t require a lot of work doesn’t mean it’s not tasty.
The sweet and spicy notes in barbecue go beautifully with the rye spice and maple syrup flavors in the 1792 Small Batch Bourbon. I recommend serving it with a nutty, hearty roasted vegetable like brussels sprouts (or carrots, sweet potatoes, or corn— whatever you can find in your local grocery store’s prepared food section) which goes well with the caramel flavors in the whiskey.
If your date isn’t already thrilled that you chose to stay home for Valentine’s Day, this dessert will convince them.
Grab a couple candles, set up the chocolate, grahams, and whiskey, and go to town. The burnt sugar, honey, and cocoa notes in s’mores are sinfully perfect with bourbon and dangerously addicting. It’s playful, delicious, and decadent. Plus you get to light things on fire.
Anyone who tells you that a campfire is necessary in order to make s’mores is part of the giant camping conspiracy. All you need to do to make s’mores at home is to stick a marshmallow on a skewer and hold it over a candle (you can be proper and wait for a delicate golden brown to coat the mallow evenly, but personally I just like to set the whole thing on fire). Then you squish the melty marshmallow between graham crackers and chocolate in the traditional way. Perfect.
- 1792 Small Batch Bourbon
- Goat cheese
- Barbecue flavored rotisserie chicken
- Roasted brussels sprouts (roasted carrots or sweet potatoes are also good substitutes)
- Graham crackers
Valentine’s Day Picnic Lunch
If a picnic lunch is more your speed, this menu travels well and is convenient to set up anywhere. Obviously, be cool and only drink the bourbon where you’re allowed to. Duh.
Appetizer: Brie with Honey Barbecue Chips
The zesty, sweet spice of the barbecue chips is reminiscent of the whiskey, and both mix nicely with the fruity, creamy, nuttiness of the brie. It’s casual, fun, and refined all at once.
Entree: Honey Smoked Salmon and Roasted Sweet Potatoes
A quality hot-smoked maple salmon is tough to beat. It’s as close as seafood can get to candy (which may not sound appetizing, but trust me, is a very good thing) and the maple sweetness in the smoked salmon elegantly pairs with the whiskey. It’s also a good choice because it travels very well and can be enjoyed at room temperature.
Pair it with roasted sweet potatoes, carrots, or corn.
Dessert: Cornbread, Whipped Cream, Honey, and Peaches
You may have forgotten your S.O.’s birthday this year. You may have accidentally turned all their towels pink last week. You may have even drunk dialed their mom on New Year’s Eve. This dessert course of cornbread, honey, and peaches paired with bourbon will fix all of it.
BTW, throwing some of the peaches in the bourbon is 100% recommended.
- 1792 Small Batch Bourbon
- Brie cheese
- Barbecue chips
- Honey smoked salmon
- Roasted sweet potatoes (roasted carrots, corn, or brussels sprouts make good substitutes)
- Corn bread
- Whipped cream
So, Happy Valentine’s Day
The most important way to show your loved one you care on Valentine’s Day is giving them your time, attention, and care. And bourbon. Best of luck.