Whether you’re going out for dinner and drinks or staying in, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be stressful or complicated. Here is a simple 3-ingredient cocktail along with a 3-ingredient dessert that will make you look like a pro regardless of experience level. It’s the epitome of small details executed well to create a stunning result.
First up is the cocktail, and it’s the classic Jack Rose. I’ve seen many recipes for the Jack Rose, but the two things most agree upon is that applejack is the base spirit and that it contains grenadine. I came across a few historic recipes calling for sweet and dry vermouth, one that called for raspberry syrup, and a few that called for orange juice. It has clearly gone through many iterations since the original 1910 recipe, but the version I prefer calls for applejack, lemon juice, and grenadine.
Applejack was popular during the colonial era, and today the only brand I’ve ever seen around is Laird’s. It was historically produced through the process of “jacking”, which means the alcoholic apple cider was left outside in the winter to freeze. The water would freeze before the alcohol, and the ice would be removed. When repeated many times the result was a product that was higher in alcohol content. Modern production methods typically involve simply adding a higher proof grain neutral spirit (vodka) to the distilled apple brandy.
For this cocktail I chose to use a bottle of grenadine provided to me by Liber & Co.. Grenadine is one of those ingredients that has been adulterated over the years and turned into a sugary mixture of artificial flavors and colors that tastes nothing like pomegranate. Most people who I speak with think it’s supposed to be a raspberry syrup. I’ve found a few decent grenadines over the years, but truly I’ve never come across a bottled grenadine as good as Liber & Co.. In preparation for this post I did a side by side with another brand which I considered to be of a good quality. The first thing I noticed is that particular brand is 15% juice while the Liber & Co. boasts a whopping 65% juice. The other brand has no artificial flavors or colors, but the first two ingredients are cane sugar and water. When tasting them side by side they are night and day. There is a certain earthy, almost woody note present in Liber & Co.’s product just like when eating fresh pomegranate seeds. Liber & Co. sources their pomegranates from a family farm in California and cold-presses them to extract the juice. The difference shows, and it doesn’t take an expert to discern. Enough of the fanfare; check out the simple recipe for the Jack Rose below. If you didn’t pick up a dozen roses for your significant other, perhaps they will be content with half a dozen Jack Roses. If that doesn’t suffice, continue to the dessert recipe that follows.
- 2 ounces applejack
- ¾ ounce lemon juice
- ½ ounce grenadine
- Shake in cocktail shaker filled with ice.
- Strain into chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with lemon twist.
I don’t mind spending time cooking or baking in the kitchen, but if I come across a simple recipe that I can knock out with minimal effort and dazzle guests, I’ll gladly save myself some time and effort. This hazelnut espresso mousse only requires three ingredients and you can make it in under 15 minutes. (However, it does need to set in the fridge.) I like using espresso powder for some added subtle complexity, but I think a small amount of chili pepper could provide an interesting twist as well. There are two kinds of espresso powder you may come across – freeze-dried instant espresso and espresso roasted coffee beans ground superfine. For applications like this I don’t mind using the freeze dried kind. It blends better and should have more flavor than an actual ground espresso that has been oxidizing and losing flavor since it was ground and packaged. For the hazelnut spread, Nutella is an okay option, but there are many other brands of hazelnut spread that are of a higher quality than Nutella. I’ve enjoyed Nocciolata brand, but there are other options online or at your local specialty food store.
This dessert couldn’t be easier, but don’t neglect the garnish as it’s really what makes this shine and what will impress your significant other. I’ve garnished it with a raspberry and shaved chocolate in the past, but my favorite iteration lately is a raspberry and pinch of Maldon sea salt. Maldon sea salt not only provides an additional flavor component, but the large flakes provide texture by providing a slight crunch. It’s not a salt you’d cook with, rather it’s a finishing salt to be used as a garnish.
- 1 cup heavy cream (chilled)
- ½ cup hazelnut spread
- 1 teaspoon of espresso powder
- fresh red raspberries (for garnish)
- Maldon sea salt (for garnish)
- Add espresso powder to heavy cream and whisk in large bowl until soft peaks form.
- Gently fold hazelnut spread into the heavy cream. (If the hazelnut spread is particularly thick, warm it or add some of the heavy cream to it first so that it will incorporate better.)
- Fill ramekin or other serving dish with the mousse, cover, and chill for an hour.
- Garnish with a fresh raspberry and a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt.
There you have it – two simple recipes that are sure to impress your significant other. If you don’t need the recipes this Valentine’s Day, keep them as aces up your sleeve for the next time you need to plan a romantic evening.
P.S. If you need another quick and easy idea, check out this post on how to make cocktail stencil art! You can add a heart shape to the top of any cocktail with a stable amount of foam.
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Liber & Co. – Real Grenadine – Literally the best grenadine I’ve had. You can tell that it’s 65% juice.
Medaglia D’Oro Instant Espresso Coffee – I wouldn’t use this to make a beverage (there simply isn’t any way to replace fresh espresso), but it’s great for baking and desserts.
Maldon Sea Salt – A finishing salt that is as much about the texture as it is the flavor. Up your garnish game.
Fine White Porcelain Ramekins (6 ounce) – A great all around dish. Oven, microwave, and dishwasher safe.
Rigoni Di Asiago Nocciolata Organic Hazelnut Spread – A favorite hazelnut spread. Find it via this Amazon link or Whole Foods.
OXO On Digital Hand Mixer with Illuminating Headlight – I own this hand mixer and love it. It is variable speed, slowly works its way up to faster speeds to prevent splatter, and even has LED lights to illuminate the bowl.