Spirits of Passion: A Valentine’s Day Guide

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Featured image: Shutterstock


Today is the modern holiday of love, Valentine’s Day. While there may be mixed feelings about this holiday, we are here to make sure that whether you are celebrating or not, we all enjoy February 14th to the absolute fullest. For this special occasion let’s focus on the world of distillation. There are many herbs and spices of interest in our spirits portfolio that have especially appealing implications on an evening of romantic revelry. Yes, we are talking about herbs of desire, or aphrodisiacs.

Scientifically speaking, there are plenty of reasons why a specific herb or spice might stimulate a person. Without going into detail, blood flow, necessary nutrients and hormone level increases are all impacted by the scent and ingestion of specific plants. Historically, just about every culture has had its respective beliefs about the arousing effects of particular herbs and spices. From basil being dried into a powdered form and applied like perfume, to chewing on anise seeds these culinary mysteries have continued to spark curiosity in the kitchen. But let’s explore a more spirited approach. Within the world of Skurnik Spirits, anise, almonds, basil, caraway, cacao, coriander, cardamom, clove, fennel, honey, licorice, ginger, nutmeg and vanilla can be found in more than twenty of our bottles. These are just a few of the widely agreed upon herbs and spices with romantic implications.

Let’s begin with arguably the most stimulating spirit of the group. Argala Pastis is a gorgeous Northern Italian digestivo that integrates anise, clove, fennel and licorice among other spices in a spectacular way. It is no surprise that the Occidental word argala means, “the satisfaction felt when one sits down to enjoy a meal with the right blend of food, drink and company.” We aspire to experience argala every day, but especially on a holiday focused on romance. There are many cocktails containing pastis that would be perfect to enjoy after dinner, but it’s worth noting that this special spirit is absolutely delicious over an ice cube. And as a good pastis should, it will magically change color as the ice melts, or louche, if you’re looking for a show.

The aromatic quality of basil has had a distinct place in aphrodisiacal history and basil was once considered among the Earth’s most noble and sacred plants. Square One Organic Spirits uses four different types of basil to create their unique and delectable Basil Vodka. They implement a clever micro vacuum distillation method that allows for the essence of basil to remain bright, fresh and flavorful. This essence is then integrated into their organic rye vodka. In the spirit of pairing, basil loves other herbs and spices of desire such as ginger, chili peppers, honey, fennel and vanilla. Not all of these flavors work well together so we have gone through the process of creating a cocktail that is sure to please.

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Aphrodite’s Vice

Combine ingredients in shaking tin; add ice & shake; double strain into chilled Nick and Nora. Garnish with a basil leaf & lemon twist.


Cardamom has long been revered as a strong flavor of romance. The seeds have an extremely high 1,8 cineole content, which has been scientifically proven to have remarkable health benefits as well as an aphrodisiac effect. Brand new to the Skurnik portfolio, Escubac is an herbal liqueur created by Sweetdram and is made with cardamom, among other botanicals. The owners of Sweetdram, Daniel Fisher and Andrew Macleod Smith, met in a distillation master’s program in Edinborough, Scotland. They now conduct their research and development in their laboratory in London and then collaborate with other distillers around the globe to use their equipment to produce conceptual, artistic and flavor driven liqueurs. While Escubac is technically a liqueur, at 25 grams of sugar per liter, it has the absolute minimum amount of sugar required by law to be a liqueur. Macerating vanilla, raisins and saffron post distillation help to round out this spirit and marry together several flavors of desire. Escubac toes the line between spirit and liqueur making it perfectly enjoyable on its own. Just pour over ice and garnish with an orange twist and this bottle of booze can become a ready-made cocktail with minimal effort and no clean up on Valentine’s Day and beyond.

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Escubac Old Fashioned

Combine ingredients in mixing glass; add ice & stir; strain into a rocks glass; add 2-3 large rocks. Garnish with an orange twist.

 

 

 

Anise, found in more Skurnik spirits than perhaps any other herb, is an internationally accepted remedy for many ailments and is known to increase one’s libido. Neversink Gin, Caffo Sambuca, Caffo Anisette and Argala Pastis are a handful of herbal liqueurs that contain anise in their bottles.

Caffo Sambuca and Caffo Anisette should be enjoyed after dinner, chilled or in coffee. Caffo grows all of the herbs and spices used in their liqueurs on their farm in Calabria and they are arguably the best at making traditional Italian liqueurs at extremely affordable prices. In terms of deliciousness, Caffo uses a natural and traditional method in the production of their spirits. For example, the word “sambuco” actually means “elderberry” in Italian. Traditionally, sambuca would have contained elder, but Caffo is virtually the last Italian liqueur producer to continue this tradition and the results are delectable.

From southern Italy to Westchester County, anise is popularly integrated into spirits all across the globe. Neversink Gin balances anise with their botanicals in a base spirit that they produce themselves from apples, corn, wheat and barley. Apples and anise pair perfectly together and this gin is a must try. Enjoy Neversink Gin in a martini or take your Valentine’s Day presentation to the next level by making a sparkling wine cocktail. We recommend pairing Neversink with Giffard Ginger Liqueur, lemon juice and a dry sparkling wine. Try using Gruet Blanc de Blancs for a domestic methode champenoise option that is equally delicious on its own.

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Westchester 75

Combine ingredients in mixing tin; add ice & shake; strain into flute: top with Gruet or sparkling wine. Garnish with lemon twist.

 

 

For those of you looking for a majestic option suitable for kings and queens, look no further than Brennivin. This Icelandic aquavit uses just one botanical, caraway, which was held in the highest regard among at least one ancient ruler. King Henry VIII, famously known for having six wives, was also known to serve apples with caraway seeds when hosting. This special treat was passed around after dinner and eventually became known as “kissing comfits”. Brennivin is widely enjoyed straight out of the freezer but as King Henry knew, it also pairs well with apples. For the perfect caraway and apple concoctions, try this split base cocktail of Calvados from Montreuil and Brennivin.

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Poison Apple

Combine ingredients in mixing tin; add ice & shake; strain over fresh ice into a highball glass; top with ginger beer. Garnish with an orange peel.

 

It is worth noting that these bottles are much more than just the flavors mentioned in this post and none of the producers have created them for the purpose of lust. There is a tremendous amount of tradition and respect that goes into the creation of such beautiful spirits. That said, we did not hesitate to have some fun and, – as always– we hope that you will too whenever you crack open one of these bottles. Happy Valentine’s Day!