Whether you’re going out for Valentine’s Day or staying in – blissfully with a romantic other or blessedly with a friend or peacefully on your own – consider this elegant champagne cocktail idea from Freixenet. Called The Hearbreaker, it starts with placing a single wild hibiscus flower in a glass with two teaspoons of Hibiscus syrup. Then pour chilled Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava (delicious and only $12 a bottle) over the flower to fill the glass. Give the flower a few minutes to bloom and enjoy the beauty of the flower and the aroma and sparkle of the wine. Makes a nice combo with chocolates, too.
Pick up your Freixenet at Binny’s. As for hibiscus flowers, check with one of the following – and don’t think you have to confine this lovely cocktail to Valentine’s day:
- La Salle Flowers – 731 N LaSalle Street
- Chicago Flower Company – 1948 N Elston Avenue
- Bonnie Flower Shop – 3400 E Irving Park Road
- Bunches – 2448 N Lincoln Avenue
And/or consider the sensual possibilities of combining cognac and chocolate. If you thought cognac was something other people drink, think again. No need to pour a big gulp of the stuff; it’s a treat to try just a couple of sips when you’re enjoying some chocolate. The chocolate coats the mouth and prepares the palate for the complex warming sensations of the cognac. And the lovely spicy and rich aromas and complex flavors of the cognac are perfect foils for the joy of dark chocolate. Below are a few types of cognac that go beautifully with this combination.
Louis Royer cognac Force, high strength, 53° smells kind of like rye whiskey right when you pour it. A really strong and hot sensation on the tongue and down the throat. Probably its 53% alcohol has something to do with that roughness. A few other reviews recommend pouring yourself a drink and letting it breathe for a while to smoothe out the raw edges. Drunk right after pouring, it might be too strong for some, but once it sits, enjoy the complexity. **** Flavor also marries nicely with chocolate with 73% cacao.
Camus VSOP Elegance Cognac has jasmine aromas intermingled with subtle yellow fruit notes. On the palate, a nice balance between smoothness and structure that’s enhanced with vanilla and light woody notes. Smooth and subtle on the tongue with a long silky finish. Lovely with chocolate, a truly sensual combination. 40% alc. ****
Hine Rare VSOP Fine Champagne Cognac from France has a subtle nose with almost a hint of licorice. It’s a middle-aged cognac that’s called Fine Champagne because of the blending of the two best crus. The youngest cognac is 6 years old, meaning it was matured in oak barrels for at least 6 years. Love it with chocolate. 40% alc. ****
Pierre Ferrand Premier Cru du Cognac, A complex and full-bodied Cognac with a fine gold color; fruity and round with a slightly vanilla flavor. Slightly sweet on the palate. Enjoy the heady scent of grapes picked fresh from the harvest. Superb with chocolate. 45% alc. *****
Courvoisier VSOP Cognac. A blend of the Grande Champagne and Petit Champagne crus, giving it the “Fine Champagne” distinction. Enjoy the finesse of the vanilla, dried fruit and heady summer flower notes. Complex and warming on the palate with a long finish. Excellent with chocolate. 40% alc.
And for even more precise recommendations, the Cognac Board gives these specific ideas: For lighter-bodied Cognacs, creamier and softer chocolates are better suited, and for older and bolder Cognacs, go with intense-flavored chocolates.
- White chocolate / Cognac Frozen VS– Experts recommend Frozen VS with a white chocolate: its subtle cream and buttery tones blend harmoniously with this category’s oily texture.
- Crunchy hazelnut praline / Cognac VS – VS Cognac complement fondant and rich texture such as caramel or hazelnut pralines. Those flavors soften the bite of the VS.
- Dark chocolate covered fruits / Cognac VSOP – The bitterness of dark chocolate, including those with nutty, floral and fruity notes, pairs well with an aged Cognac, standing up to its complexity.
- Dark chocolate / Cognac XO– Oak, clove, black pepper and dried fruit, the aromatic characteristics of XO respond to the roundness of simple and intense dark chocolate. As the fullest and richest of all Cognacs, XO also enhances creamy notes of vanilla and caramel macarons.