The ‘Spirit’ of Valentine’s Day at Home

Valentine’s Day is just a few days away! Traditionally the day is a celebration of the romantic love we have as couples, but our culture has expanded it to include those we love and hold close like family and friends, which gives you even more reason to celebrate. To get into the ‘Spirit’ I put together carefully selected Valentine’s Day recipes along with the perfect Bourbon or Whiskey cocktails to celebrate the day. This post will include a few selections to make the day special, while also being cost-friendly and easy to execute. Better yet, it includes Bourbon Whiskey!

In preparation for this ‘At Home Valentine’s Day Celebration’, I have been critically tasting bourbons and rye whiskeys to create a perfect ‘spirits’ inspired food menu. Tasty and tasteful, it puts a fun spin on the holiday by being more creative and unexpected than your standard wine pairing dinner.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day at Home….

When it comes down to it, there are actually many benefits to celebrating Valentine’s Day at home.

  • By staying at home, couples can create a comfortable and cozy atmosphere perfect for a romantic evening together. As well, since Valentine’s Day is no longer about couples only, this Day of Love can be celebrated with friends, family, and anybody else you’re close to, opening up possibilities on how and where to celebrate.
  • Going out to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day can be stressful, as it is often crowded and hectic. Instead of waiting in long lines, battling a noisy restaurant, or chancing a rushed and mediocre dinner experience, why not celebrate Valentine’s Day at home? Don’t get me wrong, dining out can be fantastic, especially when it’s something you do on special occasions, but dining in can be incredibly romantic and fun. Save romantic dining out experiences for non-holidays!
  • Home cooked meals are more personalized and special. You can cook your loved one’s favorite dish or try something new together. This can be a great way to bond and create memories over a delicious meal.
  • Another benefit of celebrating at home is to save money. Going out to eat on Valentine’s Day can be expensive, as many restaurants raise their prices for the occasion. By staying at home, couples can save money and still have a special and memorable evening together.
  • Valentine’s Day at home also allows for more flexibility with time. Instead of feeling rushed to finish a meal and head to the next event, couples can take their time and enjoy each other’s company. At home you’ll have the time and privacy you want for special conversation or fun activities.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day at home may not be the traditional way of doing things, but it has its own unique benefits and the most important thing is to be together and make memories, no matter where you are.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day with Bourbon

Bourbon is a popular choice for Valentine’s Day as it is a versatile spirit that can be enjoyed on its own or in a cocktail. The smooth and complex flavors of bourbon make it the perfect choice for a romantic evening. A neat or on the rocks bourbon can be paired with a wide variety of foods, making it an ideal option for a dinner date or to have a heartfelt night with those you love.

Start and Finish the Night with Cocktails

Flowers and heart-shaped boxes are great, but nothing shows you care for someone more than mixing them up a tasty cocktail that will warm them up even on the coldest February night. There’s nothing super difficult about these cocktails, they are made with simple ingredients, yet they are sophisticated and elegant, making them perfect for a special occasion.

A fashionable take on a Brown Sugar Old Fashioned.

Add the following to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake until blended.

  • 1.5 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz Smoked Maple Brown Sugar Simple Syrup (recipe below)
  • 2-3 dashes of Angostura Bitters 

Pour into your favorite cocktail glasses and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

 These libations are the perfect thing to raise a glass and propose a toast to that special someone.

When dinner is done before you call it a night, surprise your loved one with a warm nightcap.

Blend together 3 oz. hot brewed coffee with 1 oz Bourbon and 1 oz Smoked Maple Brown Sugar Simple Syrup. Top with whipped cream and dust with shaved dark chocolate.

In each of these cocktails I made a delicious Smoked Maple Brown Sugar Simple Syrup that you can easily make in advance. This allows you to assemble the cocktail faster when you are ready to serve.

Smoked Maple Brown Sugar Simple Syrup: (Recipe makes enough for 4 cocktails)

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp smoked maple syrup
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Heat the brown sugar, smoked maple syrup, cinnamon and water together on a small saucepan over medium heat. Continue to heat the syrup, stirring occasionally until the brown sugar has fully dissolved. Don’t let the syrup boil. Remove the syrup from the stove and let it cool for a few minutes. (For a residue free simple syrup strain through a thin sheet of cheesecloth.)

To store the brown sugar syrup, let it fully cool to room temperature. Then, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

For this recipe I used Runamok’s Maple Syrup Smoked with Pecan Wood. The result is a rich, smoky, and nutty flavor that is perfect for adding depth to your cocktail simple syrup and to the Smoked Maple Braised Short Rib recipe that is shared below.

Runamok is available on their website, in select grocery store in the United States and on Amazon.

Valentine’s Day Dinner At Home

Valentine’s Day allows for many ways to find fun and creative way to express your love and appreciation for your partner or your loved ones, and what better place to do that than in the heart of the home, the kitchen? This year, why not make it extra special by creating a delicious meal and make it even more special by adding the smoky and complex flavors of bourbon.

Bourbon is a versatile spirit that can be paired with a wide variety of foods and it is a great match for rich and hearty dishes. When pairing bourbon with food, it’s important to consider the flavors and textures of both the bourbon and the food. A higher proof bourbon should be paired with bolder flavors, while a lower proof bourbon should be paired with more delicate flavors. A good rule of thumb is to pair bourbon with food that has similar flavors and intensity.

So, put on your apron, light some candles, and let’s get ready to make some delicious food and bourbon pairings that will make this Valentine’s Day one to remember.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Get ready to fall in love with this deliciously simple and versatile roasted butternut squash recipe. The natural sweetness of the butternut squash is complemented by the warmth of the spices and the depth of the roasting process. With its rich, sweet flavor and tender texture, this easy to make soup makes an ideal starter on Valentine’s Day.

Roasting the butternut squash not only makes the soup easier to make, it gives so much more depth of flavor to this comforting starter.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Roasted butternut squash soup is a warm and comforting dish for the winter season. The sweetness of the squash is balanced with earthy flavors of roasted onions and garlic along with carrots and splash of cream. It's a great option for a warm, hearty starter on Valentine's Day.


  • 3 1/2 pounds butternut squash
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil
  • Sprinkles of onion salt, black garlic powder, smoked paprika and a touch of chipotle powder to dust butternut squash before roasting.
  • 1 medium sweet onion, cut into 1 inch circle slices
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 4 roasted garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp smoked maple syrup (I used the Runamok maple syrup mentioned above)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ginger powder
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1-2 tsp freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup heavy cream


  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the ends off the butternut squash. With a flat surface on the bulb end, stand the butternut squash on end and carefully slice it in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to remove the seeds and membrane.
    Transfer the butternut squash to a baking tray cut side up, coat with oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, onion salt, black garlic powder, smoked paprika and a touch of chipotle powder. Then flip the butternut squash over so the cut side is down and roast for *60 minutes.
    *At the 30 minute point, coat the onion slices with avocado oil and place it cut side down on the baking tray. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes, then remove from the oven.
    When butternut squash is almost done sauté carrots in 1 tbsp olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat.
    Once the butternut squash is cool enough to handle, use a large spoon to scoop out the flesh and transfer it, and the roasted onions into the pot with the sautéed carrots. Start with 3 cups of vegetable broth and add the garlic, smoked maple syrup, salt, nutmeg, ginger, and butter and vegetable broth. Stir until well blended.
    Blend on high with an emulsion blender for several minutes or until creamy. Add more vegetable broth to achieve your desired consistency. Add heavy cream and blend for 15 seconds. Taste the soup and add more salt and pepper if needed.
    Pour the soup into bowls and garnish with Pumpkin Seed Relish (recipe below) and Enjoy!

Pumpkin Seed Relish

To add a delightful contrast to the smoothness of the Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, I prepared a Pumpkin Seed Relish that brings in a nutty, slightly sweet flavor that complements the natural sweetness of the squash. This easy-to-make relish is a wonderful way to elevate your soup to the next level.

Garnish-Pumpkin Seed Relish

  • 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds, roasted then chopped
  • 1/4 cup each fresh parsley and cilantro, finely minced
  • the zest and juice of 2 mandarin oranges
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Mix all ingredients together and serve immediately to garnish the soup.

The flavors of pumpkin seeds and orange zest complement each other beautifully as the orange zest adds a bright freshness and citrusy notes that balances out the earthy taste of the pumpkin seeds.

Smoked Maple Bourbon Braised Short Ribs

Get ready to impress with these mouthwatering Smoked Maple Bourbon Braised Short Ribs. Slow-cooked to perfection, the tender meat falls off the bone and is infused with a complex and rich combination of smoky, sweet and slightly boozy flavors. This recipe is sure to be a hit on Valentine’s day or even at your next family gathering.

The bourbon in this dish adds a complex and decadent flavor to the dish and is a great way to enjoy the unique flavors of bourbon in a hearty and satisfying meal.

Smoked Maple Bourbon Braised Short Ribs

Fall off the bone tender, rich and flavorful, these slow-braised beef short ribs are the ultimate comfort food. The combination of carrots, celery, onions, roasted garlic, and a hint of smoked maple syrup, along with the bold caramel and boozy flavor of bourbon, creates a depth of flavor that will have your taste buds dancing. Perfect for a cozy night in or as the centerpiece of a special dinner party, these short ribs are sure to impress.


  • pounds bone-in beef short ribs
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp roasted garlic olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 6 medium carrots, diced or thin sliced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 fresh thyme stems
  • 1 head roasted garlic
  • ¾ cup bourbon
  • ½ cup smoked maple syrup (I used the Runamok Maple Pecan Wood Smoked Maple Syrup mentioned above)
  • 4 cups beef stock


  • Heat oven to 325ºF (170ºC).
    Season the short ribs all over with salt and pepper then dust with flour. Heat a 7-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and heat through.
    Working in batches, sear the ribs on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining ribs.
    Return the pot to medium heat and add the onion, celery and carrot, sautéing until tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and then add the roasted garlic, bourbon, maple syrup and beef stock.
    Return the short ribs to the pot, top with the thyme stems.
    Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover the Dutch oven and move it to the oven and cook, turning the ribs occasionally, until the meat is fork tender, about 3 to 3½ hours.
    Serve with your favorite sides or Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter Sauce.

As a side dish with the Smoked Maple Bourbon Short Ribs I kept it simple and picked up some frozen Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter Sauce from my local Trader Joe’s. Selecting to add a pre-made side saves time in the kitchen and allows more quality time with your significant other. If you would like to try making your own Sweet Potato Gnocchi, I would recommend the recipe from Epicurious.

Keeping it Simple for Dessert

Bourbon and rye whiskey, along with a selection of chocolates can be a match made in heaven and is a simple yet elegant choice when you want to spend some sweet time with the one you love.

Pairing Bourbon and Chocolate

The full-bodied and nuanced flavors of bourbon complement the creamy and decadent flavors of chocolate, creating an ideal harmony of sweetness and depth. The two ingredients have a natural affinity for each other, and they are often paired together in desserts, cocktails, and even savory dishes.

When pairing chocolate with bourbon, it’s essential to consider the flavor profiles of both ingredients. Dark chocolate is a great match for bourbon because it has a strong and complex flavor that can stand up to the boldness of the whiskey. Milk chocolate is also a good option, but it is less intense than dark chocolate and will not overpower the bourbon’s flavor. The key is to experiment with different styles of Bourbon and chocolate on your own to find the perfect balance of flavors for your palate.

If you are looking for something easy and decadent for dessert I would also recommend a Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding with a Bourbon Cream Sauce. This is a perfect dessert that combines the rich and complex flavors of bourbon with the sweetness of chocolate. Plus, the bread pudding mixture can be made the night before and sit in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake it, which frees some time up on Valentine’s Day.

I hope that these cocktails, recipes and ideas have inspired you to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home. These recipes are just a starting point. I encourage you to take the time to experiment with the recipes and to enjoy the process of creating a delicious meal together. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a seasoned home chef or just starting out, don’t be afraid to get creative and make it a memorable Valentine’s Day.

Lost Republic Distilling Co.

The cocktails and recipes featured in this article were all created with the delicious and high-quality bourbons and rye whiskeys from the Lost Republic Distilling Co. based in California. The depth of flavor and smoothness of these spirits make them a perfect addition to any recipe or cocktail, and I’m excited to share more about them with you in this article.

Lost Republic Distilling Co. is a premium craft distillery founded in 2013 by Colin Harter and Matthew Weese, who grew up best friends in Sonoma County, California. Surrounded by the beautiful vineyards and terrain of Sonoma, the two had a vision of creating California’s highest quality craft whiskey. Master Distiller Matt Weese, who is a former winemaker from the Dry Creek Valley, has an aesthetic focus on the blending process which is evident by Lost Republic’s flagship whiskey, which has won multiple awards and accolades.

Lost Republic Straight Rye Whiskey

This whiskey is made from a mash of 95% Rye and 5% Barley and is aged for a minimum of 36 months in new white oak barrels. Rich and complex with a balance of sweetness and spice their is aromas of wild grass and lavender, grapefruit zest, a hint of candied ginger, and smoked caramel.

The finish is long and peppery yet smooth, with a mingling of cherry, oak and warm spice. This whiskey is a great choice for those who enjoy a bold and flavorful whiskey with a strong rye character.

Lost Republic Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Comprised of 75% Corn, 21% Rye and 4%Barley, the Straight Bourbon Whiskey spends 36 months in new charred American oak barrels.

On the nose, toasted oak takes the lead, with notes of a warm spice medley, a whisper of vanilla, dried citrus and memorable aromas of ripe late season apples baked in fennel following close behind. While on the palate you get a creamier baked flavor of a banana fosters Crème Brule dusted with toasted hazelnuts and peppered brown sugar. 

A long, smooth finish makes this Lost Republic Distillery’s straight bourbon whiskey that is perfect for sipping neat or on the rocks. It also makes a great addition to cocktails. It’s a versatile whiskey that appeals to both novice and experienced whiskey drinkers.

For the next two selections from Lost Republic are Cask Strength, I wanted to share this article “Cask Strength Whiskey Explained” by Gentleman Ranters just in case you weren’t aware of this particular type of Whiskey and how the process differs from other Whiskey productions.

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”

Mark Twain

Cask Strength Single Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey-Limited Production

This Cask Strength Single Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey from Lost Republic offers intriguing and complex flavors. It opens up on the nose with a sweet spice, rich caramel and subtle oak aromas. Then warm baking spices kick off the palate, followed by sweet caramelized oak sugars. Really a great concentration of flavors.

With a pleasant proof of 116, this cask strength straight bourbon whiskey does a slow dance between sweet and savory notes. A strong and robust bourbon whiskey that proves, no two barrels are ever the same. Definitely a spirit that is meant to be savored and enjoyed slowly.

Cask Strength Single Barrel Rye Whiskey-Small Batch Limited Production

Characterized by rich aromas and intense flavors from the 40 months of interaction with charred barrels this is a cask strength single barrel rye whiskey that demands to be noticed.

Big, bold, and instantly warming this Single Barrel Rye Whiskey packs a punch on both aromas and flavors. On the nose you get a burst of rye and brown sugar spiced cinnamon buns that is lively and intense. The palate delivers flavors of brown sugar nougat confection and rye bread spices such as fennel, aniseed, cardamom, and citrus peel.

A few drops of water go a long way to taming this one but are by no means necessary.

On a final note, don’t just focus on holidays to do something special, if family or work commitments get in the way of holidays, celebrate them on a different day. The important thing is to spend quality time together, and to show your loved one you care by giving them your time, attention, and care. And bourbon of course!

Thanks everyone for reading and I would love to hear any comments you have about this ‘Spirit’ of Valentine’s Day at Home article. Cheers!

This post includes samples which were provided by Lost Republic Distilling CO., while it has not influenced this review, as a writer I believes in full disclosure.

Remember to always drink in moderation.

All images and content © copyrighted by Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

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