Weekend Cocktail: Chatelaine For Valentine’s

Weekend Cocktail: Chatelaine For Valentine’s

Valentine’s Day is here at last, and if you haven’t been laying plots then I’ve an induction that you may be in some danger. Humans, especially those in romantic relationships, seem to enjoy expressing their love for one another. On Valentine’s, the usual verbal affirmation becomes suddenly inadequate and must be supplemented by candies, cards, flowers, and frivolous nonsense like stuffed animals.

I’ve never been very good at Valentine’s Day, stretching back to the early days of my relationship with my then-girlfriend, now-wife. For one of our first Valentine’s I, knowing her interest in culinary affairs, gifted her a handsome apron and oven mitt along with a cheesecake cookbook. All of this was from Williams-Sonoma and very expensive, yet I discovered that she was less than impressed by my thoughtfulness. Following it up with a singing telegram probably didn’t help matters. I found out later her roommates counseled her to break it off with me, but to my ongoing good fortune she did not. She never has used that cookbook.

The burden for Valentine’s Day will typically fall on the man, who, if he pleases the woman, can expect to be festooned with kisses and other expressions of approval best left to private imagination. This isn’t always the case, though, and for those who are not in committed relationships dating is never more fraught than on this hijacked holy day.

Should your romantic gestures fall flat, you can always console yourself with the tale of the real St. Valentinus, whose connection with romance is due to his efforts as a 3rd century Roman priest marrying Christian couples at a time when this was quite illegal in the empire. After Valentinus’ capture, it is said that Claudius II himself took an interest in the priest. At this point, the prisoner pushed his luck a bit and tried to convert the emperor, which had predictable results. He was taken out in public and beaten with clubs, an experience with which anyone who is rebuffed in their affections can sympathize. Romans being a bit more thorough than the modern-day heartbreaker, when the public beating failed to snuff him they proceeded to cut off his head.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make here is that when it comes to love, whether for God or mortal, don’t be timid about it. The risk may be great; the rewards, greater. At least in most cases, no matter how bad it goes your head will remain attached.

Should you have need of a beverage to inspire your honeyed words, or to lessen the pain of unrequited affection, I humbly submit the following.

Châtelaine

The Châtelaine is a wine-based cocktail of recent vintage, which as near as I can tell was invented by one Jamie Boudreau. While I can’t say I approve of his use of diacritical marks when naming his drinks, I am willing to overlook that in light of the fine quality of this submission.

The recipe is as follows.

  • 2 oz sauvignon blanc (from New Zealand, preferably)
  • 1 oz gin – Boudreau recommends DH Krahn. I used Plymouth
  • 1 oz pomegranate juice – fresh is good, but if you’re like me you haven’t the time to deseed a pomegranate. Just use the stuff in the weird bottle
  • 1/2 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur

Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. You may garnish with a few pomegranate arils if you have them, but the drink’s vivid red hue is presentation aplenty.

While Boudreau says to shake, you may stir the ingredients instead, which will avoid aerating and softening the flavors. Having tried it both ways (I was thirsty) I prefer the latter method.

Stirring the cocktail allowed the crisp notes of the sauvignon blanc to shine through while preserving a delicate play between the pomegranate and St. Germain. However you mix it, the Châtelaine balances the sweet and tart flavors admirably. A smooth, floral gin gives it some needed heft, but in no way dominates the drink. They’d serve well as an aperitif, or be a perfect accompaniment to an afternoon luncheon.

A word about pomegranates: if you feel up to removing the arils then more power to you. It can be laborious, but with practice you will avoid spending too much time or ruining too many shirts. One large pomegranate will yield two to four ounces of juice – more than enough for our purposes here. It’s really not necessary, though. I’ve taken the time to run arils through a juicer before, and I’m happy to report that the end result is very close to what you can buy in the grocery store. It’s a bit like making your own cheese, in that you can always just pop on down and buy the finished product for less than what you’d spend otherwise – without the expense of your time. But don’t let that dissuade you, if you’re so inclined. It can be relaxing. Just remember that every minute you spend juicing is a minute you aren’t enjoying this delightful drink.

Neal Dewing lives and works in Portsmouth, Virginia. He is the co-host of The Fifth Estate, a podcast examining culture and politics.
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