Valentine’s Day is either a beloved mid-February celebration of romance OR a detested fake “Hallmark holiday” with schmaltzy sentiment run amok. Kinda depends on your mood – and, of course, whether you have a significant other with whom to celebrate. I did see a sweet card the other day that proclaimed the day to be perfect for telling people you love how you feel – even if they’re loved as friends or relatives. That’s why I buy my nieces and nephews cards, along with my sister, as well as a few couples who are close friends.

I’ve always enjoyed the holiday, dating back to elementary school when I purchased my second grade “girlfriend” a plastic heart-shaped box filled with my favorite candy – cinnamon red hots. I guess at a later age giving a treat with that name could be considered suggestive, but at 8 years old it simply meant that I enjoyed cinnamon candy – and felt confident the object of my affection would share.

These days I am hard-pressed to think of ways to celebrate. My wife is not a fan of those frilly heart-shaped boxes of assorted chocolates like my Dad bought my Mom each year. She’s content with one Reese’s peanut butter cup. And don’t get me started on roses, how the prices dramatically skyrocket from a January lull to a February bonanza. And, since my wife works from home, even if I sent her flowers she’d be cheated out of the best part – the envy of her coworkers. Of course there’s the possibility of a romantic dinner – IF you made reservations weeks ago and don’t mind dining on the most hectic and crowded night of the year.

My choice is often jewelry. Usually nothing fancy, or even particularly pricey. I just enjoy buying glittery baubles – even of the costume variety. My wife still laughs about a ring I gave her a few years back with, admittedly, a fairly garish oversized pink heart-shaped stone. I think it’s manmade, or maybe just faceted plastic. I thought it looked nice under those intense jewelry store lights; my wife thought it was a joke I got out of a bubblegum machine. Ah – sweet love!

If you’re enjoying a dinner out you might want to steel yourself for the endeavor by mixing up a sexy and sophisticated – and I might add potent – cocktail. You gotta love the name, too!

SCARLET KISS

1-½ oz. raspberry vodka

1-½ oz. strawberry vodka

1 oz. 7-Up

1-½ oz. Chambord (raspberry liqueur)

In an old-fashioned glass over ice, combine raspberry vodka, strawberry vodka, and 7-Up. Float raspberry liqueur on top. Garnish with a twist of orange zest.

Yes, I realize this cocktail involves acquiring not one, but two, flavored vodkas. But if you use Stolichnaya vodka the flavors will be pure, tasty and have none of that artificial edge to them. The Russians (well, actually it’s made in Latvia now … the breakup of the USSR had innumerable consequences) know their flavored vodka. Plus, what a great time to discover, or re-discover, the joy of Chambord. This classy bottle will look great on your bar long after you’ve enjoyed the last of its ethereal deliciousness.

Perhaps instead of a couple’s thing you’d rather get together with a group of friends. Maybe hang out at the house, avoid the crowds and enjoy a pleasant evening of friendship. In that case, why not mix up a batch of tasty cocktails? Since a gathering of friends is sure to be fairly non-romantic this might be a good time to break out the Parcheesi board too.

CHAMPAGNE

PUNCH

2 bottles ice cold Brut Champagne

Juice of 1 lime, plus lime wheels

2 Tbsp. simple syrup

Dash or two of Angostura bitters

8 oz. of raspberries

In a punch bowl combine all ingredients being careful not to mash raspberries.

Add a block of ice. Serve immediately, garnishing the glasses with slices of lime.

This will be quite festive, and bubbly is always appropriate for any holiday. For your male friends, especially those that might normally spend much of their time in their man-cave, you might consider having some beer on ice as well.

Finally, after the dinner or party, it’s you and your sweetie – alone at last. And of course the one thing on your mind is … dessert. The folks at Bailey’s have branched out in recent times and offered up some divine new flavors. One of the newest, and best, is Strawberries & Cream.

BAILEY’S STRAWBERRIES

& CREAM COLADA

2 oz. Bailey’s Strawberries & Cream liqueur

3 oz. coconut rum

1 scoop Haagen Daz vanilla ice cream

Ice

Place everything in a blender and blend until frosty and smooth. The amount of ice needed varies, keep adding until the consistency is just right.

Pour into your best glasses and top with a white chocolate-dipped strawberry.

After this your evening will likely be over, with both you and yours snoozing peacefully in your respective recliners. For maximum impact make sure any romantic cards or gifts are given before you crank up the blender.