If you can’t afford to take your Valentine on an exotic vacation for Valentine’s Day, consider shaking things up a bit with a fun, flirty cocktail or two that will get them in the mood for romance.
Whether you choose a twist on a classic or dive into a brand new concoction, an exotic love potion can magically transport you and your sweetie to a tropical beach or a seaside Italian patio for the night. Just make sure to keep it low alcohol so you don’t end up falling asleep before take-off.
To help inspire budding mixologists out there, we turned to award-winning bartender Adam Welch of the Geyservile Gun Club Bar & Lounge, who has been shaking up the cocktail scene in Wine Country for the past 10 years.
Welch honed his skills under experts such as Scott Beattie at Cyrus in Healdsburg and Goose & Gander in St. Helena, where he made his own signature syrups and bitters and learned to run a large bar program.
The 31-year-old bartender enjoys working in the best of both worlds. The bar bridges the gap between the kitchen and the front of the house, allowing him the creative freedom to create his own cocktail menu while also interacting with the guests.
From his first job as a food runner at Bistro Giovanni in Napa to his first “bar back” experience at Press in St. Helena, Welch said he always bonded with the hardworking folks in the kitchen.
“For me, there was much more honor and respect in that,” he said. “But I was used to the front of the house.”
Two years ago, Welch launched the bar program at the newly opened Geyserville Gun Club Bar & Lounge with chef/owner Dino Bugica, who also owns Geyserville’s rustic Italian restaurant, Diavola.
The passionate bartender came in second place last year at Napa’s prestigious Wizards of Elixirs competition sponsored by Charbay Distillery & The Perfect Purée of Napa Valley. His winning cocktail, a refreshing quaff dubbed The Shogun after the ancient Japanese general, is now on the menu at The Geyserville Gun Club Bar & Lounge.
“It’s exotic and tropical,” he said. “With the egg in there, it reminds me of a Ramos gin fizz. It could be a cure for a hangover.”
Just a few weeks ago, he came up with the Thai Fighter, a bourbon cocktail made with Thai iced tea that won first place in the Old Forester Bourbon Cocktail Competition at the Geyserville Gun Club and Bar. It has quickly become a personal favorite of the bartender.
“It’s named after Muay Thai (a combat sport of Thailand),” he said. “Serve it in front of the fireplace, because of the warm spices.”
Tonight, Welch said the Geyserville Gun Club Bar & Lounge will host a “Bourbon and Burlesque” party in honor of the affection-laden Feast Day of St. Valentine.
“We’re going to have really good bourbons, a whiskey flight and a special menu of Bourbon cocktails,” Welch said. “Two dancers will hang out and interact with the guests.”
Welch shared four different romantic cocktails that you can create tonight — or any night — to heat up the passion between you and your partner. Some may appeal more to men, some to women, and some to both, so make sure you find out your loved one’s flavor preferences first.
IF YOU GO
As the scenic, twisting Highway 1 route along the Big Sur coast will be closed for several months because of this winter’s storm damage, take Highway 101 south to San Luis Obispo, and turn West to Morro Bay on Highway 1. California Highway 1 Discovery Route, www.highway1discoveryroute.com. Itineraries, maps, attractions, deals.
Morro Bay Visitors Center, www.morrobay.org. Lodgings, restaurants, recreation, historic sites, deals. Ask about the free passport worth $130 in discounts at hotels, restaurants, and local businesses.
Giovanni’s Fish Market and Galley, Morro Bay, www.giovannisfishmarket.com. On the waterfront deck, fish-on-a-stick, chowder, crab sandwiches, fish tacos, ”chowda fries.”
Robin’s, Cambria, www.robinsrestaurant.com. A locals’ favorite for decades, Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern and Indian food in a garden setting.
Wee Shack, Morro Bay, www.weeshack.com. A cozy, casual, award-winning café, massive burgers, breakfast burritos, and comfort food.
Cambria Inns, www.cambriainns.com. Four charming inns above Moonstone Beach: Blue Dolphin, Sand Pebbles, Moonstone Cottages, and Castle Inn.
Anderson Inn, Morro Bay, www.andersoninnmorrobay.com. An 8-room, boutique inn overlooking the marina, with some fireplaces, soaking tubs, and balconies; and downstairs, The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar.
Morro Bay State Park Campground, Morro Bay, www.parks.ca.gov. Near the Museum of Natural History and the golf course, 126 sites, for tents and RVs to 35 feet; some full hookups.