Real Aphrodisiacs for Valentine’s Day Drinks: Watermelon

Watermelon has scientifically proven effects on libido, making it a great Valentine cocktail ingredient.
Watermelon has scientifically proven effects on libido, making it a great Valentine cocktail ingredient.

Every year when Valentine’s Day rolls around, lots of foods start getting mentioned with the label “aphrodisiac” attached to them. Shopping for foods that have been thought to have an effect on passion would take one to every aisle of the supermarket: strawberries, steak, avocados, potatoes and oysters have all had their day in the sun.

This year, I decided to research food that have a scientifically documented effect on libido or blood flow, which is generally what an aphrodisiac is all about. Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing recipes for drinks made with foods that can help put you in the mood.

It turns out that watermelon is good for more than cooling off in the summertime; this juicy fruit is also being called “nature’s Viagra.” A study at Texas A & M University’s Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center found that watermelon contains a substance called citrulline that helps blood vessels relax, just like Viagra. For more details, check out this post at Science Blog.com.

Watermelon is delicious mixed with all kinds of spirits; I created this cocktail called Watermelon Kiss using NUVO sparkling vodka and brut rosé sparkling wine. It just may do the trick this Feb. 14.

The Watermelon Kiss cocktail is sweet and juicy, just like a kiss.
The Watermelon Kiss cocktail is sweet and juicy, just like a kiss.

Watermelon Kiss
1 tsp pink peppercorns, crushed
1/2 tsp. pink decorating sugar
1-1/2 ounces watermelon juice
1 ounce NUVO sparkling vodka
3 ounces brut rose sparkling wine
dash orange bitters

On a small flat dish, combine the crushed pink peppercorns and the pink decorating sugar. Moisten the rim of a champagne flute with a wedge of lemon. Press the glass in the pink peppercorn/sugar mixture to coat it. Pour the watermelon juice and NUVO into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well chilled then carefully pour into the prepared glass. Top with sparkling wine. Finish with a dash of bitters.
Now make another one for someone special.

Days of Wine & Chocolate: A Valentine Dinner Feb. 11 in San Diego

Valentine Feb 11 flyer cropped small

Every year as we approach Valentine’s Day, you hear the word aphrodisiac tossed around. Spanish fly, bananas, potatoes, strawberries, chili peppers – you name it – has been considered an aphrodisiac at one time or another in human history. But this year, I decided to research the foods that have a documented scientific effect on arousal.

Two foods that just happen to have an actual effect on pleasure and libido (the goal of most aphrodisiacs when you get down to it): wine and chocolate!

Come indulge in some of both and pick up some romantic tips on Feb 11 as I team up for a dinner class with LA chocolatier Susie Norris, the author of the hot little book Chocolate Bliss and chef Isabel Cruz of Isabel’s Cantina. I’ll be making cocktails from my book The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion (Clarkson Potter, 2009) and sharing a couple new ones for this event; for tickets and info visit www.Warwicks.com.

In case you’re curious about how these foods work to get things heated up; let me share some science. Chocolate causes women to release endorphins, those. In fact a 2007 study at the University of Sussex in Great Britain found women release four times as many endorphins – the body’s natural opiates – after eating chocolate as they do after when making out.

Wine grapes – specifically the skins – contain the antioxidant resveratrol. Researchers at Northwestern University (my alma mater – Go Cats! ) found in a 1997 study that resveratrol – most present in red wines – acts in the body like an estrogen which is a key component in sex drive and arousal.

Wow, just think what will happen after eating those two at the same time!

Even without the science, there’s something tantalizing and romantic about sparkling wine and champagne- another reason why I think these wines should be enjoyed much more often.

Bubbly Girl Drink of the Week: Bagrationi 1882- From Russia with Love

While the first bubbly we think of may be champagne from France or California brut, actually bubbly is made all over the world.

The other day I was telling a PR friend named Debbie about tasting a great sparkling wine from Virginia called Thibaut-Janisson. I met winemaker and owner Claude Thibaut at Le Grand Champagne in Washington DC. A few weeks later, Thibaut Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay was featured at the Obama’s first state dinner honoring India’s prime minister, as this Washington Post story “Drinking Local at the White House” details.

“Well, I have a sparkling wine from Georgia,” Debbie said. Georgia — why not? — I thought. Wine is now made in all 50 states. But when the bottle of Bagratioini 1882 arrived, I realized my mistake. This wine was from the Georgia back in the former USSR.

Bagrationi 1882 Reserve tastes just like champagne crafted from chardonnay - but it's from Georgia.

According to the company’s web site, Ivane Bagrationi –Mukhraneli is descended from an ancient royal family that started making sparkling wine in Georgia back in the mid 1800s. In 1882, the wine won an international Grand Prix held in St. Petersburg. The winery was formally established in 1937.

Bagrationi 1882 Reserve was the first wine I tried. I took a sip and was rewarded with a crisp nicely balanced, methode-champenoise wine with fresh citrus and light peachy flavors and creamy bubbles. Ah yes, I could taste the juicy chardonnay. I looked at the label and discovered I was wrong again. The Bagrationi 1882 is made with native Chinuri, Tsitska and Mtsvane grapes grown near the Black Sea. I also liked the 1882 Classic, a lighter style of wine, made with the tank fermentation method.

I decided I could get used to drinking sparkling wine from Georgia. The only challenge is getting my hands on more; a review of Wine Searcher.com only turned up a handful of shops including All Corked Up in Santa Clarita, Georgian Wine House in Maryland and Schneider’s Capitol Hill in Washington DC that carry the Bagrationi 1882 wines, which can range in price from $12 to $24 a bottle. Of course, if you ever find yourself in Tblisis, they are happy to arrange tours and tastings.