Photo by Drobot Dean/

Hey Leah! Dreaded Valentine’s Day is coming. My new girl says it’s no big deal, but I don’t believe her. How all out do I go?

——Jerome, Minneapolis

Ah, the thrill of new love on a commercial holiday. Big deal or not, there’s nothing like a romantic surprise to make your girl feel special. And knowing V-Day is not your jam will make it more so. My advice to you: skip reservations and make her a nice meal at home. Valentine’s Day in the restaurant industry is a fast-paced, high-volume affair. This means prix-fixe menus, rushed seating, and often sub-par service. Instead, keep it simple. Light some candles, get a nice bottle of wine and cook up something great for your lady. If you’re thinking of a gift, skip the box of Russell Stover. Choose something personal to her, like a coffee mug from her favorite true-crime podcast (okay, now I’m making it about me). But seriously, a romantic night in for a first Valentine’s together is the way to go. If you catch my drift, it may make the difference of what happens after dinner.

Oh, if you’d like to start the evening with a simple, sexy cocktail, it’s guaranteed bonus points. The Bees Knees is a great choice.

The Bees Knees. Simple, classic, delicious.

What You’ll Need
2 oz London Dry Gin
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
¾ oz Honey Syrup (recipe below)
How To Make It: Combine ingredients in a shaker and fill halfway with ice. Shake until very cold in your hand. Fine strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or wheel (optional).

Honey Syrup: Heat equal parts honey and water in a saucepan until honey dissolves. Let cool and refrigerate in an airtight container. Will keep at least one month.

Leah Pupkin has been a craft cocktail bartender and consultant for the past ten years. She has worked in countless bars and curated cocktail programs all over New York and Australia. She now resides in Los Angeles, where she is currently the bar manager at Stone Street Coffee Co. & Bathtub Gin. Leah produces sponsored content for various liquor brands and runs a blog featuring movie reviews accompanied by craft cocktail pairings when not behind the bar. You can find the blog at and follow all her work on Instagram @thebardirector.