Plan Ahead With This Chamomile and Tangerine Sparkling Cocktail for Two

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A tangy sparkling cocktail for two that can be prepped in advance. [Photographs: Elana Lepkowski]

The girly part of Valentine's Day just doesn't appeal to me. I don't need everything wrapped in pink ribbons, I don't need flowers delivered with a polyester teddy bear clutching a soft heart. But I do like a little romance, a little sentiment. At our house, we have a set of champagne coupes inscribed "Mr." and "Mrs." We've got nothing against flowers and candy. There's nothing wrong with celebrating love. But perhaps it doesn't have to be so... pink. In the spirit of a romantic Valentine's celebration without the kitsch, I gathered ingredients for a drink to share.

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Flowers fit into this vision, but I wanted to go mild and herbal in flavor with chamomile, added in the easy form of a few tea bags that steep in the drink's simple syrup. Tangerines are bursting with flavor this time of year, and combining their tangy juice and zest with the chamomile gives the drink's base a fresh, fragrant sweetness without being too perfumy.

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While the tangerines offer a little tang, I wanted to be sure this drink really had zip. White balsamic adds some needed acidity, a London Dry gin (use Tanqueray or whatever you have on hand) adds another herbal layer and a touch of juniper in the finish. It's a delicious combination on its own, but it really comes together when you top it off with some sparkling wine. I tried a few different types and found that a dry Cava worked best to offset the sweetness of the fruity/floral base.

The final key to a magical cocktail hour: prepping everything in advance. This drink can be batched up and stored in a swingtop bottle in your fridge for up to four days, so there's no stress when date night approaches. Add the sparkling wine to each serving and ease into the evening.