Tavern Law: Vintage and evocative

And good thing…because if you forgot to check here, here, and here for your Valen-dining options, dinner reservations for the big night may already be impossible.  So why not take her somewhere that doesn’t accept reservations? You’ll wait a minute, but that’s what the cocktails are for. Here are five of my favorites.

Canon: Amber-lit and sophisticated, with two big walls of booze (plus more on the Captain’s List—including 27 varieties of absinthe), Canon is for spirits aficionados and bartender geeks (Jamie Boudreau! The will-return-when-better Murray Stenson!) Small plates of hearty food provide substantial ballast (the petite tender is nice), but you’re really here for the booze. Order the Shrouded Roulette, where the bartender crafts a unique concoction from your spirit of choice. (And, uh...best to go easy on the public displays of affection that night, given Canon's St. Valentine's Day Massacre event. Nosh Pit just learned that Canon's going singles-happy that night, soaking openly affectionate couples with water guns. Don't say you weren't warned.)

Essex: The guys behind the bar in this adjunct to the Ballard pizza haunt Delancey mix cocktails with an apothecary’s care, offering an unusually thorough selection of carbonated ones. The Red Medicine, a fizzy rye cocktail with ginger beer and fernet, releases layers of herby flavor. The food to go with it—crispy-fragrant pretzels from the wood oven, maple-glazed carrots in ricotta, roasted cauliflower with harissa and pinenuts on toast—is why you live in Seattle. Where the foodies come to drink.   

List: Sexy, sexy, sexy—from the red chandeliers to the passion fruity X-Rated Tini. (This place is from the Barolo people, after all.) But lest you assume that this dark Belltown Beautiful People haunt is all style and no substance, order food off the Italian menu and see how it’s done. The kitchen’s so tiny it doesn’t allow for lots of culinary variety, which serves the food well; they really know how to make that fiery red sauce. (Pan-sauteed calamari is very good in it.)   

Tavern Law: This one from the Spur Gastropub folks fires on all cylinders, with an atmosphere vintage and evocative, cocktails thoughtful and strong, and food—honey-glazed fried chicken on kale and mashed potatoes, mac and cheese with duck fat breadcrumbs—that’s just lush. The real intrigue here is the speakeasy upstairs, Needle and Thread, for which you do need a reservation; go ahead and pick up the phone next to the door of the big antique safe inside Tavern Law to try for a table, but good luck: Speakeasies were made for Valentine’s Day.  

Venik Lounge:  A little more sedate, a little more for grown-ups, this Russian bar next to the Russian spa, Banya 5, is all about housemade infusions. Most are vodka, but there’s a brilliant red cherry-infused (100-proof) rye cocktail, the Cherry Barrel, that’s throbbing with vermouth and Cognac and would make a bewitching little valentine. Savor it in the more intimate side room along with a bland little something off the menu.