Valentine was a priest in Rome who was martyred on this day in AD 270. There are several theories regarding his patronage of young lovers. According to one, he administered Holy Communion and last rites to Christian prisoners before being imprisoned himself. As a prisoner, he wrote a letter to the jailer’s daughter, signing it “your Valentine.” Another version has it that the saintly priest played matchmaker for the jailer’s daughter.
But the most likely reason is historical happenstance. Valentine’s martyrdom falls on the day before the Roman Lupercalia, when young people would choose courtship partners for a year or even propose marriage. It was only natural that once the old gods were dethroned, the Christian faith should baptize some of these harmless customs.
Strega liqueur from Italy is a good after-dinner drink. According to legend, couples who drink it together will remain united in love forever. There are also a couple of cocktails named after St. Valentine.
Here are two: The Valentine is great before dinner, and the Chocolate Valentine after.
2 ounces banana liqueur
1 ounce vodka
3 ounces cranberry juice
Pour ingredients into a shaker filled with ice and shake 40 times. Strain into a red wine glass.
¾ ounce vanilla vodka
¾ ounce dark crème de cacao
½ ounce cherry juice
1 splash cream
1 splash soda water
1 sprig of mint
Pour ingredients into a shaker filled with ice and shake 40 times. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with mint.
Editor’s Note: Excerpted from Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour (Regnery History, 2015).