Once again, Valentine’s Day is upon us – that fabled holiday when star-crossed lovers forget about the winter weather for a scant few seconds, and surround themselves in flowers, hearts, chocolates, and delicious drinkables. However, over the last few years, the public perception of Valentine’s imbibing has been largely limited to sickeningly sugary pink-hued cocktails, as if the only way to express affection in beverage form is to shoot for a flavor profile that lands somewhere between cotton candy and fruit punch. And while I’ve certainly been known to enjoy a sweet cocktail from time to time, I feel like this holiday demands something a little more…classically romantic. So, with that in mind, I’ve once again dug through my archives of memorabilia for inspiration, considering what beverages have been historically linked with flirtation and affection, unearthing the cocktails, hearts, cupids, amorous advances, and stolen glances of earlier eras.
I greatly enjoy seeing the different perspectives on love presented in these campaigns. Some created elaborate storybook scenes…
Some used modern motifs to get their point across, like this Whiskey ad featuring a pair of lovebirds drifting through a “Tunnel Of Love”…
And some simply used Valentine’s motifs for comedic effect, like this Seagram’s ad featuring their cartoon mascots in ill-fitting Cupid attire.
And going forward in time, one can also recognize shifts in cultural moods and fashions. Pop Art, Deco-revival, and other illustrative styles became more prevalent.
And the simple product still-life also became a popular approach for print campaigns.
Of course, while these ads give a great window into changing perspectives on romance and relationships, there’s other elements that make them fascinating. This Great Western ad is perfectly stylish and romantic, but it also dates from a time when California wineries were struggling to be seen as more than simple swill merchants, so the self-invited comparison to fine French bottles can be seen as a bold statement of purpose. (Not to mention how freely they referred to their product as “Champagne”, some decades before such labels would become a matter of great controversy.)
Most of all, what I glean from looking at these vintage ads is just how many different alcohols are perfectly well-suited to Valentine’s consumption. Beer? Wine? Cordials? Whiskey? All can evoke passionate emotion, and conjure up an appropriate air of aphrodisia.
And if all else fails this year, one can always resort to the old standbys – reciting love poetry.
Whatsoever, I hope this trip through the past has helped spark some ideas for your own Valentine’s sipping selections. Just remember, consume responsibly… Lest you end up like this fine fellow, attempting to woo the object of your affections from the wrong end of a highball.
Cheers, and Happy Valentine’s Day!