February got me thinking about, well, love, which got me thinking about falling in love, which got me thinking about the magic of it.
What if there was more to all of it than timing and chemistry? What if we had the power to influence the object of our desires?
Well, it’s not such a novel idea. Since the beginning of civilization, humans have pursued external aides like spells and potions to help capture the hearts of their obsessions.
There’s a classic literary reference to a love potion in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” when the fairy, Puck, creates a tonic from a flower called “love-in-idleness,” otherwise known as the wild pansy. Coincidentally, Cupid makes an appearance in this classic as well when he shoots his arrow at “the imperial votaress” but misses and instead hits the flower. The petals turn from white to purple, and the flower’s juice becomes Puck’s love potion.
Certainly Shakespeare, for all of his notable firsts, did not invent the idea of a love potion. The concept has been a part of human history for centuries, appearing in other literature, fairy tales, and mythology. The earliest reference to these concoctions dates back to the ancient Greeks who believed that certain herbs and spices when mixed in the right combination, created a drink that would cast a love spell on its indulger.
Then there were times in history when such concoctions were banned.
“Herbs and spices like basil, mint, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, pepper, saffron, and vanilla were forbidden during medieval times because they were often used in love potions,” Vogue magazine reported in a February 2017 article headlined “Love Potions: A Brief History of Aphrodisiacs.”
Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore, though we no longer refer to modern intoxicating beverages as potions, per se.
Take the alluring ruby cocktail appropriately named, “I Drink & I Know Things” conjured at Ristorante Italiano Ariano in Media, Pa., known for its seasonal signature spirits. “It’s perfect for Valentine’s Day,” general manager Rocco Mongelli said. “We combine a chilled Lambrusco with Blanco tequila, egg white, raspberry, vanilla liqueur, and lime served in a [roaring] 1920s-style glass.”
“We take a fresh-cracked egg white and use a method called dry shaking that breaks down proteins and makes it safe to consume. It also creates a creamy, cappuccino-like froth to add to the other ingredients for a wet shake over ice.”
(Sounds like a potion to me.)
Across the Delaware Bay, at Lupo’s Italian Kitchen in Rehoboth Beach, bartenders are shaking up a different witchy brew of their own – “The Pick Me Up.” Pun intended? This sweetheart is a mixture of vanilla vodka, Frangelico, chocolate liqueur, Bailey’s, and espresso. Though popular among the Valentine’s Day crowd, it’s more likely Lupo’s lovebirds will be sipping wine with their meals this Feb. 14.
“Our all-Italian wine list is a focal point at the restaurant, having won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for six consecutive years. Our knowledgeable staff will happily make suggestions that perfectly pair a wine with a menu option,” said Caroline Judge, Lupo’s marketing manager.
Though Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday this year, both restaurants are expecting a weekend crowd.
Interestingly, the tradition of celebrating love on Valentine’s Day was not, as some may think, the brainchild of Hallmark or Whitman’s. It is thought to have originated in ancient Rome.
The Roman festival of Lupercalia was a fertility rite celebration that took place in the middle of February each year.
Valentine’s Day has evolved over the years, with different countries adopting their own traditions. For example, in Denmark, couples traditionally celebrate the holiday by sending each other pressed flowers, while in South Korea, it is customary for women to give gifts to men on Feb. 14, and for men to reciprocate one month later in March on “White Day.”
Back on the East Coast of the United States, whether you plan to exchange cards, chocolates, or gifts with your beloved, or plan to indulge in a sexy, intoxicating potion at Ariano’s, Lupo’s, or elsewhere, here’s to a Valentine’s Day that’s infused the with magic of love. IAH
For more information about Ristorante Italiano Ariano visit https://arianomedia.com/ or call 610-892-6944. For Lupo’s Italian Kitchen, visit https://lupoitaliankitchen.com/ or call 302-226-2240.
Experienced wine and features writer Natalie Pantaleo is an independent marketing and communications consultant who lives in Haverford Township, Pa. She is the author of the novella, “Laying Down with Dogs,” published in 2022.