By Adrienne Stillman
February 10, 2017

Valentine’s Day can be a date-night minefield, full of expensive prix-fixe menus and cheesy gimmicks. But if you find the right spot, with the right ambiance, the right libations and, of course, the right company, you just might pull off the perfect night. These ten bars from across the country, drawn from my research of over 700 night spots for Where Bartenders Drink, balance top-notch cocktails, quality service and inviting atmospheres. Très romantique!

New York: Dear Irving

Jayd Jackson— Dear Irving

Grab an intimate, Gatsby-inspired booth (complete with crystal curtains) in the F. Scott Fitzgerald room, a seat at the 1860’s-style bar in the Abraham Lincoln room or one of the tufted, gilt sofas in the Marie Antoinette room. While away the evening in style. Try: the Vice Versa, with gin, grapefruit and sparkling rosé. (55 Irving Place;

Washington, D.C.: Columbia Room

Scott Suchman—Columbia Room

With lots of warm wood and leather, the Columbia Room is a cozy oasis of cocktails and spirits. Book a pair of tickets to the Tasting Room and enjoy a prix-fixe cocktail menu that’s actually worth your money (and sure to impress any cocktail enthusiast), or sip 100-year-old Cognac in the Spirits Library. Try: the Hanky Panky, with gin, vermouth and Fernet Branca. (124 Blagden Alley Northwest; 202-316-9396)

Chicago: Violet Hour

Joni Kat Anderson—Violet Hour

This perennial Chicago favorite never fails to disappoint. The intimate ambiance and top-notch service make it an excellent date spot. Arrive early (they open at 6pm) to avoid an unromantic wait outside in the cold. Try: A Little Romance, with apple brandy, gin, Zucca and benedictine. (1520 North Damen Avenue; 773-252-1500)

Portland: Pepe le Moko

For extra privacy, ask to sit in the “hot tub” corner booth — the perfect setting in which to enjoy oysters and expertly crafted cocktails. Then book a room at the Ace Hotel upstairs to seal the evening. Try: the Grasshopper, a green, creamy, minty beverage with vanilla ice cream. (407 Southwest 10th Avenue; 503-546-8537)

Boston: The Hawthorne

Gustav Hoiland—Hawthorne

Part of the allure of the Hawthorne is that you can also book a room in the Commonwealth Hotel — and walk straight to your door after a few cocktails in this intimate den. Eastern Standard, located right next door, is a great place to begin your evening with dinner. Try: the Paper Plane, with bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino and lemon. (500A Commonwealth Avenue; 617-532-9150)

Los Angeles: Honeycut

Alen Lin—Honeycut

Like a choose-your-own-adventure book, this bar has something for everyone, from a dark cocktail lounge on one side to a disco light-up floor on the other. Bring your own date for a lively evening, or find one on the dance floor. Try: the Fifteen Minutes, with pear brandy, Amaro Meletti, pomegranate, ginger and sparkling wine. (819 South Flower Street; 213-688-0888)

San Francisco: Comstock Saloon

Inspired by the drinking halls of the Gold Rush era, the festive atmosphere keeps things interesting, and wooden booths allow for intimate conversations. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a live band. Try: the Martinez, the precursor of the martini, with gin, sweet vermouth and maraschino liqueur. (155 Columbus Avenue; 415-617-0071)

Houston: Julep

Marc Brubaker—Julep

Enjoy a healthy dose of Southern hospitality at this convivial restaurant and bar, where you could easily spend an entire evening chatting over fresh oysters and, of course, a julep. Try: the house Mint Julep with two kinds of bourbon, sugar and plenty of mint. (1919 Washington Avenue; 713-869-4383)

Seattle: Rob Roy

Romantic without being cloying, this relaxed neighborhood bar serves excellent classic cocktails, as well as beer and wine. Perch on a stool at the bar or sink back into one of the slouchy leather sofas. The staff boasts an excellent knowledge of Tiki drinks. Try: the Jungle Bird, a Tiki classic with rum, Campari, lime and pineapple. (2332 2nd Avenue; 206-956-8423)

New Orleans: Arnaud’s French 75 Bar

Brian F. Huff—Arnaud’s French 75 Bar

With an old-school ambiance and bartenders cloaked in pristine white jackets, there are few places as stylish to toast on Valentine’s Day. Dinner at in the main dining room is a good way to begin, and there’s also a Mardi Gras museum upstairs. Try: the French 75, made here with cognac instead of the more typical gin, mixed with lemon and champagne. (813 Rue Bienville; 504-523-5433)

Adrienne Stillman is the author of Where Bartenders Drink, coming this month from Phaidon, and co-founder of Dipsology, a curated guide to cocktail bars in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @alstillman.

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