Move over, chocolate boxes and rose bouquets. This February 14 or any time thereafter, gift your partner with a warm, stimulating elixir combining both. Although no hard evidence supports the efficacy of aphrodisiacs (such as my spiced rose hot chocolate below), gestures of love speak volumes, and the placebo effect is real.

Before you head into the kitchen, consider the following tips from Linda Louisa Dell, author of “Aphrodisiacs: An A-Z” ((Skyhorse Publishing, 2015); Martha Hopkins, co-author of “The New InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook” (Terrace Publishing, 2007); and Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal, authors of “Aphrodisia: Homemade Potions to Make Love More Likely, More Pleasurable, and More Possible” (Lyons Press, 2012).

  • A love potion should be beautiful, aromatic and flavorful, appealing to all the senses, the Seals say. “Don’t make it medicinal.” Hopkins proposes a few ideas: strawberry-rosemary gin cocktail, hot chocolate with cinnamon and chili, mulled red wine with muddled cherries, a tonic of greens or a bloody mary with oyster liquor.
  • “We would look first to rose and chocolate,” the Seals say. Chocolate melts on the tongue at body temperature and includes theobromine, β-phenylethylamine (PEA) and serotonin, which together “lift endorphin levels and make us feel good,” they say. Meanwhile, the Seals consider rose a “mood enhancer” and assert that ginger and chili “increase blood flow to the genitals.” Dell suggests incorporating fruit, such as strawberries, cherries or bananas.
  • Include a hint of bitterness, which “helps elevate syrupy-sweet foods into something more grown-up and alluring,” Hopkins recommends. She also advises adding alcohol, which “lowers inhibitions.”
  • Serve the potion in a “safe, romantic setting, with the right music, scents and candlelight,” the Seals counsel. “Be nice to your partner the whole day, and make them feel special and appreciated.”

Spiced Rose Hot Chocolate

Serves 2 (Makes 1-¾ cups)

Glossy and complex, this delicious elixir incorporates several aphrodisiacs: chocolate, ginger, rose, cinnamon and chilies. If you’d like to add alcohol, try a couple of tablespoons of rum. If you use unsweetened (baking) chocolate instead of the sweetened chocolate chips, simply stir in more honey.

  • ½-inch-square piece peeled fresh ginger root
  • 8 dried organic rose buds
  • 8 whole pink or black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cups plain unsweetened plant milk (cashew, macadamia, coconut) or whole or 2% cow’s milk
  • ½ cup high-quality semisweet chocolate chips (about 3 oz), ideally 62% cacao content
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp honey or agave nectar
  • tsp ground sea salt
  • 1/16 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp rose water

optional garnish: candied rose petals

  1. On medium-size piece of cheesecloth, place first four ingredients. Form into a bundle and tie with kitchen twine. Place in small, deep, heavy saucepot; add milk, chocolate, cocoa, honey, salt and cayenne pepper.
  2. Cook over medium-high heat until mixture reaches a gentle boil, scraping sides occasionally. Boil until mixture is velvety smooth and slightly thick, one to two more minutes. (Watch carefully, and do not let a skin form over milk.) Stir in vanilla and rose water, and let sit in pot for another five minutes.
  3. Remove (and discard) the spice bundle. Ladle hot chocolate into two small cups. Garnish (if desired) and serve immediately.

Photo credit: karandaev, Adobe Stock