DINR (Denver Independent Network of Restaurants) is offering 18 reasons to take your sweetie—or your sassy single self—out for a cocktail. Between now and February 14, participating eateries are competing for the best love-inspired sip. And you get to vote for your favorite.

Swill Avenue Grill‘s smooth Casanova (a blend of Milagro Silver tequila, Rosa Regale, fresh lime, house-made grenadine, Navan, egg white, and a dehydrated-strawberry garnish), or sip Root Down‘s playful Hot Sticky Love (made with agave nectar, lemon juice, orange bitters, Hanger One Fraser River Raspberry vodka, Hangar One Chipotle vodka, cranberry juice, and a sage leaf).

One of my picks (along with Westword‘s Lori Midson and Patty Calhoun, I’m also judging the contest) is the Bitter Blush from Jonesy’s EatBar. This pretty—and potent—mix of Leopold Bros. gin, hibiscus syrup, Cointreau, lemon juice, and Fee Brothers rhubarb bitters is shaken, strained over ice, and garnished with a lemon and dried hibiscus flower.

Jonesy’s owner Leigh Jones explains: “We didn’t want anything too sweet or girlish, so Leopold’s gin as our base was a natural choice.” As for the name, they opted for something edgy–something more anti-Valentine’s Day. As further inspiration, Jones e-mailed me the following haiku:

pink cheeks flutter
he walks out with her
blush turns to bitter

The larger message here, of course, is to get out and try these imaginative sips, whether you’re celebrating V-Day or not. And once you’re finished tasting, don’t forget to vote for your favorite.

The Avenue Grill, 630 E. 17th Ave., 303-861-2820

Root Down, 1600 W. 33rd Ave., 303-993-4200

Jonesy’s EatBar, 400 E. 20th Ave., 303-863-7473

Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.