As we’re all doing Valentine’s Day at home this year it’s well worth breaking out the cocktail shaker to make the occasion feel special. This selection of drinks, each more romantic than the last, should do the job nicely.
A glamourous little cocktail that harks back to the 1940s, when the fastest way to send a love note around the world was by plane. This has a lot in common with the classic French 75, but brings a sense of holidays and warm weather with it that’s quite charming. The combination of rum and sparkling wine might sound like a reach but grassy Havana Club (£18 – Sainsbury’s) makes great friends with a nice dry fizz.
35ml Havanna 3yo Anejo Blanco
15ml honey syrup.
To make your honey syrup pour 50ml of honey into a small measuring jug, add a further 50ml of hot water and stir to combine. Leave to cool and then bottle it up – it should keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge. Give the rum, lime, and syrup a quick shake with ice and then strain into a highball glass full to the brim with ice. Top with brut Champagne, give it a very gentle stir, and serve ungarnished.
The king of cocktails went through many evolutionary stages before emerging in its current, super-spirity form. Some early incarnations often contained an even balance of gin and vermouth, which makes for a softer Martini. This version pits big, spicy Aviation gin (£34.95 – The Whisky Exchange) against a split base of dry vermouth and slightly bitter Cocchi Americano (£21.95 – TWE) which probably makes it a 50/25/25 Martini but that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
30ml Aviation gin
15ml Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat is best)
15ml Cocchi Americano
Put some cocktail glasses in the freezer ahead of time to make sure they’re nicely icy when cocktail hour rolls around. Stir all ingredients over ice until chilled and diluted. Strain into your chilled glasses and garnish with a twist of lemon or grapefruit. Makes great backup for oysters and sushi.
A survivor from the mid-2000s, an era when six out of ten drinks on a menu would feature St. Germain elderflower liqueur (£19 – Waitrose) which, to its credit, does go fantastically with agave spirits and sparkling wine. What you’re dealing with here is a Paloma – a traditional highball of Tequila and grapefruit soda – that’s had a haircut and put on a jacket for the evening. Elegant, refreshing, and perfect for Valentine’s Day.
20ml Blanco Tequila
25ml Elderflower Liqueur
25ml Pink Grapefruit juice
Lightly hake the first three ingredients, strain into a flute or saucer, and top with sparkling wine. You could use Champagne as with the Air Mail but this one works just as well with Cava.
Some neon coloured, disco drink fun from the 1970s here to brighten up your lockdown Valentine’s day. You’d be forgiven for underestimating something pink with pineapple in it but the inclusion of bitter Campari and aged rum lends the Jungle Bird a dose of depth and class. Not to mention a bit of a wallop.
50ml Santa Teresa 1796
20ml Fresh pineapple Juice
25ml Lime Juice
15ml 1:1 Simple sugar syrup
Shake all ingredients with ice – really hard so you get those juices to froth up a little – and strain into a tumbler full of ice. Garnish with a wedge of fresh pineapple and a wee spring of mint. If butchering a live pineapple seems like too much of a faff in addition to making drinks and cooking dinner then just get a bag of those dried pineapple rings. They keep forever and make smart cocktail toppers. Santa Teresa from Venezuela (£50.40 – Master of Malt) performs well in drinks like this, though aged Jamaican rum is also a good option if you have some to hand. Oh, and don’t buy the sugar syrup, just combine equal parts hot water and sugar then stir it up and leave it to cool. Easy.
After pulling off an unbeatable Valentine’s Day dinner you’ll probably want to up the ante drink wise. This New Orleans native was born in the early days of the cocktail, when cutting edge bartending meant adding dashes of bitters or absinth to a glass of brandy. Time, practice, and circumstance saw those experiments coalesce into the Sazerac as it’s still made today. Its a perfect fusion of influences, American rye whiskey meets French absinthe and is brought together by Louisiana’s own Peychaud’s bitters (£8.45 – The Whisky Exchange). This one will probably require getting the bits in specially but it’s absolutely worth it.
60ml Rye Whiskey
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1 Dash Angostura
Teaspoon of Absinth
First things last; take a tumbler or old-fashioned glass, put a couple of teaspoons of absinthe in the bottom, and swirl it around the coat the inside. Then, take a mixing glass – a pint glass will do – and throw a teaspoon of brown sugar into the bottom. Dash in your bitters and muddle with the sugar until mostly dissolved, then add your whiskey. A good whiskey is essential to pull this off: Michter’s Single Barrel Straight Rye (£53.95 – TWE) is broad-shouldered enough to handle the other ingredients but easy enough to drink neat, perfect for the task.
Give it a few stirs to get that sugar mixed in and then add enough ice to mostly fill the glass. Stir the whole thing with ice until it’s chilled and slightly diluted. Give it a taste, it’s supposed to be a strong drink but if it’s too much you can keep stirring until it’s right for you. Strain the lot into your absinth rinsed glass and serve without ice. A little twist of lemon peel squeezed over the top will seal the deal.