In the mix: Valentine's Day cocktails

In the mix: Valentine's Day cocktails

by Rich Woods 03 February 2017

Rich Woods laments the rise of kitsch novelty cocktails, before sharing five simple recipes perfect for mixing and serving to your beloved on Valentine's Day.

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Rich Woods (aka The Cocktail Guy) is an award-winning bartender known for his unique creations and is at the forefront of bridging the gap between the worlds of food and liquid.

Rich Woods (aka The Cocktail Guy) is an award-winning bartender known for his unique creations and is at the forefront of bridging the gap between the worlds of food and liquid.

Is it their romantic names, their red, pink or even violet hues that draw you in, or perhaps the novelty factor? Whatever you look for in a Valentine’s Day cocktail one thing should matter more than anything else – that the person it is intended for likes it.

On 14 February people up and down the country will be partaking in romantic dinners for two, and whether they’re an oyster lover or strawberry obsessive, we have all at some point drank from that devil’s cup, filled with some god-awful cocktail accompanied by an equally absurd name, all in the name of love!

Whilst these are all arguably fun, they certainly aren’t the culinary equivalent of a love potion. But fear not; while some drinks are hardly great, great drinks needn’t be hard. With a little guidance and thought, widely available ingredients can be transformed into that perfect and personalised ‘special day’ cocktail.

These fairly cheap, readily available and more importantly fresh ingredients can all be turned into some great and simple cocktails. So for those of you in search of some serious imbibing, here are my suggestions for that ‘alternative’ Valentine’s Day cocktail – without the novelty.

No matter what you’re planning for your loved one, I suggest that cocktails be a big part of it. So forget the last minute roses and that cheap box of chocolates. Roll your sleeves up and get involved – your beloved deserves something less clichéd.

The cocktails

Strawberry and watermelon bellini (non-alcoholic)

This is a great cocktail, not only because it’s great for those who are abstaining from alcohol but also because it’s a great way of using up that flat fizz left in the fridge.

Weigh and chop a punnet of strawberries and place in a food processor, then blend with a quarter weight of water. Add sugar to sweeten to taste and stir to dissolve. Pass through a tea cloth-lined funnel into a clean bottle, reserving the leftover pulp. Chop, deseed and blitz half a watermelon, then collect the juice separately.

Pour a bottle of flat Prosecco into a pan and, over a medium heat, reduce to two-thirds of its original volume (this will burn off the alcohol). Add 250g caster sugar and stir to dissolve, adding some tartaric acid if you want a sharp flavour, then leave to cool.

To make the cocktail, shake together 25ml strawberry puree, 25ml watermelon juice and 50ml of the Prosecco sugar syrup with a few ice cubes. Strain into a cocktail glass over 25ml of soda water, then gently mix to allow the soda water to carbonate the drink.

Clementine and shisho bellini

I absolutely love this fresh and fragrant take on the classic bellini. Try using seasonal produce and play around with savoury flavours as an alternative to the classic peach. The fresh clementine complements the fragrant shisho beautifully. Clementines are naturally sweet, but you may wish to add sugar syrup if you prefer this style of drink slightly sweeter. Peel and juice twelve clementines and set the juice aside. Heat 250g sugar syrup (made with an equal ratio of water to sugar) on a medium-high temperature with 30g of torn shisho leaves. Once the syrup turns green, remove from the heat and add 250ml vodka, stirring to mix. Strain the liquid through a muslin, then cool and reserve the liqueur. To make the cocktail, simply combine 65ml clementine juice with 15ml shisho liqueur and 50ml Prosecco.

Rose Royale

As a child, rhubarb was just one of the ingredients I absolutely hated. Apple crumble for me please, Mum! As my tastes changed, so did my appreciation for this delicious ingredient. This drink works throughout the whole of the rhubarb season, for garden parties or brunch occasions.

Wash a kilo of rhubarb and chop into one inch pieces. Drop in a vacuum bag with a litre of water and seal, then cook for sixty minutes at 60°C, occasionally giving the bag a squeeze. Allow to cool before filtering through a coffee filter and collecting the liquid. Mix in 4g of citric acid and 350g caster sugar, then bottle and chill.

For the rose liqueur, gently heat 500ml vodka then add 5ml rosewater, 200g sugar and the petals of two roses. Stir and leave to infuse for 30 minutes, then strain through a tea cloth, bottle and reserve. To make the cocktail, combine 25ml of the rhubarb cordial, 25ml rose liqueur and 75ml Champagne.

Dark cherry Kir

For the most simplest of riffs on the classic Kir Royal, try this. With a few dashes of bitters, you turn this well known and loved cocktail into a Valentine’s Day special. Simple combine 20ml Creme de Cassis, a teaspoon of dark chocolate liqueur, two dashes of cherry bitters and 95ml Champagne. Mix gently so as not to create too much fizz. If you want to go even further, gently melt some dark chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Dunk in some stalked cherries and place on a sheet of greaseproof paper. Transfer to the fridge to set, then when ready to serve drop in the glass with the cocktail.

Marmite and chocolate Guinness cocktail

Love it or hate it, this combo really works. This year Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday, so if you’re cooking brunch at home serve this alternative cocktail for a unique twist. Marmite and Guinness may seem a bit off at first, but when well balanced they are truly sensational. With the added boost of chocolate, this cocktail makes the perfect drink for brunch. Whisk 330ml Guinness until the foam disappears, then place over a medium heat and reduce to a third of its original volume. Stir in 15g of Marmite until dissolved (you can add more or less to taste), then 100g of sugar. Finally, pour in three teaspoons of chocolate liqueur, then cool and reserve. To serve, gently mix 50ml of your reduction with 65ml Champagne.

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Marmite cocktail