Leap into love: cocktails for Valentine’s Day

The S Brach and N Macnaughton at the Lonsdale
With Valentine’s Day approaching, mixologists have been coming up with some romantic ideas for their cocktail menus. From London bars such as the Artesian, the Lonsdale and Wax Jambu to the Rooftop Restaurant at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, love is very much on the menu this month. And chaps better watch out: it’s a leap year when ladies are allowed to propose.

Jim Anderson, bar manager at the Lonsdale in Notting Hill in west London, has come up with two drinks in honour of two girls who broke his heart. The first is called S Brach, which combines Aperol, Punt e Mes vermouth, Absolut Wild Tea vodka and a splash of orange bitters – he says this is “dry like her wit and as revolutionary as her city’s forefathers”. His other cocktail is the N Macnaughton, named after “the sweetest Glaswegian you’ll ever meet”. It mixes a fist of raspberries, Auchentoshan 12 Year Old, crème de mûre, cloudy apple juice and egg white. Jim points to similarities between the drink and the girl who broke his heart: “Kind, soft and yet brutally frank. Intelligence has never come in such a lovely head.”

At Wax Jambu in Islington, north London, you can ask for A Pink Peck (on the Cheek) – a spicy mix of Pink Pigeon spiced rum, strawberry, chilli and marmalade. According to the team at Wax Jambu, spicy ingredients have an aphrodisiac power: “It is medically proven that chillies increase the body’s heart rate, raise body temperature and make lips swell to a ‘kissable plump pout’.”

A Pink Peck (on the Cheek)
A Pink Peck on the Cheek

37.5ml Pink Pigeon
25ml Martini Rosso
2 thumbs of red chilli
1 large strawberry
1 teaspoon of Rose’s Lemon & Lime Marmalade

Muddle the strawberry and chilli and shake with the other ingredients. Fine-strain into a chilled coupette, garnished with a whole red chilli and a lime spiral.

At the sumptuous Purple Bar at Sanderson Hotel in London, it seems that lust rather than love is in the air, with a new list of “aphrodisiac cocktails” in what they are calling their “Lust List”. They include a Martini made with home-made white chocolate, vanilla and muddled fresh strawberries, shaken with crème de cacao. For a “stiff” option (their words), there is a short cocktail made with El Dorado 5 Year Old rum shaken with jasmine tea, home-made honey water, a dash of Angostura Bitters and orange bitters and fresh lime juice, served over ice. (We should probably stress that the aphrodisiac qualities are not from the alcohol but the flavours and other ingredients.)

Cupid's Tonic
At the Crooked Well in Camberwell, south London, the bar team has been building a reputation for their creative cocktails and, for February, they have created a sharing cocktail, Cupid’s Tonic.

Cupid’s Tonic

50ml Stolichnaya Vanil vodka
25ml Pama pomegranate liqueur
25ml Fresh apple juice
1 barspoon of pomegranate molasses

Shake the ingredients and double-strain into a champagne coupe. Coming on a slate plate, each cocktail is served with a shot of prosecco to balance the sweetness of the vanilla, plus some “aphrodisiac” candied ginger on the side.

At the Artesian Bar at London’s Langham Hotel, a special champagne cocktail, The Love Potion (pictured), has been created containing a “secret ingredient”. This so-called “love potion essence” adds sultry notes of spice and hints of rose and white tea to complement the berry-fruit taste and salmon-pink hue of the Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé champagne. It is served in a frozen flute that glimmers with a sugar pear dusting. The luxury cocktail is available throughout February at £24 a glass.

According to the Champagne Information Bureau, rose champagne is doing phenomenally well in the UK, which is its number-one export market. The bureau predicts that the British “penchant for pink” will be bigger than ever this Valentine’s Day, recommending a number of romantic pairings. Non-vintage rosé can be enjoyed with seafood such as prawns and lobster while vintage rosé goes well with rare red meat. The savoury character of aged vintage rosé wines means they can stand up to aromatic flavours such as herbs and sweet spices. Young non-fruity non-vintages also work well simply as an aperitif.

They say the French are true romantics, and l’amour is on the menu at Roux at the Pembury, the bar upstairs from French restaurant Roux at Parliament Square. Chef Michel Roux Jr has got together with bar manager Abdulai Kpekawa to create the Avec Moi. This combines vodka, framboise, Aperol and Kamm & Sons ginseng spirit. It is available throughout February, priced at £15 for two people, and proves that any drink name translated into French will sound romantic.

Since last year, Suntory has been promoting a variety of cocktails and long drinks using its Yamazaki, Hakushu and Hibiki whiskies from Japan. The 24 recipes have been created by leading mixologist Zoran Peric, who is Suntory’s UK brand ambassador, inspired by the 24 seasons of the Japanese year. For Valentine’s Day, they recommend a cocktail created for the season, risshun, which heralds the spring from February 4 (pictured).

Yamazaki Risshun

35ml Yamazaki 12-year-old single malt whisky
25ml Ume honey blended with umeshu plum liqueur
Finely shaved ginger

Build the ingredients in an Old Fashioned glass over ice.

An even simpler idea comes from Vestal Vodka, the boutique range of Polish vodkas that prove not only the relevance of flavour for vodkas but also the impact of the terroir of the potatoes used to make them. Co-founder William Borrell has been recommending an Oyster Martini for Valentine’s Day, containing a Mangez Moi Oyster doused in a shot of creamy, floral Vestal Kaszebe vodka with peppery undertones. “The Oyster Martini will hot up even the chilliest Valentine,” he promises.

Shakespeare’s original rom-com, The Taming of the Shrew, is currently playing at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in Stratford upon Avon, which has inspired the Rooftop Restaurant & Bar to create a pair of cocktails inspired by the warring couple Katharina and Petruchio. Head bartender Luke Baddeley has come up with “love potions” that he hopes will elicit some marriage proposals – especially as 2012 is a leap year when women can propose to men.

Luke Baddeley with Katharina's Kiss and Petruchio's Passion
Katharina’s Kiss is a sparkling and sweet mix of English sparkling rosé Ridgeview Fitzrovia 2008, Bacardi white rum, blueberries, lemon juice and sugar syrup. Petruchio’s Passion is an almost beery-looking brew, containing a measure of Mad Goose from nearby Warwickshire brewer Purity, combined with fruity flavours from orange-flavoured vodka and pineapple juice plus a subtle hint of chocolate from crème de cacao. Click here for a video of Luke making the cocktails.

The reversal of the normal rules of courtship during a leap year have prompted the team behind Hendrick’s Gin to run events this month at bars across the UK. The Hendrick’s Unusual Month of Reverse Courtship features the Ladies School of Nuptial Conquest, which will teach young ladies on the forgotten arts of seduction, while the Hendrick’s School of Scoundrels advises gentlemen on how to best avoid these ladies’ advances in the most polite and refined way. It began on Tuesday (February 7) at The Milk Thistle in Bristol, followed by The Maven in Leeds on February 8, Apotheca in Manchester’s Northern Quarter on February 9, Dragonfly in Edinburgh on February 10 and finally at the Lonsdale in west London on Monday February 20. For updates, check out the wall on the Hendrick’s Facebook page and, if you are unable to make them, Hendrick’s has provided some instructional videos on YouTube. At the end of the month, look out for the Hendrick’s Proposal Throne that will pop up at a variety of London locations, offering ladies a chance to pop the question to their slow-acting partners.

Updated February 14, 2012: Hendrick's courtship event at Dragonfly in Edinburgh on Friday

Updated February 14, 2012: From Midori comes a simple Valentine’s Day cocktail created by its global brand ambassador and mixologist Manuel Terron. Called The Love Bug, it is described as “a delicious and unique alternative to champagne on the most romantic day of the year”.

Love BugThe Love Bug

30ml Midori
30ml Peach schnapps
Apple juice

Pour Midori and peach schnapps over ice into a Collins glass and top up with apple juice. Gently stir and garnish with a slice of red apple.

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