City A.M.’s cocktail expert
Call ME a cynic, but there is only one thing worse than being single on Valentine’s Day and that is being forced to sit with your significant other in a bar or restaurant, spending hand over fist in a vain attempt to quantify your affections. And every year the expectations for Valentine’s are further inflated. Soon the day will take on stag and hen night proportions, which have morphed from local evenings on the town into grotesque binge drinking tours of the more penurious parts of this continent.
Valentine’s day forces people out of their comfort zone, and you or your other half may be tempted to migrate away from the familiar wine list to the unfamiliar territory of the cocktail menu. For many, it may as well be written in Swahili, full, as it is, with descriptions of unrecognisable spirits and the indecipherable things that the bartender wishes to do with them.
And so, for those poor souls kept prisoner in an atmosphere so saccharine it could be melted with a blow torch, I offer some simple advice. Don’t be disoriented by any offers of a special Valentine’s Day cocktail, especially if it contains chocolate, cream, and out of season strawberries – instead, keep it simple. Order a champagne cocktail, which is simply the combination of one sugar cube, a few drops of angostura bitters, 20ml of cognac and champagne, garnished with an orange twist. Every bar and restaurant worthy of the name will be able to make one. It is difficult to get wrong and it will likely be the only vestige of dignity that you will salvage from the evening.
However, anyone brave enough to commit the modern social faux pas of not wanting to share their love of another human in the glare of strangers, circumventing the rigmarole of bars and restaurants in favour of the more respectable surroundings of the home, may need to make a more elaborate cocktail to atone for the sin. Ryu Okada of Kampai Cocktails – a specialist mobile cocktail bar company – has just the drink for the occasion: the Chaste Kiss.
Okada explains that the Japanese plum wine brings acidity and sweetness; Noilly Prat adds dryness with a herbal note; Fino sherry brings a hint of nuttiness; elderflower liqueur brings sweetness and a hint of spiciness; while vodka forms the body of the drink. All in all, it is perfectly balanced.
■ 25ml Japanese plum wine
■ 20ml Noilly Prat
■ 15ml Fino sherry
■ 15ml Elderflower liqueur
■ 20ml vodka
■ Stir over ice
■ Serve in a martini glass
■ garnish with a mascherano cherry