St Valentine’s day is at its best when its gestures are already familiar, one of a sequence of days to make someone feel appreciated. What I write here, then, applies to any birthday, anniversary, celebration or moment of difficulty.
Certain cocktails come with an aura of romance, usually because of the associations we make with their colour, ingredients or principal flavour. Champagne is an obvious example of an ingredient that suggests romance. It mixes well with fruit liqueurs such as crème de cassis. It would be a delightful gesture to seek out a liqueur that tastes of your partner’s favourite fruit and make a personalised Kir Royale, just for them. The classic Champagne Cocktail, made with Cognac and sugar, is lavish and decadent and would certainly set the scene for a fun evening, but do beware of its strength.
Do you have a bottle of wine you put away for a special occasion? Open it. If lockdown has taught us anything, it's that we shouldn't wait to be generous, caring or joyful. Why not find food it would go well with and offer to cook dinner? Your local, independent wine merchant would be more than happy to advise you if you’re not confident of getting the match right. I’m told one of the most romantic things I’ve ever done was to get up early and buy a selection of oysters, sashimi-grade mackerel and tuna and smoked prawns. By the time the Beloved got up, I had laid out a seafood brunch for us to share. I did buy a half-bottle of Champagne, but neither of us felt like drinking at that time, and we drank tea instead.
Which brings me to my final suggestion. There’s nothing romantic about dealing with someone else’s drunkenness. Whatever you drink, drink it in moderation, and if your partner doesn’t normally drink alcohol, St Valentine’s Day is the perfect occasion to join them and show you care.
A version of this post appeared in Handpicked Harrogate Magazine in February 2020.