Romance

The 14th February approaches, the date on which we’re encouraged to show our love for each other. Although we can't go out to restaurants and pubs for a romantic date, we can still procure cards, flowers, chocolates and a take-away from out favourite restaurant. It’s good to have a day on which we’re reminded we are loved, and I don’t subscribe to the view that the day is all about cynicism and financial exploitation. I know my parents will be delighted to have received cards from their grandchildren, whether shop-bought or home-made, and while my partner and I don’t make a big thing of the day, we’ll certainly be having a drink together and taking time to thank each other for another year’s worth of kindness, support and not complaining about the laundry.

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.

The first principle of romance is that you make someone feel valued as an individual, that you highlight what is unique and special about them for you to love. Your St Valentine’s drinks should reflect some of that. Do you have a memory of a special occasion? What was your partner drinking the night you met? Even a bottle of stout is romantic if it says, “I remember meeting you in that pub.” Maybe you spent your honeymoon or a special holiday somewhere beautiful. Aperol spritz can transport you back to Venice and makes a lovely prelude to a dinner of Italian memories. Single malt whisky in front of the fire might evoke memories of your proposal in Scotland.

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.

Florists know how much we love flowers at this time of year, and you can find flower-flavoured cocktails to drink. One of my own favourites is a Blue Moon; it’s made with crème de violette, gin and lemon juice. Rose liqueurs in an evening cocktail might reflect the roses you've had delivered in the morning. The scent of elderflower St Germain liqueur in a glass of fizz might look forward to a June wedding.

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.

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