Valentine’s day: depending on one’s relationship status, either the most romantic day of the year, or a sickening festival of commercially-driven courtship. In either instance, nothing gets you in the mood/soothes the sting of western capitalism quite like the winning combination of mood-fortifying gin and serotonin-boosting chocolate.
Gin cocktails have been a mixologist’s staple since the 1860s, when pioneering bartender Jerry Thomas featured the aptly named ‘Gin Cocktail’ in his seminal (and snappily titled) publication, How To Mix Drinks: Or, The Bon-Vivant’s Companion. A potent blend of sugar syrup, bitters, absinthe and gin, this gunpowder draft paved the way for one of the world’s most widely imbibed spirits to flourish. The Gimlet, the Tom Collins, the Martini, the Clover Club, the Singapore Sling and the Negroni all followed, with gin’s bedfellows ranging from warm vermouth to fizzy egg whites to spicy cherry brandy.
Now, cocktail bar Dry Martini has added its own twist. Be My Valentine is a candied, effervescent union of fruity gin, smouldering dark chocolate and dizzying bubbles. “It’s the complexity of Star of Bombay gin – with its bergamot notes and exotic ambrette seeds – coupled with the rich, dark chocolate that really makes this particular cocktail,” says bar manager, Martin Siska.
Adding chocolate is a luxurious touch, but it’s important to maintain the drink’s delicate balance. “It’s easy to over-sweeten this kind of cocktail, so in order to let the gin really sing, we replaced a standard sugar syrup with the natural, mellow sweetness of Sauternes,” he says. “The strawberry shrub also enhances the fruit flavours in the gin, while adding some much-needed acidity.” The cava, of course, propels you up to fluffy-white-clouds levels of elation.
So whether you’re wooing a loved one or sticking two fingers up to traditional ideals of coupling, Be My Valentine cocktail is the perfect potion with which to toast St Valentine.
The Be My Valentine (Serves 2)
80ml Star of Bombay gin
40ml strawberry shrub or strawberry syrup
Chilled coupe glass
20g dark chocolate, refrigerated
- Using a bain marie, melt the dark chocolate. Once melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, until the chocolate just starts to thicken.
- Turning the coupe glass upside down, dip the rim of the glass into the chocolate. You’re looking for an even coverage of chocolate just across the rim. Clean any dregs that fall further down the glass. Turn upright and chill in the fridge.
- In a cocktail shaker, add the gin, Sauternes and strawberry shrub.
- Add the ice and shake vigorously.
- Using both hands, strain the drink through a Hawthorne strainer (held flush with the opening of the shaker) and a small fine sieve positioned over your glass.
- Top up with the cava and serve.
From delicious to stratospheric…
“Make your own strawberry shrub: a simple combination of fresh fruit, caster sugar and sherry vinegar. We vacuum-pack strawberries and caster sugar for 24 hours, blend it together, strain it and then add the sherry vinegar.
“For a simpler syrup, place some sugar and water in a saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Add the sliced strawberries and simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Double strain the syrup and discard any solids then add the sherry vinegar.”
“Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut is the best cava for this recipe, although you could use others. The classic notes of juniper, angelica and coriander in Star of Bombay make it the perfect gin here. No. 3 London Dry’s powerful citrus notes and Anchor’s Junipero would also work.”