Ever since I spent an offbeat summer bartending in Kos back in 2018, I’ve fancied myself something of an amateur mixologist. Granted, every third drink I poured back then was a shot of tequila, but for better or worse, I was hooked. I’ve continued to seek out exciting new bars, ingredients and increasingly bizarre flavour combinations (pickle brine vodka anyone?), even completing an ‘Essentials of Bartending’ qualification from the European Bartending School during quarantine!
With the season of love (or loathing) already upon us, here are some of my more accessible, go-to cocktail creations with a Valentine’s Day twist. Perfect for enjoying with your pals, lover(s), or on your own!
All of the recipes are vegan by default and can be made non-alcoholic or less alcoholic (though equally delicious) by omitting some or all of the alcoholic ingredients indicated by an asterisk (*).
The Light One: Cold – Refreshing – Light – Gin – Blood Orange – Rosemary
Refreshing and light with a pretty pink hue – what’s not to love about the Bloody Valentine? Its deceptively sweet appearance masks a wonderfully complex cocktail and it’s a dream as an aperitif.
- 50ml dry gin*
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters*
- 150-300ml blood orange soda (adjust depending on desired ratio of soda to soda water)
- 0-150ml soda water (adjust depending on desired ratio of soda to soda water)
- Dried/fresh rosemary
- Optional: dried blood orange wheels
- Add your favourite dry gin, blood orange soda, Angostura and rosemary (three sprigs fresh or a healthy amount dry) to an ice-filled cocktail shaker, shaking vigorously for a minute.
- Setting the shaker to the side, fill a tall glass or gin balloon with ice as desired and add two sprigs of fresh rosemary and a dried blood orange wheel.
- Strain the contents of the shaker into the glass and top off with soda water in order to achieve your desired ratio of blood orange soda to soda water (I would recommend a 2:1 ratio).
- Stir and enjoy!
The Strong One: Cold – Strong – Multi-Spirit – Fruity – Pitcher/Bowl
The first draft of this group cocktail was created on the steps of a London supermarket by pals, for pals with the help of Sophia Oleksiyenko and Sinead Tebutt.
A lot has happened since then; I’ve made quite a few changes to what was initially dubbed Bootleg Sangria. Alas, in a sweaty tent I briefly called home, set up in a dear friend’s distinctly Torontonian backyard, the perfected Palentine’s Day was born.
- 1 bottle Pimms*
- 375ml vodka* (adjust depending on preferred strength, however any more vodka will seriously alter the cocktail’s taste)
- 1 bottle rose*
- 1L ginger ale
- 1L cranberry juice/soda
- Optional: cranberries
- Fill a large bowl or pitcher with a good amount of ice, add all the ingredients.
- Garnish with cranberries and serve long in tall glasses.
The Indulgent One: Cold – Rich – Sweet – Chocolate – Orange – Creamy – Whisky
Oh is an absolute treat. This delicious dessert cocktail is both super comforting and surprisingly sophisticated, which makes it a fantastic choice for impressing a Valentine’s (Zoom) date or just treating yourself.
- 25ml whisky or bourbon*
- 37.5ml (1.5 shots) Grand Marnier*
- Plant milk of choice
- Hot chocolate powder or semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Orange zest
- Orange peel
- Large ice cube (or whisky stone)
- Optional: cocoa powder
- Fill a shaker with ice and set aside.
- Pour plant milk of choice into a pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent film-formation. I would recommend oat, quinoa, coconut, or pea milk as they tend to boil the best without separating.
- When bubbles start forming at the surface, add semi-sweet chocolate chips or hot chocolate powder to taste. The goal here is a light-medium hot chocolate. The chocolate flavour should be very prominent, but the mixture should not be sickly sweet.
- Whilst waiting for the milk to boil, remove the ice from the shaker and add the whisky or bourbon, Grand Marnier, and a healthy amount of orange zest, shaking vigorously for 30 seconds.
- When the milk boils, the froth will rise rapidly. Quickly remove the pan from heat and add the milk to the shaker, shaking vigorously for 30 seconds.
- Place a large ice cube or whisky stone in a short whisky glass of your choice (I would recommend a Glencairn or tumbler) and strain the contents of the shaker into the glass.
- Sear the peel of an orange and run it along the rim of the glass liberally, and repeatedly. Be careful not to char or burn the orange peel.
- Garnish with cocoa powder and enjoy!
The Spicy One: Cold – Spicy – Sweet – Rum – Ginger
With a little bit of sugar and a little bit of spice, this fiery two-person cocktail is sure to turn up the heat. Pour Deux is a sweeter, hotter twist on the classic Dark ‘n’ Stormy, but don’t worry – if you aren’t a big spice person, you can easily omit the chili or black pepper and/or change the ratio of ginger beer to soda water for your ideal tipple.
- 50ml dark rum*
- 75ml amaretto*
- 275-350ml ginger beer (adjust depending on desired ratio of ginger beer to soda water)
- 25-100ml soda water (adjust depending on desired ratio of ginger beer to soda water)
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoon maple syrup
- ⅓ teaspoon dried red chili flakes
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Lime wedge
- Add rum, amaretto, brown sugar, maple syrup, chili flakes, and black pepper to a shaker and set aside.
- Fill two large mason jars or glasses with ice, and add your desired amount of ginger beer/soda water (I would recommend a 3:1 ratio, but for those that prefer a lighter drink, 2:1 and even 1:1 are certainly possible).
- Fill the shaker with ice, and shake vigorously until cold.
- Strain contents of the shaker into the two glasses equally, stir, garnish with a lime wedge and enjoy!
The Morning After
The Early Morning/Late-Late Night One: Warm – Strong – Sweet – Coffee – Vodka – Creamy
Some mornings, particularly when nights turn into mornings, are just plain hard. Enter my flatmates’ favourite: The Morning After. A warm twist on the classic espresso martini, this cocktail is a coffee lover’s dream.
- 75ml Tia Maria
- 25ml vodka* (adjust depending on preferred strength)
- Double espresso (or really as much coffee as you’d like)
- Plant milk of choice
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Coarse sea salt
- Optional: hot chocolate powder or semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Pour plant milk of choice into a pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent film-formation.
- When bubbles start forming at the surface, add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of coarse sea salt. If you’d like, you can also add chocolate chips or hot chocolate powder to taste.
- Whilst waiting for the milk to boil, prepare your espresso in your preferred manner (instant coffee is fine).
- Pour your Tia Maria, Vodka, and espresso into a large mug.
- (If you have a milk frother and want to be extra fancy, you should froth the milk at this point as well).
- When the milk boils, the froth will rise rapidly. Quickly remove the pan from heat, pour the hot milk and froth into your mug, and enjoy!
Amazing artwork by Alessia Daniel.