Valentine’s Day for beginners

Juliet Lawrence Wilson, no slouch on the lurve front herself, gets in depth with Valentine’s Day for the stay at homes.

Valentine’s Day is the Marmite of Hallmark’s shelves: you either love it or hate it. Sure, many feel the need to dislike the commercialism of the day but we’d like to show that Valentine’s Day could be intimate, romantic and unique. We hope you enjoy our guide to creating the perfect Valentine’s evening at home.

The History

There wasn’t just one St Valentine, there were lots of them – popular name for early Christian martyrs, apparently. The most recognised connection to present day celebrations concerns Valentine the priest who refused a law attributed to Roman Emperor Claudius II. Nasty Emperor C got it into his spoilsporty head that young men were better soldiers if they remained single (not the MOD’s policy now, I’m happy to say). Kind-hearted Valentine married them anyway but when Claudius found out about this, he had our hero thrown in the clink and ordered him to be executed. Whilst incarcerated Valentine took a fancy to the jailor’s daughter and just before he went to meet his maker he wrote a note to her that read “From your Valentine.” Oh yes, and he also bought her a little teddy bear that carried a polyester stuffed heart that said “B mine 4ever!” Let’s just say his story didn’t lose much in the telling, but as elaborated legends go it’s one of the sweetest.

The Cocktails

We’ve been mixing and shaking to create these elegant Valentine’s Day cocktails for you! Naturally these recipes serve two.

My Love is like a red, red rose

  • 120 ml gin
  • 30 ml Gomme Syrup
  • 15 ml rose water
  • 40 ml lemon juice

Shake over ice and strain into two chilled martini glasses. Float a red rose petal on the top to garnish.

Some Like it Hot

  • 120 ml gin
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, sliced
  • 40ml lime juice
  • 30 ml Gomme syrup

Muddle the ginger in a cocktail shaker, add ice and the rest of the ingredients and shake well then strain into two chilled martini glasses and garnish with a sliver of fresh ginger.

The Food

You don’t have to be a whiz in the kitchen to conjure up a delectable Valentine’s Day feast. Oysters are a well-known aphrodisiac for their high iron content. Served with some slivers of pickled ginger or a dash of Tabasco and lemon juice a few of these should set your evening off to a good start! Asparagus are considered sexy for their, ahem, phallic shape and just about anything you eat with your fingers is thought to be alluring, except for kebabs. Chocolate boosts your endorphins, giving you that happy, loving feeling and there’s no sexier way to eat it than in a fondue!

Chocolate Fondue

  • 400g dark chocolate
  • 200ml double cream
  • Liqueur to taste

Break up the chocolate and place in a small heavy bottomed pan with the cream and melt over a very low heat, stirring all the time. Do not allow to simmer or boil. Add a dash of liqueur and serve with a platter of chopped up fruit, marshmallows and pieces of sponge cake to dip in the fondue.

The Ambience

No need to explain this one to the girls because we already understand the power of the candle. Men, however seem to be rather confused as to why we feel the need to use them so much, what with most homes having a very useful little thing called electricity. There’s nothing quite so flattering as candle light and if you opt for a good-quality scented one, so much the better. Our favourite is Jo Malone’s Basil, Mandarin and Lime, which delivers an exotic, heady aroma. Cosiness is paramount, so turn the heating up and take the big woollies off. Personally I’m extremely partial to a sheepskin rug in front of an open fire.


Gintime’s favourite DJ, Omegamale from The Bang Bang club, or Cornelius as he’s known to his chums, has compiled for us a bespoke Spotify playlist for Valentine’s Day. Kiss, kiss, Bang Bang!

The Poetry

If you’re ever going to read poetry to another person and keep a straight face whilst doing it Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity. Not all love poems have to be mushy or sentimental. The late great Hovis Presley’s I Rely On You is hilarious and all the more touching for it. You can see him performing it here

“These I Can Promise” by Mark Twain is an undoubted classic:

I cannot promise you a life of sunshine;
I cannot promise riches, wealth or gold;
I cannot promise you an easy pathway
That leads away from change or growing old.
But I can promise all my heart’s devotion
A smile to chase away your tears of sorrow;
A love that’s ever true and ever growing;
A hand to hold in yours through each tomorrow.

Great poetry doesn’t have to be long winded either. Text In The City by Edinburgh wordsmith Elspeth Murray will have your loved one’s heart soaring:

Quietly, amid the rush-hour bustle, I blush.
I smile just thinking of you.
Elspeth Murray

The Movie

To round off the evening you can’t beat a good love story. The American Film Institute voted Casablanca as their top romantic movie of all time. This exchange tells you everything you need to know about Humphrey Bogart’s character Rick:

Ilsa: I wasn’t sure you were the same. Let’s see, the last time we met…

Rick: Was La Belle Aurore.

Ilsa: How nice, you remembered. But of course, that was the day the Germans marched into Paris.

Rick: Not an easy day to forget.

Ilsa: No.

Rick: I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.

Or how about this wonderfully scripted declaration of love from “When Harry Met Sally”:

“I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

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