Wine: Let’s get the party started

Frozen Peach Champagne cocktail
Frozen Peach Champagne cocktail
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Mixing it: Cocktail parties are making a comeback, offering singletons the perfect place to meet, writes Christine Austin.

Just as a reminder, chaps, it is Valentine’s Day on Friday, so you will need to invest in roses and champagne not to mention a candle-lit dinner and maybe some chocolates. Restaurants will be full of couples enjoying a romantic night out, so get your table booked and be prepared to flex the wallet. But while this approach to our annual love-fest is ideal for those in the security of couple-dom, there are so many singletons these days perhaps they should be the focus for this year.

We all know one or two singletons who are searching for their perfect partner via internet or speed dating. Evening classes are also a favoured way of meeting new friends, but perhaps there is an even better way?

The cocktail party is making a comeback as a way to meet new people, so why not organise your own party and bring some singletons together? Much more fun and a lot less work than a dinner party, cocktails can be tailored to your taste and there is enough variation of flavours and alcohol strengths to keep the evening flowing with conversation.

You could stock up with various spirits, liqueurs and mixers, not to mention a wide range of glasses and fruit garnishes, but the easiest way to get your party started is to call in the services of Ben Botham, cocktail mixologist at Raisthorpe Manor. This Malton-based company makes a wide range of cocktail ingredients, such as flavoured vodka, gin and liqueurs and Ben will come to your house or venue and mix a wide variety of cocktails all evening, leaving you free to enjoy your own party. Prices start at £20 for a minimum of 10 guests.

The Raisthorpe range of drinks started with a rather good raspberry gin which company boss Julia Medforth made from local raspberries, and served at the shoots organised on the family farm. It went down so well that she started making enough to sell. The range has expanded and now includes a whole selection of fruit-flavoured gins and vodkas as well as more classic sloe and damson gins. The Raisthorpe Raspberry Gin swept the board at The Yorkshire Post Taste Awards in 2009 and many other Raisthorpe products have won awards for their quality. New to the range is a pair of shimmering vodka liqueurs, Blood Orange and Toffee Caramel, both of which add terrific new tastes to cocktails.

Raisthorpe Manor gins and liqueurs are available around the county including Field and Fawcett in York, Pern’s of Helmsley, Castle Howard and Malton Relish. Check the website www.raisthorpemanor.com where you can buy 
online or ring for details 01377 288295.

If you prefer to mix your own cocktails at home, here are some of the Raisthorpe recipes to try, as well as some available in the cocktails bars of Leeds, just in case you feel like a night out.

Sparkly espresso

In a tall coffee glass, mix one measure brandy with one and a half measures Raisthorpe Toffee Caramel 9ct Shimmering Vodka Liqueur and half a measure of kahlua, and fill to the top with warm espresso coffee. Sprinkle with a little cocoa powder and indulge!

Frozen Peach Champagne

Dip the rim of a cocktail glass in water, then sugar, and leave to dry.

In a blender, add one scoop of peach sorbet or frozen peach puree, add 30ml 
of Raisthorpe’s Peach Liqueur Vodka 
and 50ml of chilled Champagne or sparkling wine. Blend and pour into your prepared glass. Serve with a sprig 
of lavender and redcurrants or raspberries.

Strawtini

Take a cocktail shaker and crush one and half medium-sized ripe strawberries with 10ml of lemon juice, 15ml of honey syrup and two dashes of orange bitters. Add ice, 15ml of Noilly Rouge Vermouth and 35ml of Raisthorpe’s Strawberry Liqueur Vodka. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with strawberries or redcurrants.

Grand Duchess

Cut half an orange into quarters and muddle with sugar syrup (gomme) in a cocktail shaker. Add an egg white and 45ml of Raisthorpe orange vodka 
liqueur. Fill the shaker with cubed ice then strain into a martini glass, garnish with a flaming twist of orange zest, and serve.

Raspberry Rebel

Cut a quarter of fresh mango into squares and muddle with sugar syrup (gomme) in a cocktail shaker. Add 30ml Raisthorpe Manor raspberry gin, 30ml lemon juice and 15ml spiced rum (available from Latitude in Leeds). Fill the shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a martini glass and serve with a mango garnish.

Mud slide

Take 30ml Raisthorpe Chocolate Vodka Liqueur, 15ml Frangelico Hazelnut liqueur, (most supermarkets sell this), 30ml single cream and 30ml whole milk. Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add cubed ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass, garnish with grated chocolate and serve.

Piedmont Spritz

Available at Epernay Champagne Bar, Leeds or find the key ingredients at Latitude, The Calls, Leeds (0113 245 3393) to make it at home. Pour 50ml Cocchi Americano Rosa into a tall glass. Top up with Fever Tree Tonic (Harvey Nichols) and garnish with a sliced strawberry, a sprig of basil and a small twist of cracked black pepper.

Klover Club

Available at Blind Tyger Cocktail Bar, Leeds

Pour 45ml Rose Petal Infused Konik’s 
Tail Vodka, 20ml fresh lemon juice, 15ml sugar syrup, three raspberries and 15ml egg white into a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a martini glass.