It’s the most romantic day of the year, but not every nation marks Valentine’s Day in the same way. From a celebration of friendship in our Gin of the Month’s native Finland to an oft-overshadowed non-event in Brazil, here are four countries that go their own way when February 14th comes around.
In Kalevala’s home country of Finland, February 14th is still a date for celebrating a special bond between two people. But not a romantic one: called Ystävänpäivä, or Friends Day, Finns spend this day celebrating the many people whose presence brings warmth and happiness to their lives. Gifts for friends, family, neighbours and colleagues are included on the shopping list. Show your friends how much you love them with this super-tasty gin punch, perfect for sharing with a crowd.
Sparkling Grapefruit and Gin Punch
2 bottles of Brut sparkling wine, chilled
350ml grapefruit juice (fresh is best, 3-4 large grapefruits’ worth)
230ml tonic water, chilled
4 tablespoons agave syrup or honey
Mint and rosemary, to garnish
Pour all of your ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Scatter the mint and rosemary leaves on top of your punch and serve right away, with lots of ice and some extra chunks of grapefruit on the side.
In South Korea, the western Valentine’s Day tradition of men treating women is flipped on its head. Here, women gift chocolate to the special men in their lives on February 14th, and the gift is reciprocated on White Day a month later, when men give women non-chocolate candy as a thank you. Single? If you haven’t received any presents on Valentine’s Day or White Day, you dress in black on April 14th and spend your evening commiserating with fellow singletons over plates of black food. Especially popular are black jajangmyeon noodles – or you could go for this Black Pepper Martini instead.
Black Pepper Martini
15ml dry Vermouth
15ml black peppercorn syrup*
Pour your three ingredients into a cocktail shaker packed with ice. Stir with a bar spoon until cold and slightly diluted, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and serve.
*For the black pepper syrup, combine 350ml of water with 350g of sugar in a saucepan with 1tbsp of cracked black peppercorns and 1tbsp of whole black peppercorns. Heat gently for 20 minutes, then take off the heat and cool completely before refrigerating in an airtight container.
Valentine’s Day came to Japan in the 1930s, but many of the traditions we take for granted in the UK were flipped on their heads along the way (quite possibly due to an unfortunate translation error). As a result, Valentine’s Day in Japan sees women give chocolate to men, but not just their significant others – women working in offices often feel obligated to gift every male coworker with chocolate boxes of varying sizes and quality, doing complex mental arithmetic to ensure that each giftee gets exactly the right amount. There’s even a word for it: giri-choko, or ‘obligation chocolate’. Raise a glass to these hardworking women with a Twentieth Century, which takes its flavour from crème de cacao.
20ml Lillet Blanc
15ml crème de cacao
20ml fresh lemon juice
Shake your ingredients in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice, then strain into a glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Looking to escape the endless love hearts and romantic comedies? Brazil is the place for you come February 14th. Valentine’s Day falls very close to the biggest and most famous celebration of the Brazilian year – the world-famous Carnival, which lasts a week and can fall at any time between late February and early March. As a result, Brazilians ignore Valentine’s Day completely, and celebrate Lover’s Day in June instead. Channel Brazilian disinterest with a Limeade – plus added gin, of course!
Grown-Up Brazilian Limeade
2 limes (you can also use lemons)
3tbsp sweetened condensed milk
Whack all your ingredients into a blender and pulse together between five and ten times. Strain the mixture through a fine strainer into a pitcher. Serve individual portions in a glass over ice, with a lime wheel to garnish