Finlandia master mixologist shares Finnish vodka and culture with Bahamians

Pekka Pellinen, Finlandia Vodka’s global master mixologist, recently visted The Bahamas to educate people on the brand, its different flavors and types of cocktails, as well as the aspects of them.

Over the course of three nights at a number of bars and restaurants, Pellinen took mixologists and guests on a tasting journey at Wild Thyme, Bar Noir in the Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar, Lukka Kairi and Señor Frogs.

Five crafted cocktails displayed included the Finlandia Popcorn Sour, a Finlandia Bloody Mary that was smoked and served with a grasshopper that some bravely tried, Baltic Sea Sour, Finlandia Herbarium and the Helsinki Mule with Finlandia bonfire.

Two of the favorite cocktails among taste testers were the Finlandia Herbarium and Helsinki Mule.

The Finlandia Herbarium had 1.5 ounces of Finlandia Classic, 1 ounce of fresh lemon juice, half an ounce of simple syrup, a pinch of salt, egg white (optional), fresh herbs like dill or basil and soda. Shake with ice, pour into a glass and garnish with dill or basil. The addition of egg white (or chickpea brine if you don’t want to use egg white) adds a froth to the drink when shaken.

The Helsinki Mule – which is made of 1.5 ounces of Finlandia Grapefruit, 3 ounces of ginger beer, a squeeze of fresh lime and built in a glass over ice – is swirled and garnished with cucumber, lime and fresh ginger.

Bahamian Tami Forbes, who attended the Wild Thyme evening with her friend Sayde Francis, is her family’s mixologist and gave her feedback on the evening.

“One of the things I liked about this event was doing the taste test with the other brand and Finlandia Grapefruit Vodka. You can taste the obvious difference. The Finlandia had a cleaner, more bright taste. I knew the other more expensive brands but now I will add Finlandia to my bar.”

Eddie Rolle, a vodka drinker whose primary choice is Finlandia, came out to Bar Noir to observe.

“I wanted to experience the different ways to mix it. I used the simple approach – Finlandia, tonic, cranberry and a twist of lime. But what Pekka showed me tonight – the Finlandia Mango, ginger beer and a twist of lime over ice – was perfect. Watching the way he squeezed the lime…it prepares the palate as a tease for something to come. And when you drink it, you can feel it. I think it’s a great drink.”

Pellinen’s goal during the taste tests was to show consumers that a mid-priced vodka could have a smoother taste than more expensive brands.

Highlighted during the vodka experience was the use of the purest glacial spring water, using golden Suomi barley grown in Finland that creates a mash that undergoes more than 200 distillation steps for more than 50 hours, the quality ingredients and the refining processes that gives Finlandia a smooth taste, adding Pellinen to create awe-inspiring cocktails and having an audience of curious and obliging taste testers.

Lakshmi Garcia, the brand’s marketing manager for the Caribbean and Central America, said The Bahamas has one of the best Finlandia portfolios in the Caribbean.

“Poland sells about one million cases a year, but The Bahamas has a strong market. And when you have a rock star like Pekka sharing his knowledge, it’s perfect,” she said.

Pellinen created tantalizing concoctions. But he stressed that if you don’t have excellent water, you can’t produce excellent vodka.

“Our vodka is distilled more than 200 times, giving 96.5 percent of almost pure alcohol by volume and when mixed with pure glacial spring water, it becomes Finlandia.

He reminded his audience that the vodka from the land of the midnight sun is synonymous with the 72 days of sun that does not set during each summer in Finland.

The difference, he noted, in the way vodka is enjoyed between Bahamian and Finnish culture is that in Finland, they drink their vodka straight – sipping; or if they make a small speech, taking a shot. In The Bahamas, he noticed people enjoyed Finlandia Vodka straight, with fresh juices or with coconut water.

During the event, Pellinen made use of Bucatini pasta straws to reflect the eco-friendly and environmentally responsible stance of Finlandia.

The range of the Finlandia portfolio available in The Bahamas includes: Finlandia Classic (1970), Finlandia Cranberry (1994), Finlandia Lime (1999), Finlandia Mango (2004), Finlandia Grapefruit (2006) and Finlandia Coconut (2014).

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