February 14, 2020
Written by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry
What if we told you that a mid-priced vodka had a smoother taste than the more advertised, expensive brands on the shelf? After three days of following Finlandia’s global master mixologist Pekka Pellinen around Nassau, we heard the rave reviews from, locals, visitors and bartenders.
Four things highlighted this great vodka experience. First, starting with the contents of the vodka – using the purest glacial spring water filtered by thousands of year old moraine. Secondly, 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 give Finlandia a smooth taste. Thirdly, adding global master mixologist Pekka Pellinen to create awe-inspiring cocktails and fourthly, having an audience of curious and obliging taste testers!
Over the course of three nights at a few bars and restaurants, Pekka 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 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 a grand finale of the Helsinki Mule with Finlandia bonfire (See the Facebook page - Pekka Pellinen - Finlandia Global Mixologist- January 30, 2020).
According to Lakshmi Garcia, the brand’s marketing manager for the Caribbean and Central America, The Bahamas has one of the best Finlandia portfolios in the Caribbean. “Poland sells about 1 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 is right.
Being in the presence of Pekka Pellinen who creates tantalizing concoctions makes it easy to welcome the story of his vodka and enjoy the delicious cocktails he whisks together. A gentle giant with blue eyes and an engaging personality, his passion for his craft, his humour, and love of people make the memories as silky as the vodka itself.
“If you don’t have excellent water, you can’t produce excellent vodka,” explains Pekka. “Our vodka is distilled more than 200 times, giving 96.5% of almost pure alcohol by volume and when mixed with pure glacial spring water, it becomes Finlandia.”
“Vodka from the land of the midnight sun” he reminds us, is synonymous for the 72 days of sun that does not set during each summer in Finland. Pekka told us that while he was enjoying the Bahamian sun, sand and sea in balmy tropical 80 degrees Fahrenheit weather, that it was minus 38 degrees in his homeland with 1.5 meters of snow.
When asked if there was a difference in the way vodka was enjoyed between the two cultures, he clarified, “At home we drink our vodka straight, sipping or, if we make a small speech, we take a shot. Here in The Bahamas, you can enjoy Finlandia Vodka straight, with fresh juices or with coconut water.”
Three Finnish words Pekka taught us are inscribed on the bottom of the Finlandia glass bottle: “Luonto” which means nature; “tislaus” for distillation and; “muotoilu” for design. We also learned that the Finlandia bottle design mimics the appearance of ice. The first was creted half a century ago by Finland’s Tappio Wirkkala starting with Frozen Ice (1970), Hammered Ice (1998), Glacial Ice (2003) Melting Ice (2011) and to its current design, Flowing Ice (2018).
Another branding signature was the use of Bucatini pasta straws to reflect the eco-friendly and environmentally responsible stance of Finlandia. Taste testers had no complaints and two favourites cocktails were the Finlandia Herbarium and Helsinki Mule.
The Finlandia Herbarium has 1.5 ounces of Finlandia Classic, 1 ounce of fresh lemon juice, half an ounce of simple syrup, a pinch of salt, egg white (which is 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 nice froth to the drink when shaken.
The Helsinki Mule has 1.5 ounces of Finlandia Grapefruit, 3 ounces of ginger beer, a squeeze of fresh lime, 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.”
Bartenders were eager to try some of the new things they learned and happy to share their own tips with Pekka. To see master mixologist Pekka Pellinen of Finlandia Vodka in action, is to experience an adventure in vodka and a touch of Finnish culture. You can catch a glimpse of his Bahamas 2020 visit at - https://www.facebook.com/finlandiamixologist/videos/116826723071521/.
Camron Mortimer who is the brand manager for Finlandia at Bristol, the distributor for the Bahamas market said, “The purpose of having Pekka here is to educate on the brand itself - it’s known in the market but he furthers the education on Finlandia, about the different flavours and the types of cocktails, as well as the aspects of them. This is his second visit and everyone loves him.”
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).
Finlandia Vodkas are available in The Bahamas from www.Bristol.bs. Please visit www.finlandia.com to learn more about this great tasting vodka.
Global master mixologist Pekka Pellinen of Finlandia Vodka set up popular flavours for tasting and demonstration sessions in Nassau, Bahamas. Finlandia coconut, grapefruit, lime and regular vodka are shown. Photo by Ivar L Media.
Pekka Pellinen, global master mixologist for Finlandia Vodka shared his knowledge with guests at Wild Thyme restaurant. Tami Forbes (left) and Sayde Francis (right) enjoyed sampling 5 signature cocktails said that “Finlandia had a clean, more bright taste,” when compared to another vodka. Photo by Ivar L Media.
The art of making and drinking a Pekka Pellinen - Finlandia Bloody Mary takes patience and courage – if you are not used to eating grasshoppers. This master mixologist playfully placed a grasshopper on the slice of cucumber that garnished the glass. iPhone photo Azaleta Ishmael-Newry.
In this photo by Ivar L Media, a guest uses her mobile phone to capture the Finlandia Bloody Mary cocktail.
Perfection! Lelo, manager of Señor Frogs Bahamas holds a Finlandia Vodka creation made by master mixologist, Pekka Pellinen. The Bucatini pasta straws used reflect the eco-friendly and environmentally responsible stance of Finlandia. iPhone photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry.
What a great evening! Pekka Pellinen (standing at the back in the middle with hat on) is a global mixologist for Finlandia Vodka and he held a training and tasting session while in Nassau, Bahamas for staff and management of Señor Frogs Bahamas and Lukka Kairi. Photo by Ivar L Media.
Finlandia Vodka is a popular vodka in The Bahamas with an extensive range of which many are available from Bristol Wines and Spirits. It’s a smooth tasting vodka that has13 flavours: Finlandia Classic (1970), Finlandia Cranberry (1994), Finlandia Lime (1999), Finlandia Mango (2004), Finlandia Grapefruit (2006) and Finlandia Coconut (2014).The bottle design resembles glacial ice. Photo by Ivar L Media.
Video credit: https://www.facebook.com/finlandiamixologist/videos/116826723071521/. Ivar L Media