The classes were given by the Soul Shakers, aka Michael Butt and Kevin Armstrong, London-based bar consultancy experts who advise bars not only on cocktails and other drinks but on anything that might attract more customers.
Finlandia uses a Facebook page to keep in touch with customers and potential customers (www.facebook.com/FinlandiaVodkaIreland) and the places were offered via Facebook with a lottery deciding the winners.
Master mixologist Kevin Armstrong told Drinks Industry Ireland, “We have been to Ireland quite a lot and have now trained most of the barmen here. This is a new venture to interest customers in the potential for cocktails”.
Drinks Industry Ireland attended the Dublin class held at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Dublin 8. Students were greeted with a Silver Angel, a delightful combination of Finlandia classic, peach liqueur syrup, passion fruit syrup, apple juice and champagne.
Demonstrations followed with the results passed round for tasting. Then a blind tasting of three vodkas – Absolut, Finlandia and Stohle – resulted in “votes all over the place” to quote the Soul Shakers. They explained why the vodkas are different; that it depends on the quality of the waters and the quality of raw materials used.
“In Finland they have six row barley with low oil content plus clean water, so it doesn’t need filtration. Finlandia’s competitors claim theirs is better as it is more filtered but Finlandia doesn’t need filtering.”
The evening ended with a cocktail-making competition for the students plus the grand finale – a flaming Finlandia, drawing applause. Margaret Hogan and her partner Stephen Wyse were named the overall winners and the happy students collected their goody boxes which included a bottle of Finlandia and a certificate of participation. As they left, you could hear them planning their next cocktails.