Ann-Marie Colacino/Metro Toronto photos
Vodka, as most know it, is a colourless, odorless, tasteless liquid. Operating by this definition, many might ask, “How can a bottle of this popular spirit — once supposedly used as a pagan body rub — cost $125?”
One reason is its exclusivity. Smirnoff Penka, a Polish rye grain vodka, is a product of the finest and most balanced cut. Only available in the most upscale Paris and London bars, LCBO customers are the first to be able to purchase the handcrafted luxury vodka at retail outlets. With a shipment of only 200 cases for the year and no certainty about whether it will ever be available in Canada again, this could be a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” say both Keith Gillespie, director of Smirnoff Canada and Michael Riley, LCBO Spirits’ business unit director.
I started off by putting it to the test neat (with no mix) against Canada’s own Iceberg Vodka. Comparatively, the Penka was smoother, flavourful (I tasted light vanilla and citrus notes) and surprisingly offered less of that burning sensation often associated with vodka straight up.
Laura Panter, a Toronto mixologist/drink designer/cocktail caterer, says Penka is best used in recipes that “respect the integrity of the vodka itself.”
Along with business partner Michelle Hunt, Panter developed The Penka — Zen, a cocktail that entails fresh lemon and chilled green tea, garnished with a mint sprig (available at C Lounge and Rosewater Supper Club).
Since the product is available for a limited time, Riley says it’s hard to pinpoint its demographic. “Everybody wants to experience what was only for the elite in times ago… Now you see people in their 20s out with bottle service,” says Riley.
Penka is available at select LCBOs. To find the one nearest you, visit www.lcbo.comand do a product search.
The Penka Zen
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add 2 oz. Penka vodka, 1 oz. fresh lemon, 1 oz. simple syrup and 2 oz. chilled mint green tea (brewed strong). Stir and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a mint sprig.
Smirnoff Penka Vodka Duo
Pour two ounces of frozen Smirnoff Penka vodka and accompany with a small separate glass of non-alcoholic Blood Orange or Baked Apple cocktail.
• Blood Orange — 3/4 oz. orange juice, 3/4 oz. lemon, 1/4oz. White Cacao syrup
• Baked Apple — 1 1/2 oz. apple juice, dash vanilla, cardamom, clove, hint of ginger