I'm going to start out with an admission: I'm not a big fan of flavored vodka. Many flavored vodkas are sweetened to some degree and use artificial flavoring, which detracts from the cocktail you're fixing. Now, I've had some incredible flavored vodkas, such as the Polish Żubrówka or buffalo grass vodka. And homemade limoncello is great, but only if you're using real lemons. Unfortunately most of these bottles are just shortcuts for busy bars, and the home cocktail enthusiast should take the time to squeeze some fresh limes or mash up a few raspberries. It will taste so much better.
But gin is essentially a flavored vodka, and I love gin. Why? Because the better ones are made with a harmonious blend of botanicals, herbs, and spices, and they taste great and add complexity to the right cocktails. Or take something like the peculiar Hendrick's, which is flavored with rose petals and cucumbers. With this mindset I was enthusiastic about trying Pinky Vodka.
Pinky is a flavored vodka from Sweden, that, at least in my mind, leans more towards the gin side. It was formulated by wine fans, and is completely dry. As with a good gin, the full recipe is secret, but we do know that it includes wild strawberries, rose petals, violets, and nine other botanicals. It has a lovely light floral aroma with just a hint of the strawberries. And the color is truly striking; everyone who has seen the bottle in my house has remarked on it.
Looking through the various recipes that came with the press kit, I settled on the Beau Jardin (pictured above), attributed to the World Café of Santa Monica, CA. The recipe is quite simple: 4 parts Pinky Vodka, a splash of dry white vermouth, a splash of simple syrup, and a sprig of rosemary. Shake all together with ice and strain in cocktail glasses, reserving the rosemary for garnish. This worked out pretty well, as it took inspiration from a martini. The rosemary was a nice touch, and I love the current renewal of interest in using fresh herbs in cocktails.
However, I thought it was still not quite right. This is such a delicately flavored vodka, it has no relation whatsoever to a cheap jug of watermelon-flavored swill used for Jell-O shooters. No, this is a subtle ingredient that could be easily and quickly overpowered by other ingredients. So I developed my own recipe, because I'm cool like that:
Benito's Original Extended Pinky Cocktail
2 oz. Pinky Vodka
½ oz. Lillet Blanc
Dash of Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters*
Club Soda or Sparkling Water
Combine the Pinky Vodka and the Lillet Blanc in a tumbler or highball glass with a few ice cubes. Add a dash or two of Rhubarb Bitters (or substitute orange, darker bitters might be too much for this cocktail). Stir with the ice, and then top off to desired strength with club soda or sparkling water. Garnish with a slice of lime if you're in the mood, and it would work just as well strained in a cocktail glass if you prefer that presentation. Hopefully the name tells you how to hold the glass while you're enjoying it.
The benefit of this latter recipe is that it lets you enjoy the flavors and aromas of the vodka without the strong hit from the alcohol, and the Lillet Blanc adds just a touch of sweetness and white wine flavor without overpowering anything. Check out Pinky if you get a chance, and try a splash straight or over ice before you decide how to use it. Remember less is more when it comes to cocktails, and you'll be happy.
*I don't know why it just occurred to me to use the rhubarb bitters with a strawberry ingredient. They're such a natural pair.