Ukrainian Londoners Yana Galiyeva and Alex Ribalicenko speak to Hamish Smith about celebrating Ukrainian drinking culture at their new London bar, Pinch.
Tell us how Pinch came about
After celebrating our wedding with toasts of our traditional family-made nalivka in 2020, we realised what a hit it was with our guests from across the globe. We decided we wanted to bring this popular Ukrainian drink to London. Before we knew it we had opened our own bar just off Tottenham Street in Fitzrovia – Pinch.
So, for the unaccustomed, what’s nalivka?
Nalivka is an 18th-century drink made from vodka infused with herbs, berries or roots. Ukrainians like to carefully preserve authenticity, so the unique recipes and the characteristic flavours of the drink remain a part of everyday life today.
Flavoured vodka is not a new thing in the UK but the focus of nalivka is on natural flavours and origin. The name comes from the adjective “nalivnoy”, meaning ripen, beautiful and pure, and that is exactly what the drink is. Back in Ukraine the most popular nalivkas are made from sour cherries, blackcurrant, cranberry, honey and blackberry. We have ensured to include these popular and delicious flavours for Londoners and tourists to try while also including more interesting and savoury flavours such as horseradish and black pepper on the menu.
How do you make and serve it?
The vodka is infused for two months using the highest quality vodka, called Dima’s (also Ukrainian) and pure, whole, and undamaged berries or fruits. We leave these infusions soaking on Pinch’s back bar for customers to appreciate. We serve our nalivka in stalked liqueur glasses, allowing individuals to try the naturally spicy, sweet, or nutty flavours in a pure and undisrupted way.
And you serve cocktails too, right?
With the help of bar manager Ricardo De Oliveira, we curated a cocktail list to spotlight some much-loved favourites while adding our own twist.
We have also integrated nalivkas into our cocktail list. One example is the Lviv Bling cocktail (mixed berries nalivka, Xante Pear cognac, grenadine, lemon juice and La Jara Organic prosecco).
Your bar launched just months before the war in Ukraine. What has the reaction been like?
We have been blown away by the support of our customers and the London community, especially since we are still a relatively new bar and still finding our feet. We continue to welcome individuals to come to Pinch bar to try some Ukrainian tradition through nalivka and help raise money for Ukraine.
We hosted a fundraiser in partnership with Dima’s vodka to raise money for British-Ukrainian Aid, a charity that helps support those injured or displaced by the ongoing conflict and raised over £5,000.
We are also continuing to donate 15% of our profits to the Ukrainian armed forces to help take a stand against the oppression.