Dima Deinega isn’t making vodka at the moment. Before the Russian invasion, the Kyiv-born cocktail man used the most experienced and knowledgeable Ukrainian distillers to produce his vodka, a glacial and lustrous spirit that relied on Ukraine’s temperate climate, as well as its black “super soil” in which barley, wheat and rye are able to grow so fruitfully.
Dima, who moved to the UK as a child, founded Dima’s in March 2020 as a way to shine a light on Ukraine, its culture and its people. Today, those ideals remain, but he is also using his brand to fundraise for humanitarian work in his home country.
Together with his fellow Ukrainian Olia Hercules (whose braised cabbage recipe featured here last week), the Russian chef Alissa Timoshkina and other food and drink professionals, he has set up the Cook for Ukraine campaign.
The initiative sees UK chefs host supper clubs, add discretionary donations to bills, and include Ukrainian specials on menus in an effort to help. Echoing Cook for Syria, which since 2016 has raised more than £1m, all money is given to Unicef.
Dima has also partnered with the cocktail bar The Gibson to sell pre-bottled cocktails using his vodka, and 100% of each sale goes towards supporting Ukraine. Most have now sold out but there are Pickled Gimlets left to purchase.
When I last spoke to Dima, he was about to board a plane to an unnamed country to collect his grandmother, who was forced to leave her home. Much of Dima’s family have stayed in Ukraine.
Dima said he hoped people in the UK would do what they could to help – even if that is only having a drink of Ukrainian origin and talking about what is happening in his homeland.
Here, then, is a recipe for a pickle martini. Pickles are traditionally served with vodka in Ukraine. A martini is a modern iteration of the heritage.
Dima recommends you say “budmo!” in lieu of cheers. The term, which is said to originate in Cossack times, translates as “let us be” and is the shortest and the most popular Ukrainian toast.
70ml Dima’s Vodka
15ml Pickle Juice
25ml White Vermouth
Stir the ingredients together with the ice or use a cocktail shaker. Strain into a chilled martini glass and add a pickle.