Vodka with a Jewish twist

Vodka with a Jewish twist

Marla Cohen is a freelance writer. She lives in Rockland County.


Looking for something novel with which to toast 2013? Jewish Standard vodka, a product the reader might imagine to be near and dear to this paper’s heart, could be just the thing.

Eli Hardof, owner of Wine for All, an Orangeburg, N.Y., shop specializing in boutique wines and spirits, began stocking the “export limited edition” of the kosher libation in mid-October.

The 700 ml bottle comes with a small 150 ml bottle – the size of an airplane mini -attached to its neck. This enabled the vodka’s Russian creator, Mark Kaufman, to make an end run around strict regulations for liquor imports to the United States. The two bottles are packaged together to be in compliance with the size regulations, according to Hardof.

“Seven hundred milliliters, 500 ml, that’s allowed, but 700 ml is not accepted in the U.S.,” he said. “So he [Kaufman] got creative at the last minute and he packaged it this way. When he didn’t meet the American standard, he created the ‘Jewish Standard.’ So that’s the folklore of the name.”

The vodka, which retails for $39, is packaged in a bright orange container illustrated with a sketch of drunken Jews that is either hilarious or repellent, depending on your point of view – or perhaps how much of the vodka you’ve consumed. A smattering of Yiddish, Jewish symbols, and a Russian hecksher provide the icing on the cake, or perhaps the olive in the martini, in this case.

The artwork, which stylistically resembles classic anti-Semitic propaganda, hasn’t gone over that well, according to Alec Bernstein, the vodka’s distributor.

“People hate it,” Bernstein said in Russian-accented English. “My friends who have roots from Russia, they don’t see anything offensive,” but stores such as Manhattan’s Sherry-Lehmann have not been amused. He does a brisk business, nonetheless, in New York’s chasidic communities in Monroe and Monsey, he said, and Tenafly’s Wine Venture also carries it.

The Jewish Standard is 40 percent alcohol and “in the Russian style,” Hardof said. “It’s a medium body and it has a kick at the end. It’s not trying to be a Grey Goose, a Van Gogh, or a Ketel One, which are creamier, richer, and more flavored. A lot of vodka aficionados will call that ‘vodka with training wheels.'”

Hardof began carrying the vodka when Bernstein asked him for his opinion of it and another Ukrainian one. He passed on that one, and opted to carry the Jewish Standard.

“I figured I could have a little fun with that.”

read more: