L’Chaim Kosher Vodka breaks through cultural barriers and wins over sophisticated vodka drinkers throughout Florida.
By Monica Kertznus And Jen Karetnick
Liquor and wine store consumers, even non-jewish ones, have long been familiar with Manishewitz wine, a staple on their grocers’ shelves. In larger cities, where stores offer a wider range of products, shoppers may even find a host of wines from Israel, where almost all the juice is verified kosher in fine winemaking styles. It’s in those markets—metropolitan New York, New Jersey, Florida and California—comprising sophisticated drinkers, where L’CHAIM, the world’s first high-end Israeli kosher vodka, has recently been launched.
The brainchild of Miami-born and -raised Jewish entrepreneur Ralph Mizraji, L’CHAIM kosher vodka is based on a formula handed down through several generations of European and Russian Jews. Mizraji partnered with the largest vodka producer in Israel and with the Orthodox Union to maintain the strictest quality standards. Thus L’CHAIM kosher vodka is made with water from springs under a 4,000-year-old field in the Golan Heights, and undergoes a triple-distillation process in Or Akiva to strip it of impurities.
With its telltale hints of vanilla in the aroma and its identifiable name, L’CHAIM kosher vodka was placed in more than 500 accounts in the northeast within its first two months on the market. Mizraji, who grew up in South Beach attending the Orthodox Hebrew school Landau Yeshiva, followed by Hebrew Academy, and studied business and macroeconomics at Florida International University, credits the clever use of the Hebrew drinking toast for the vodka’s appellation. “L’chaim is a ubiquitous expression that carries a great deal of awareness to so many demographics,” he says. “Jay-Z sang it in his #1 hit ‘Roc Boys,’ as did The Black Eyed Peas. The expression is used in countless movies and scripts, permeating it as a brand name before we even started the campaign. If brand awareness is half the challenge, the battle is half won.”
To help fund and execute the many facets of the business Mizraji tapped into some of the most respected minds in our community; Moises Tabasinic, Salo Lekach, the Feldman brothers of Aventura, Joel Edelstein, Mark Young, Neil Florin, and Chicago’s Lee Casty, all immensely successful with their own ventures. Still, establishing L’Chaim was a little more difficult in South Florida than they anticipated. Our local markets, dominated by distributors and chains, are complex hierarchies and are often hesitant to embrace new, single-asset brands. Fortunately, L’CHAIM kosher vodka has been able to penetrate Total Wine & More, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, and Big Daddy’s Liquors, along with another 85 independent stores that have gladly accepted the concept.
“Our strategy in South Florida was to first position the brand as a drink of choice at high-profile clubs and at the trendiest restaurants in town such as Zuma, Prime 112, Meat Market, Soho Beach House, Florida Room at the Delano, the Mondrian and others. We quickly met that objective, and it has made a difference. It fast changed perceptions,” Mizraji notes.
Like the campaign of the well-known Italian brand Benetton, to which he looks for inspiration, Mizraji believes that L’CHAIM kosher vodka can also break through cultural barriers and simultaneously celebrate diversity. For those reasons, he chose American Hasidic reggae musician Matisyahu as the face of L’CHAIM kosher vodka. “Matisyahu is the ideal figure to promote L’CHAIM, a collision of the old traditional world with a contemporary one,” Mizraji enthuses. “He is a crossover artist, and L’CHAIM is a crossover brand. Political, religious, social and economic background does not matter when you are enjoying Matisyahu’s music or when you are sipping L’CHAIM kosher vodka.”
Indeed, by combining a very traditional word in Jewish culture with a cutting-edge, innovative image, Mizraji, who has developed major successful brands within several different industries, might just have a winner. He says, “We have so much more in common than the little that differentiates us. L’CHAIM kosher vodka illuminates our individuality, but at the same time encourages us to forge new alliances and friendships.”
In fact, soon it won’t only be L’CHAIM kosher vodka that we all have in common. We’ll have L’CHAIM Kosher Tequila and L’CHAIM Kosher Rum to toast each other with, as well.