Lots of cool Jews in the news these days. But man do we have another one to add to the mix, local MOT entrepreneur Eugene Liberman, Founder of Referent Spirits. Formerly of MSP, now living in Wisconsin making vodka, Eugene spent a few moments talking to me this week about vodka, Russia, and his favorite recipes. Check out our exclusive interview, and read on for a chance to win a free bottle of Referent Vodka (we’re giving away two). You can buy Referent Vodka in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Georgia at various alcohol store, bars and restaurants.
What’s the story behind Referent Vodka? How did you decide to start up a vodka company?
My father perfected the recipe for the horseradish vodka at our family restaurant in St. Paul Moscow on the Hill. It became so popular that people were constantly asking us if they could buy a bottle to take home. Unfortunately, because of state laws we could not sell bottles out of the restaurant. The opportunity seemed right, there were wasn’t another bottled horseradish vodka on the market and it looked like I could fill a growing Savory cocktail void in the industry. So, I decided to start producing horseradish vodka under my brand name Referent at a distillery in Wisconsin.
My vodka is Russian, because it was developed and perfected by Russians at a Russian restaurant. Vodka was invented in Russia and for better or worse everything about vodka in general is steeped in “Russian” lore even once you get past the well-known stereotypes. The American part, well if it was not for America and the opportunity it provided for my family and I, there certainly would not be any vodka to talk about.
Is drinking vodka Jewish? Why or why not?
Of course, drinking vodka is Jewish. Vodka has no religion, but I’m working on making my vodka more Jewish by trying to get a Kosher designation to put on the horseradish vodka labels to make it more of a presence at the Passover table.
Want to win a bottle of Referent Vodka?
What’s the best way to drink Referent Vodka? Eugene says it’s great as a chilled shot, or perfect with your favorite Bloody Mary mix. What do you think? We are giving away two bottles of Referent Vodka to two lucky TC Jewfolk readers. Enter to win by telling us in the comments to this post what cool cocktail you would make with a bottle of Referent’s horseradish vodka. Here are a few to get you started. You have until Friday, November 12th at midnight to enter to win. Must be 21 or older, with a United States mailing address. We’ll pick a winner randomly.
Good luck! And happy (and safe) drinking!
P.S. Stay tuned for Referent’s Wild Cherry Vodka, perfected from Eugene’s father’s recipe, to be released after New Year’s.
(Photo: Kyle May)