(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Kosher drinkers have more to cheer about this holiday season as a growing number of spirits producers seek and receive the seal of approval from Jewish dietary authorities.
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"It's an additional process and expense that raises the bar on quality," said Ralph Mizraji, a Miami-based branding specialist who this year brought out a new vodka that is certified kosher by the Orthodox Union, the largest certifying body in the world.
Called L'Chaim, Hebrew for "To life!", Mizraji's vodka is a corn-based product imported from Israel and made according to a generations-old Russian recipe brought to that country by Jewish immigrants.
L'Chaim is distributed in Florida, New York and New Jersey and within the first three months sold 2,400 cases, says Mizraji. He is in the process of developing kosher wine, tequila and rum.
"We celebrate life," said Mizraji. "This is not a kosher-only or Jewish-only project. It celebrates everyone, everywhere."
Mixologist James Shearer of Miami's Zuma restaurant heard of L'Chaim from a friend and has been serving it for a few months.
"My first sip was after we had made a dry martini out of it. I was shocked as to the crisp, rich taste it gave," he says.
he likes the idea of having something new behind the bar. "I am a firm
believer and supporter of products with a creative background. I love
the ideas behind L'Chaim," he said.
Among those appreciatively
watching the trend is Joshua Hatton, president and founder of the Jewish
Single Malt Whisky Society. He was pleased to see single malt whiskeys
from producers Ardbeg and Glenmorangie recently achieve kosher
"You're seeing it more and more," he said, noting
that there are two trends intersecting. More producers are discovering
that there is a market for kosher liquors. Meanwhile, more Jews are
becoming interested in keeping kosher, which seems to be related to the
general increased interest among Americans in what they are eating and
Hatton recently helped pour Glenmorangie at the Kosher
Fest event in Secaucus, New Jersey. The tastings were popular, "not just
because they were pouring booze, but some of the comments I heard were,
'It's so nice to see that this is certified kosher. It's nice to know
that someone's watching my back.'"
At the New York-based Orthodox
Union, Rabbi Moshe Elefant is seeing strong interest in kosher spirits,
with certified alcoholic products growing by about 10 percent a year.
wine, which has to pass a number of regulatory requirements before
being certified, liquor made from grain or sugar starts out relatively
close to kosher. For certification, the equipment must be inspected to
make sure it meets standards; for instance, if a tank held a product
containing dairy ingredients for more than 24 hours, it would have to be
sterilized, and there also are business procedures which must be
Flavored liquors require more scrutiny, since the
ingredients may not be kosher. With whiskeys, the aging process has to
be reviewed since use of nonkosher sherry, port or wine casks would be a
Elefant finds that people are more interested in
keeping kosher these days. But unlike earlier generations they are not
willing to sacrifice premium products. "They want the scotch and they
want the liquor and they want the highest level of kosher," he said.
The result, says Elefant: "Kosher liquor is hot."