Uptown-area resident Marc Grossfield launched AVIV 613 Vodka last November, and the bottle has found its way into top Oscar nominee swag baskets valued at more than $55,000.
“I’m very excited to have Ellen DeGeneres get my bottle,” he said, noting that he’s a fan.
Grossfield previously worked as president of a promotional marketing agency, and he sold the business in 2004. A friend later introduced him to an investment opportunity in a vodka distiller, calling it the “real story of ‘Fiddler on the Roof.'”
Grossfield flew to Israel and met distiller Yossi Gold and his father Joseph, whose ancestors were forced to leave the Russian empire in 1824 to continue practicing their Jewish faith.
“They’re the largest distiller of liquor in the Middle East,” he said.
Grossfield asked the firm if they could make vodka from seven spiritual ingredients found in the Holy Land: wheat, barley, olives, figs, dates, grapes and pomegranates. The company spent three years formulating the product.
“No vodka is distilled from three things, let alone seven,” Grossfield said. “I wanted the vodka to be a spiritual product.”
The vodka’s water source is the Sea of Galilee. The fruits in the vodka come from kosher farms and orchards — the farms give 10 percent of their yields to charity, and they rest the land every seven years.
Grossfield, likewise, plans to give 10 percent of his profits to centers dedicated to the study of ethics.
The vodka name is loaded with meaning: Aviv is the Hebrew word for spring (to signify renewal of the spirit). 613 is the number of laws in the Bible, and in this case, it also refers to the spirit’s six filtrations, one blended distillation, and three distillations of the grains and fruits separately.
The drink is available at 250 liquor stores and 50 restaurants and bars, including the new Hammer and Sickle vodka bar at 1300 Lagoon.
Grossfield said most other vodkas use marketing messages that link material wealth and happiness.
“To me, that’s not what life is about,” he said.
He said a curve on one side of the bottle represents life’s challenges.
“In spite of the curves life throws at us, we have to find joy and celebrate our lives,” he said. “That’s the meaning of the brand.”