Brooklyn finally has a namesake vodka.
Yes, another booze entrepreneur has seized on the Brooklyn name, but this father-daughter duo says that three things make their “Brooklyn Republic Vodka” worthy: They’re from here, they make it here, and they even use the borough’s famous water.
“It’s not a bandwagon thing for us — it’s who we are,” said Kary Laskin, who lives in Park Slope and grew up in Starrett City. “This is my heart and soul.”
Laskin and her dad Gary Shokin — a Lithuanian immigrant taxi driver-turned-auto shop owner, who spent months toiling over the perfect recipe — distill the vodka six times, then bottle and filter their hootch in a warehouse near the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
The new booze comes a year after filmmaker Spike Lee — who grew up in Brooklyn and went to John Dewey HS in Coney Island, but no longer lives here — launched Absolut Brooklyn, a red apple and ginger-flavored liquor with the image of a stoop on the bottle and little other connection to the borough.
It also comes nine months after a legal battle over the name “Brooklyn Gin,” which raised some questions about local business, bragging rights and geographic authenticity now that Brooklyn’s is the Napa Valley of handcrafted distilleries. In the trademark case, a Miami Beach-based gin maker sued a Brooklyn-based distillery, claiming that consumers would be confused — an argument he’d have trouble making in this case, since the vodka has the word “Republic” in the title (although neither gin maker returned calls for this story).
Brooklyn-bred copyright lawyer Michael Cornman notes that it’s also more difficult to stake claim on geographic region in a trademark lawsuit. “It’s a question of likelihood of confusion — and it’s not black and white — but it would be difficult to argue in this case.”
A bottle of Brooklyn Republic Vodka — which features a black and gray image of the Brooklyn Bridge that Laskin “scribbled on a piece of paper” during a brainstorming session — now goes for about $23 at stores such as Juice Box Wine and Spirits in Windsor Terrace. It can also be found at watering holes including Cherry Tree and Commonwealth in Park Slope, where homegrown brews and spirits promise to be as popular as the “locavore” movement.
The indie vodka makers are betting on it: Shokin gave up his business to focus solely on the distillery; Laskin said marketing the liquor is now her top priority.
“Look, Brooklyn is ‘cool’ — I understand why people would want to claim it,” Laskin said. “For us, we just have a lot of pride about where we’re from.”
Juice Box Wine and Spirits [1289 Prospect Ave. at Greenwood Avenue in Windsor Terrace, (718) 871-1110].
©2011 Community News Group
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