Small-batch spirits are cropping up everywhere these days. The latest is Brooklyn Republic Vodka, made right in — you guessed it — Brooklyn (!) by vodka enthusiast Gary Shokin; his partner, Mark Krupkin; and his daughter, Kary Laskin. Like bagel-bakers and pizzaioli before them, the three claim that the secret ingredient to their vodka is the locally sourced H2O.
First things first — why vodka?
For much of his adult life, my father traveled around the world — to places like Russia, Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic countries — where he learned traditional vodka-making methods and recipes, so my family has always had a great appreciation for vodka and we’ve enjoyed tasting and infusing it at home. We decided to take something we’re all really passionate about and make it locally and at the highest level of quality.
Were you distilling illegally (i.e., for fun) before going pro?
Over the years, we had tasted and infused a lot of different spirits. My father, who is our master blender, doesn’t actually do the distilling in Brooklyn. He went to Wisconsin to learn more about American spirit-making techniques. Our facility isn’t actually called a distillery, as the raw grain alcohol first undergoes multi-column distillation in Missouri, not far from where it’s grown. We then blend different grain alcohols with Brooklyn water and have it undergo the roughly seven-day carbon filtration and impurity crystallization — where we drop it to subzero temperatures to continue filtration — here in small batches.
So, does the world really need another vodka?
What we feel makes us different comes down to the flavor. We’re able to get this unique flavor profile by carefully balancing several grain spirits, including organic wheat and sweet corn, and blending with purified Brooklyn water. Our vodka has a smooth-bodied, subtle sweetness, and we’ve heard from people — many of whom have admitted to not liking vodka on its own — that they enjoy ours on the rocks.
Is there something about Brooklyn that inspired you?
There’s something about the diversity and individuality of Brooklyn that gave us a lot of inspiration. You can walk from one block to the next and be at the intersection of two totally different worlds. But no matter who you talk to from Brooklyn, there’s a shared pride about being here that you just don’t get anywhere else. That united feeling was the inspiration for our brand and why we chose Brooklyn Republic as our name.
Do you have plans for other spirits?
Right now, we’re just focused on vodka, but are always exploring creative ways to grow.
Is it hard to work with members of your family?
It’s actually kind of fun working with people that have literally known you your entire life. Sure, we disagree on things like any family does, but in the end, it’s all fun.
What are some of your favorite bars?
Commonwealth in Park Slope is my neighborhood watering hole, and I love their outdoor space in the summer. I’m also a big fan of Fat Cat on Christopher Street in the Village. I’m a geek for ping-pong, so any time you can combine it with good music and a few drinks is always a good time.
Is there a drink that you just can’t stand?
I have friends who really like amaro, especially after dinner. I prefer sweeter drinks, so I’ve never really warmed to bitter flavors much.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy your vodka?
I love making homemade vodka infusions because you usually can’t go wrong. There are some really cool combinations you can make from sweet, spiced, or savory ingredients. Some of my favorites are currant and garlic-dill. Not together, of course!