If you're sitting at home right now with an idea, and you know it's good, original, and feasible, you've got to take action to make it happen. People like Howard and Marni Witkin are proof that the American Dream is alive and well and possible if you're committed enough to see your vision through. We recently met with these two lovely people, owners of Sukkah Hill Spirits, to talk shop and taste cocktails at Westside Tavern in West Los Angeles . A few weeks prior they had sent us samples of their two liqueurs: Etrog liqueur and Besamim aromatic spice liqueur. Jocelyn and I flipped over them and insisted we meet in person. As you can imagine, we're sent product all the time but a lot of it is buried deep in the home bar or dumped straight down the drain. If it makes it on the blog, you know its got merit.
The premise for most of our meetings with spirit and wine company CEOs and master distillers is usually to strategize brand application. Talking shop, forming partnerships, and creating custom marketing plans represents the necessary business element of our day-to-day operations. But what we love about sitting down for these chats is hearing how these experts and entrepreneurs got to this point and what they did to find their niche and run with it.
Initially, in the Witkin's case, it was encouragement from friends that got them going. For those of you who don't know (like us), the fruit etrog is an important part of the Jewish holiday, Sukkot. To help you understand just how special an etrog is, the cost of one piece of fruit can range from $45 to $120. In honor of the high holidays, Mrs. Witkin handmade batches of an etrog based liqueur to share with friends and family. Word spread, and the mother-of-four-turned-mixologist-chemist would wake up every morning to find dozens of etrogs at their front door with requests for her special delicacy. She obliged and met every single order. But things changed when a local store put in a request. Filling that order would change her small and innocent kitchen operation into a bonafide distillery, and that would require a liquor license, and much much bigger kettles.
That's just what happened.
Today, their distilled spirits plant is a 5,000 square foot space in Los Angeles and their products can be found in forty stores across Southern California. Don't live in SoCal? Don't worry! Fourteen other states (and counting) are selling their product. It's even in Canada. You can visit the website to learn how to add their collection to your home bar. Both bottles retail for $24.99.
Was Sukkah Hill Spirits born overnight? No. Did the creation of such gorgeous liqueurs take hard work? Yes. Can their success be attributed to the quality of the product? Absolutely. But the only way to truly know, is to taste some for yourself. Cheers!