Melkon Khosrovian and Litty Mathew, the husband and wife team behind Modern Spirits Vodka have had a lifelong love affair with food. Appearing in The Los Angeles Times, Bon Appetit, Travel & Leisure, Saveur and Marie Claire Italia, Melkon and Litty have made the beverage world and general public stand attention with their creative flavors of naturally infused-vodkas.
The concept is catching on especially in cities with multi-ethnic populations and influences.
ASIANCE: What is the story behind the creation of your “spirits factory”?
Litty: When Melkon and I got engaged five years ago, we started going to each other’s family’s homes for big introduction dinners. He’s Armenian and, like in lots of Northern European and Central Asian cultures, spirits, not wine, takes center stage at the dinner table. I was much more of a wine drinker and didn’t like drinking straight vodka, so Melkon created food-inspired vodka infusions for me. I loved them and, as it turned out, I wasn’t the only one. Two years later, we broke ground on the “fruit lab.”
ASIANCE: Modern Spirits talks about hand-made and naturally-infused vodkas, can you please elaborate on this?
Litty: At Modern Spirits, we start out with proprietary blends of wheat (light) and potato (heavy) spirits. We then add in only real, whole ingredients, often from local farmers, farmers’ markets and our own garden and then minimally process them to retain their full flavors and jewel-like coloring. No extracts, essences, food colors or sugars go into our flavors.
ASIANCE: What inspired you to offer custom made vodka? How many trials and how long does it usually take you to come up with the final flavor?
Litty: One of our clients, who likes to give outrageous gifts, talked us into making the first Haute. A couple of more inquiries later, we began offering it as a service for individuals who wanted to create something unique they can share with others. It usually takes around 3 months from the initial consultation.
ASIANCE: What has been your most interesting/popular custom made flavor and why?
Litty: As a general rule of Haute custom vodkas, we don’t kiss and tell. Last year, though, we made a Honey Lavender vodka for a client who wanted to capture a special summer he’d spent in the South of France. And every custom flavor we make is exclusive to the client. No two are alike.
Litty: What is the most challenging part of your process of creating flavors? Litty: Achieving exceptional flavors that are consistent from batch to batch is a bit tricky. Because we use only real ingredients, which vary throughout the season and from one tree to another, we taste a bit of every single ingredient that goes into our vodkas and keep tasting the batch on a daily basis to make sure we can consistently delight our customers.
ASIANCE: Modern Spirits website highlights some very interesting principles of pairing. Can you tell us why these principles are important to enjoy Vodka?
Litty: We developed Modern Spirits vodkas for depth, delicacy and balance so they can complement and contrast food much like wine. For example, our Celery Peppercorn can complement a peppercorn-encrusted steak well, while our buttery Pear Lavender vodka contrasts a sharp cheese plate. Our vodkas also bring two other qualities to a meal that wine cannot – they open up the appetite without filling you up and their proof cleanses your palate so you can better taste your next plate or bite.
ASIANCE: How do people respond to your concept of “Pairing”?
Litty: Very positively! We’ve had so much fun doing pairing dinners in various parts of the country. The concept is catching on especially in cities with multi-ethnic populations and influences. Vodka works well when foods are varied —spicy, rich, multiple flavorings—since it works as a drink as well as a palate cleanser.
ASIANCE: Litty/ Melkon, how do you manage your writing career and your career as a tastemaker?
Litty: In some ways, one life inspires the other and it all balances out by itself in the end.
ASIANCE: What’s next for you?
Litty: We’re all about the handmade spirit. We’ll keep concentrating on bringing interesting artisanal products to the dining table. **Short Questions
ASIANCE: Can you recommend a must have tool for making cocktails?
Litty: Not so much a tool but a bit of advice…always use fresh ingredients to make a cocktail. It’ll make all the difference.
ASIANCE: What are your favorite restaurants in the US?
Litty: Here in Southern California, we love the Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton Pasadena. Chef Craig Strong’s food is familiar but surprising at the same time. Chef Neal Frazer’s Grace restaurant in Los Angeles- never afraid of a new ingredient. Minibar in Hollywood — after our own hearts — international tapas. Having said that, there is no ethnic eatery we won’t pass up if we’re hungry.
ASIANCE: Which Asian Grocery Stores do you recommend in the US?
Litty: We’re big fans of the Ranch 99 Markets here in Southern California.
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