September 22, 2016 | By Mike Raven
in the Mix first had the pleasure of interviewing Leonid back in 2011 when his company was known as Russian Standard Vodka. This current interview gives us a chance to catch up again now that his company has expanded its portfolio and has renamed itself Roust. We are pleased that our friend, Linda Lofstrom, has joined the company to manage their national account business since then. Here are a few of the questions we asked in this recent interview and the answers given by Leonid and Linda.
ITM: The Ultimate Spirits Challenge, a group run by F. Paul Pacult with some of the greatest tasters in the business, named Russian Standard Vodka as their top pick in last year’s vodka tastings. Did that help with customer awareness?
Leonid: Yes, certainly. The award was well publicized in industry publications and thus there was strong trade awareness. Additionally, we communicated the award to our consumers via social media and via neck tags on our bottles all year long. The neck tags were very eye-catching and really made the bottles stand out on shelf.
ITM: When I started to learn about Russian Standard Vodka, the name Standard confused me a bit. Can you explain what the word is intended to mean in this spirit’s name?
Leonid: The name is derived from the formula created for vodka by famous Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleev in 1894. Before then, there was tremendous variation in the way vodka was produced in Russia – different ingredients, different alcohol by volume, etc. The Czar commissioned Mendeleev to create a “Russian standard” for vodka so there would be uniformity among vodkas produced in the country. We are proud to faithfully follow this standard, and thus the name of our product.
Also, when something is the standard, it means it is the benchmark against which all other things should be measured. That is the case with our vodka. Its quality and authenticity are unparalleled.
ITM: Russian Standard has a Platinum and Gold tier. What kind of cocktails do you suggest for these luxury marques?
Linda: Russian Standard Platinum is silky smooth with a clean crisp finish, due to a proprietary silver filtration that smoothes the vodka. It is best enjoyed in a martini made with a very small amount of dry vermouth.
Russian Standard Gold is a rich vodka with hints of ginseng and spiced notes, and is excellent in an Old Fashioned.
ITM: Żubrówka, or ŻU as it’s known, the original Bison Grass Vodka from Poland, is a special spirit with a great history and origin. What do you think is the best drink for bartenders to make when they start using ŻU, in order to get acquainted with it, if they are not already?
Linda: In Eastern Europe, Żubrówka is often consumed with unfiltered apple juice, which tastes just like an apple pie. ŻU and ginger ale, with a fresh squeeze of lemon, is another simple cocktail and also brings out the subtle layers of flavors with just two ingredients. ŻU is a mixologist’s favorite because of its intriguing taste and adaptability to enhance classic cocktails or innovate with subtle flavors. It is the ultimate speed to service brand, delivering on-trend flavors for today’s cocktails.
ITM: Gancia Sparkling Wines is another exceptional line from Roust USA. If a customer does not carry it, can you give us a couple of the many reasons they should?
Leonid: No other Italian sparkling has the heritage we have. Carlo Gancia introduced sparkling wine to Italy – Gancia is the original Italian sparkling wine! This should be attractive to authentic Italian restaurants. Additionally, Gancia offers a full range of sparklings, including our proprietary Pinot di Pinot, which is famous in Italy, and excellent wine-based aperitifs – vermouth, Americano and fernet. As everyone is aware, spritzes are a very hot trend right now. Accounts can use our Prosecco and our Americano to create a delicious, authentic Gancia spritz.