When Melkon Khosrovian introduced his fiancée, Litty Mathew, to his Armenian relatives, she balked at joining in one of the family’s long-standing traditions. Armenian dinner gatherings, like those of other Eastern European cultures, invariably include vodka—not wine—to complement the courses. “There were many dinners with family and friends, and, of course, there was a lot of vodka,” recalls Khosrovian. “Everyone wanted to toast the bride-to-be, but Litty just didn’t like the taste of vodka.”
From Mathew’s distaste for the Khosrovians’ drink of choice evolved Modern Spirits, the Los Angeles company that the now-husband-and-wife team founded in 2004. The couple initially distilled their vodkas at home, creating spirits that better suited Mathew’s palate by infusing them with organic fruits from the local farmers’ market and with spices used in India, her native country. The pair designed the delicately flavored spirits to accompany cuisine ranging from the multiethnic dishes they cooked at home to street food from Japan, India, and Thailand. “As the food gets more eclectic, it becomes harder to find a good wine that complements those flavors,” remarks Khosrovian. “The characteristic of a spirit is that it cleanses the palate. When you drink vodka and you go from one bite to another, it’s as if you are tasting each mouthful for the first time.”
Now a growing business with its own factory (the “fruit lab”) and eight varieties of vodka (from $23 for 375 ml bottles to $38 for 750 ml bottles), Modern Spirits continues to use farmers’ market ingredients to produce spirits that complement food. The company’s Candied Ginger vodka balances sweet and spicy flavors that match well with sushi and curries. The Black Truffle vodka, which features caramel overtones and aromatic hints of rich soil and roasted dry fruits, pairs with pastas with cream sauces or grilled meats and stews. Inadvertently concocted at a dinner party when Khosrovian knocked a piece of chocolate into his hostess’ drink, the Chocolate Orange vodka—a blend of Belgian chocolate and citrus with a hint of cinnamon—is a stunning substitute for a dessert wine.
In addition to its eight primary varieties, Modern Spirits also produces custom vodkas for select clients. Dubbed Haute, the private-label program (beginning at $15,000 for 10 cases) empowers Modern Spirits’ customers, much like Mathew before them, to create flavors that pair perfectly with their tastes.
Modern Spirits, 626.771.9469, www.modernspiritsvodka.com