DC sometimes gets a bad rap for being a government town. But when you truly take a look at the people of this city, you can find some thoughtful and creative entrepreneurs. One of those people is Kevin Larkai. When it comes to entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry in The District, most people think of craft beer and wineries. But through a partnership born in Europe, Kevin has brought a new vodka to watch to the shelves of the DC spirit market. We met up with him to hear the scoop on his locally sold French liquor: Blackleaf Vodka.
Like a lot of great Washingtonians, Kevin has an interesting backstory. Born in Nigeria and raised in Bostwan, he didn’t make his way to the United States until high school where he attended school in a small town in Oregon. He eventually made it to the East Coast where he studied at George Mason for college and found a new home in Washington, DC.
So how did Kevin end up selling a French vodka in Washington, DC? By chance meeting in France, Kevin met Bertrand Laclie, the owner of Maison Rene Laclie. Inspired by Laclie’s passion for spirit making, a partnership to bring Blackleaf to the US was born.
Blackleaf Vodka gets it’s name from the desire to convey the two things that define it: premium taste and organic ingredients. Part of what makes the vodka organic is that the wheat is grown without pesticides or fertilizer. As an added bonus, the bottles feature a design with less glass than competitors.
To convey the premium positioning on the product, the Blackleaf bottle is sleek, black, and features clean lines. Organic, Kevin explains, doesn’t have to be simple or humble. In this case, organic means the product focuses on quality ingredients and minimal environmental impact, but it doesn’t compromise on a sophisticated look or taste. But an organic, premium product also doesn’t have to break the bank. Blackleaf Vodka sits at a modern price point on the shelf, generally priced between Tito’s and Grey Goose. So any dinner party or night out can get a taste of Blackleaf.
During our visit, Kevin mixed us a few of his favorite drinks. We usually hear from marketing and other sellers that good vodka is odorless and flavorless. However, the folks at Blackleaf believe the right ingredients and distilling techniques can create unique and special flavors. We tried Blackleaf by itself before mixing cocktails and found the taste was very smooth but had a recognizable character.
Kevin’s go-to cocktail for us was the French 1889. It’s mixed with 2 oz Blackleaf, 2 oz Prosecco, 1 oz Elderflower liqueur, 1 oz lemon juice. The bubbles from the Prosecco and fruity flavors made this a perfect summer cocktail.
The Blackleaf Mule also puts a refreshing summer spin on an otherwise standard mule. A splash of grapefruit juice adds new life to this bar classic.
You can find Blackleaf Vodka on the shelf at many DC restaurants including Roy Boys, Frenchy’s Naturel, and Unconventional Diner. You can also find them in stores for your next dinner party using the map on their website.
Note: We tried the vodka at no cost but this post is otherwise not sponsored.