When it comes to cocktails, luxury is in style. We refer to bartenders as “mixologists” and expect house-made mixers and hand-carved ice in our muddled-to-order drinks. Craft cocktails have inspired a revolution with more and more people expecting innovation in their drink. Riding this revolution are new ultra-premium, boutique liquors, like Vodka Mariette, which promise top-shelf quality in edgy, streamlined packaging.

“Mariette” might be the name of some beautiful French girl, but conveniently, it also translates to “little rebel.” Vodka Mariette prefers both attributions—its slender, curvaceous bottle recalls the body of a French model sashaying down a Paris Boulevard, while its flavor reveals a sweet, crisp, and incredibly smooth spirit. IVY member Josh Winzelberg has spent the past 5 years developing his product, which is five-times distilled from French, GMO-free wheat and natural spring water.

The process, of course, is never as smooth as the vodka. Josh sat down with IVY Magazine to discuss some of the challenges to bringing a new ultra-premium liquor to the market and how he’s maneuvered the various trends and trials of the industry.

Josh Winzelberg is an IVY Member (NYC). Connect and collaborate with him here.

Vodka Mariette

Why Vodka Mariette Works

IVY: What is the difference between an “ok” vodka, and a great vodka?

The key is the amazing ingredients — factors such as when and where the ingredients are grown, and if there are chemicals used. That’s what makes vodka smooth, and reviewers are continuously shocked by how smooth Vodka Mariette is.

IVY: Tell me about the day when you woke up and decided you had to launch Vodka Mariette

I guess I just always knew I needed to start a business. In school, I was always joining organizations, and taking over crumbling clubs to fix them up and make them run better. I love new ideas, making things, and good design, so creating a physical product was the obvious path for me.

And as major as liquor is, I could see there were still some things that were just missing in the market.

At the time, all the other vodkas out there were very mass manufactured and corporate, and had a lot of artificial ingredients. Vodka is also not performing as well as it used to—it’s not what people are gravitating toward anymore. We wanted to create excellent vodka that speaks to the current millennial generation in the way other alcohol categories do. We wanted to make this particularly attractive to women, who are the actually the biggest buyers of liquor. They’re largely ignored by the industry.

IVY: Why do women buy more than men?

It probably has something to do with the economy. Women are outperforming men and are gaining more discretionary income. More and more, women are becoming primary earners.

Vodka Mariette

The Challenges to Launching Vodka Mariette

IVY: What’s the toughest thing you’ve been through, as you’ve launched the business of Vodka Mariette?

Sorting out the regulation is difficult, as well as creating a supply chain that’s consistently producing a top quality product. However, the toughest thing was selling members of the industry on a new vision for vodka! Many people just want to replicate what already works.

We had to explain the profile of the buyers, and explain what’s going on in the market. You could really see that other vodka brands are missing the point right now.

There are so many things you need to consider to make an alcohol brand work. It needs to taste good, it needs to fit a specific palate, and it has to have the proper look. Often, people present amazing products, but it’s packaged and presented terribly.

IVY: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

It’s probably from my mother, who always says, “We make plans and God laughs.”

When planning anything, it’s essential to understand that a lot will go wrong. We’ve made business plans that we think are novel, and then a week later, we’re obsolete. You need to be open to whatever comes your way. You need to move forward no matter what.

IVY: Did you ever hit rock bottom with Vodka Mariette?

Without going into specifics— there were originally many unique ingredients involved in the Vodka Mariette recipe. We thought those would give the vodka a lot of attention and make it stand out. However, at the end of the day, it wasn’t feasible. What direction do you go in when what you think is the lynchpin of the product isn’t going to pan out? We pivoted and went to the route we’re now.

Turns out, it was all for the best, and now Vodka Mariette is better than ever.

How Can IVY Support Vodka Mariette

IVY: How can the IVY community best support you?

We’re really excited to ramp up marketing and begin our next round of funding, so we are totally open to any opportunities from the IVY community. We’re also highlighting a different female entrepreneur every month on our website, any recommendations are helpful, or if you fit the description please reach out!

Otherwise, keep an eye out for Vodka Mariette all over the northeast and follow us (@VodkaMariette). It’s a wonderful spirit that wouldn’t be possible without support from people like the IVY community.

IVY is dedicated to fostering a community for thriving people—inspiring connection, collaboration, and growth. To learn more, visit www.ivy.com.