Hamptons Vodka
LI vodka stirred, not shaken, by 'Peconika' failure
from Long Island Business News

By Jeff Miller
Friday, February 9, 2007

East End alcohol has sloshed into the national news again.

The recent Wall Street Journal cover story about the booming U.S. vodka industry mentioned not one but two Hamptons-based ventures, plus a Manhasset-based distributor.

One of the producers is no longer in business. As noted in the Journal's sidebar (uCase Study: The Rapid Rise - and Fall - of 'New York's First Vodka"), wife and husband Jane Nichols and Steve Abramson had a hot property from 1999 to 2001 with Peconika, a vodka that was made at least partly with Long Island potatoes. For a while it was the toast of more than a few towns, including Albany, where Gov. Pataki - . had it poured at official events. Then came 9/11, and then struggles with distributors, and in 2004 Peconika was 86ed.

But Hamptons Vodka flows on. As the lead story notes, Ronnč Bonder launched the business in 1999 and saw some initial success. Like Peconika, Hamptons - which includes some real Long Island sweet corn - scored very well in important competitions, but 9/11 and struggles with distributors again cropped up, letting big names like -- - Grey Goose gobble up.

Despite all that, Bonder is still very much in the mix. Reached in California last week, he said things are turning around due to new distribution deals, and he feels 2007 is "going to be gangbusters." So much so that he's tripling up on purchases of materials.

The vodka is made in the Midwest, but Bonder originally hoped to set up a still in a big vacant barn in Southampton. Building department blockades made that impossible - "It took me a year and a half to get approval of a deck!" - but he's kept the Hamptons name anyway, partly because of the corn, partly because he's a longtime Hamptonite and partly because it's good branding.

"It's known everywhere," Bonder said. "I get inquiries from all over - India, Australia, Canada, Mexico." So if drive and determination count for anything, you can expect to see Hamptons vodka and its flavored spinoffs (banana, cherry vanilla, chocoraspberry!) and Hamptons gin on the shelves and in the news for the foreseeable future. And by the way, if you should drink a few robust cocktails, you may be surprised to be feeling OK in the morning. It's the corn.

"I'm the only one who uses yellow corn," said Bonder. "It's sweet, so I don't have to add sugar. So there's no hangover the next day."

Contact in NY: Ronne Bonder (800) 378-6388
Contact in CA: Nichole Hensley (323) 658-6650

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