The Torah tells us that when G-d spoke to Moses at the burning bush, He said the Israelites would be redeemed in “a land flowing with milk and honey,” referring to the Land of Canaan, which became known as the Land of Israel.
According to Justin Lubin — a Milwaukeean by way of Worcester, Mass., and then southern California — the honey reference is actually date syrup.
“In 2011 I moved my family to Israel to take a job as a business developer for an Israeli aquaculture company,” said Lubin, an attorney-entrepreneur. “I’m a spiritual person. I love everything about the land [of Israel], I loved eating things grown on the land.”
As Lubin learned more about Judaism and the Land, he came upon ancient texts written by Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki), a famous medieval French rabbi who wrote a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud and Tanakh.
“That’s how I learned that ‘honey’ in this context referred to date syrup, not bees’ honey,” said Lubin.
Lubin was captivated by the idea of date syrup; so, he located some and put it in milk for his children. They loved it.
Dearth of date syrup
In 2014 Lubin and his family moved back to Milwaukee. Forever the entrepreneur, Lubin got to thinking about his next business idea. Then he remembered the delicious date syrup from Israel.
“I thought maybe I could turn it into a high-end dairy product,” he said. “I looked around for it in supermarkets, even the more health-food ones — since it’s a natural sweetener — but I couldn’t find it anywhere.”
Then it hit him — why not create a cream liqueur made from date syrup?
It’s just (family) business, nothing personal
Lubin had no experience in the spirits business. But his family did — generations of experience, to be exact. His great-grandfather — Papa “Mo” Simms — was a bootlegger during prohibition. After prohibition, his family turned the business legit. His father worked in the company and these days his cousins run it.
With his cousins acting as advisers, Lubin located a company to help develop the liqueur, which required 40 iterations until they got it right. He also found a kibbutz in Israel near the Sea of Galilee to source the dates. Then he hired a designer and packagers.
An ancient recipe brought to life
The name Milk & Honey was a given. The next step was marketing, which comes naturally to Lubin. He spits out taglines at a rapid pace.
“It’s a 3,000 year-old recipe from heaven,” he said. “Milk and Honey makes a great spirit shine. It’s G-d’s recipe. Milk and Honey is the Torah. It’s a reminder that G-d loves us. It’s blessings in a bottle.”
Oh, and in case you were wondering, it’s also OU kosher certified.
Since its release in June, Lubin has sold 400 cases of Milk & Honey (each case contains six bottles). He markets the old-fashioned way: by pounding the pavement and visiting liquor stores and bars. It’s currently available in more than 30 locations in the greater Milwaukee area.
Milk & Honey is said to be making a splash as a supremely mixable spirit. It’s delicious on the rocks (this author attests to that), and there are already some 35 recipes that have been developed. For recipes, visit the website: RealMilkandHoney.com/Recipes.
According to Lubin, the best recipe is to enjoy it “with people you love.”