When Wine Enthusiast awards you its first perfect 100-point rating for vodka and you win double gold from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, you’ve done a lot of things right. Yes, Zyr Vodka has those distinctions. And it has an interesting story of how it came into being.
Growing up, David Katz was an ice hockey fan, and in particular loved the legendary Russian goalie Vladislav Tretiak. “I played goalie in high school and college and wore the same type pads and played in his style of goaltending.”
His passion for hockey led him to select Russian as his foreign language in college, and when he failed the freshman course miserably, the school suggested he immerse himself in the summer of his sophomore year to ‘just get rid of the requirement’ by going to Moscow. “In 1993, I did that and after three months I was essentially bi-lingual,” explains Katz. He also got a taste for Russian vodka.
After earning a degree in Russian and Political Science, Katz returned to Russia for five years (1995-2000) where his focus turned to vodka. “In Russia you don’t mix. No cocktails, just straight drinking.” It was the golden years of clear spirits in America, and when Katz saw the rise of Belvedere, Grey Goose, Ketel One and Skyy vodkas he thought: “It’s crazy that Americans are drinking all these imports and none of it is from Russia, where the good stuff is made!”
Katz’s passion turned into anger and he vowed to bring a superior Russian vodka to the States. He toured dozens of Russian vodka factories and although they were good, Katz realized it was all mass industrialized production of grain alcohol where they added sugars, glycerin and lactic acid like all the others. Katz felt he could make a pure vodka to top them all.
So, after many trials, he came to understand that the big picture included proper grain selection, refining the fermentation process and managing everything through the bottling process. Katz journeyed across Russia and realized his vodka needed to be made from a blend of Russian winter wheat and rye. “It is much more expensive, but it gave me the taste, nose and finish that I wanted.”
Fast forward to 2002, when Zyr Vodka first hit shelves. It was a product that proudly went through 9 filtrations, 5 distillations, and 3 tastings, as it still does today. Obviously, the right mix to win the accolades mentioned above. Katz peddled his product in the NY, NJ and CT corridor to some pretty discerning palates. He had some great early success, but still, it’s tough to truly win in the liquor business against the big boys. “I took my licks, and maybe it was the too many hockey pucks to the head, but I just kept pushing.”
Katz doubled down and invested in a patented bottle design and still to this day is pounding the pavement passionately pitching Zyr to fine dining restaurants and winning distribution deals almost door-to-door. The good news for us is that Katz, and Zyr Vodka are based right here in Palmetto Bay! Therefore, there are many spots in South Florida you can pick up this remarkable vodka. It is stocked at Total Wine & More, Crown Wine & Spirits, Checkers Wine and Spirits, ABC Liquors, Publix and Walgreens. You can also order it at Captain’s Tavern, Two Chefs, Town Bar & Grill, Taurus and Jaguar, among others. So this holiday, celebrate the season with local Russian vodka. I certainly will!