Zirkova Vodka-a UW alumni venture


Zirkova Vodka, launched by John (BASc ‘91) and Katherine Vellinga (BASc ‘92), UW alumni, is currently one of the top four vodkas priced above $30 selling at the LCBO.

“The only vodkas that sell more than us now are Tito’s, Grey Goose, and Ketel One,” John Vellinga, founder and CEO of the company, said. “We’re the only Canadian company in the top four, the rest are big foreign multinational companies.”

The couple, both engineers, produce Zirkova Vodka in Chesaky, Ukraine, the birthplace of vodka. The spirit comes in two bottles ‘Zirkova One’ for drinking neat or on the rocks, and ‘Zirkova Together,’ for cocktails. 

“What we did, that was truly unique, was that realize that there are two ways of drinking vodka. One, they drink it neat, on the rocks, or in vodka-soda, where it is mostly about vodka and it needs to be smooth and easy to drink,” Vellinga said. “And there is the other way that people drink it,which is in cocktails, where it is supposed supposed to mix with something else. People tend to not care about the kind of vodka used because in the end, it gets mixed.”

According to Vellinga, using Zirkova Together makes cocktails better by enhancing the flavour of the mixer.

“Zirkova One and Together are essentially the same spirits, except we do the filtering and finishing differently, in order to accentuate how certain parts of the mouth feel or the aromatics of the liquid itself,” Vellinga said. 

Zirkova is quadruple-distilled using centre-cut spirits, Artesian mineralized water, and classic-method filtration. According to Vellinga, all these factors contribute to give it  a smoother taste. 

“The 750 ml bottle, priced at $30.95, is an eight-sided prism, smaller on the bottom than it is at the top,” Vellinga said. “I think it is a very elegant bottle.”

Zirkova One and Together are vegan, gluten-free, and keto-friendly and can be found at most LCBOs, as well as liquor stores in Manitoba and New York. 


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