The backlash to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is hitting your liquor store. But calls to boycott Russian-made or owned vodka brands isn’t going to have much effect.
As CNN reports, officials in Ohio, Utah and New Hampshire have asked liquor stores to remove Russian-branded spirits, which you would think would include a whole lot of vodka. Turns out, Americans don’t really drink Russian vodka; it actually accounts for about 1% of the domestic market, according to data from IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.
“Some of the popular vodka brands consumers may think are Russian are not produced in Russia,” as Lisa Hawkins, the Senior Vice President, Public Affairs at the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), told us. “There is not a lot of Russian-made vodka in the U.S. marketplace. Imports of Russian vodka to the United States are down nearly 79 percent since 2011, and accounted for only 1.3 percent of total vodka imports in 2021.”
Worse, some people are dumping out or boycotting Russian-sounding vodka that’s not actually produced in Russia, including Stoli and Smirnoff. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine was more correct when he asked the state’s liquor stores to “cease both the purchase and sale of all vodka made by Russian Standard, the only overseas, Russian-owned distillery with vodka sold in Ohio.” (Green Mark is another.)
The Russian Standard brand itself has not commented as of yet. As of now, the Russian Standard Twitter account is suspended, but the Facebook account, which was last updated on Feb. 24, is not.
As well, the boycotts will only be effective in some areas, primarily where the liquor stores are run by the state. Independently-run stores can set their own agendas.
If you are going to boycott vodka, or other Russian-made products, do check for the country of origin first. While your vodka boycott may not have much of an economic impact, it certainly can do some symbolic good.
As for a vodka you can comfortably drink in 2022? We have 20 you can enjoy here that do not hail from Russia, but one that is Ukrainian. Meanwhile, some distilleries in Ukraine are shutting down due to the war … while one brewery is switching their product line from beer to Molotov cocktails.
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