Governors and Bar Owners Across the Country Are Ditching Russian Vodka

Perhaps surprisingly, Russian-produced spirits make up only a sliver of the U.S. vodka market.

Bottles of Russian vodka
Photo: Kirill Kukhmar / TASS via Getty Images

Vodka is one of the most stereotypical Russian products, so after Vladimir Putin launched a globally-condemned attack on Ukraine last week, many across America — from the top tiers of government to individual bar owners — have suddenly turned on the distilled spirit, pulling Russian vodka from store shelves or pouring out bottles all together.

On Saturday, Texas governor Greg Abbott tweeted, "I've asked the members of the Texas Restaurant Association, Texas Package Stores Association & all Texas retailers to voluntarily remove all Russian products from their shelves. Texas stands with Ukraine." He's not alone, other states whose governors have taken a stand against Russian spirits include New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah.

Meanwhile, some citizens have made similar shows of support for the Ukraine. In Las Vegas, the pizzeria Evel Pie grabbed headlines by dumping all of its Russian Standard vodka to replace it with a Ukrainian-owned brand. And in Bend, Oregon, Pine Tavern owner Bill McCormick had the local news at the ready as he dumped out bottles of Stolichnaya (even though it's not technically Russian — more on that below).

Intentions aside, the overall impact may be relatively small. For instance, Ohio-based reporter Darrel Rowland tweeted that Governor Mike DeWine's ban of Russian vodka pulled a mere 6,400 bottles of Russian Standard bottles from shelves in the state.

Lisa Hawkins, senior vice president of public affairs for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, stated that Russia controls a mere 1.3 percent of vodka imports into the U.S. with a total value of about $18 million, ranking it sixth among exporting nations, according to Forbes.

The fourth largest exporter, with a value of $137 million, is Latvia. What's this popular Latvian vodka, you may wonder? It's actually the aforementioned Stolichnaya. Similar to how an "imported" beer might not be produced where it seems, due to a split within the brand, the Stoli that is shipped to America is actually produced in Latvia and has a Luxembourg-based ownership group, despite its Russian roots.

Similarly, Smirnoff — which was founded in Russia — is now owned by the drinks giant Diageo and is produced all around the world, including in Illinois, reports CNN. "Some of the popular vodka brands consumers may think are Russian are not produced in Russia," Hawkins was quoted as saying.

So feel free to make a spirits-based statement if you wish — just double check your vodka bottles.

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