Ukrainian Vodka Sales Soar as Drinkers Boycott Russian Brands
People around the world are doing whatever they can to support Ukraine as the country fights to defend itself against the Russian invasion. And in some cases, those efforts include vodka.
Demand for Ukrainian vodka brands has surged in the past week, according to alcohol delivery service Drizly. Liz Paquette, head of consumer insights, tells Money that the share of Ukrainian vodka sales — out of all the vodka variations available on Drizly — has increased 225% since Feb. 24, the day Russia started its full-scale invasion.
Specific brands are spiking, too. Nemiroff, which claims to make about 40% of all vodka exported from Ukraine, recently jumped 60 spots on Drizly's list of top-selling vodka brands. It went from No. 143 to No. 83, Paquette says. Khor, which was established in Ukraine in 1998, rose to No. 39 from the No. 54 slot.
Given how synonymous the spirit is with Eastern European culture, changing vodka-purchasing habits has been a popular way for Americans to side with Ukraine in the ongoing war. Governors in places like New Hampshire have directed state-run liquor and wine outlets to stop selling Russian alcohol brands. The Southern grocery store chain Publix announced Wednesday that it was pulling Russian vodka from its shelves in solidarity with Ukraine.
The pushback is happening on a smaller scale, too.
Grand Rapids, Michigan, bar owner Bob Quay told the Associated Press that he "put on sanctions" against Russia just like President Joe Biden did — by promoting Vektor vodka, which is distilled in Ukraine. In Bethesda, Maryland, bar owner Ronnie Heckman changed his Moscow Mule cocktail to a Ukraine-centric "Kyiv Mule." And in Las Vegas, bar owner Branden Powers is selling $5 shots of Nemiroff and donating profits to the Red Cross.
"We love the Russian people," Powers told Fox Business. "This is 100% focused on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and focused on getting money to Ukrainian people in need through various humanitarian efforts within Ukraine."
Which vodkas are Russian?
Boycotting Russian vodka may be more complicated than you think — because a lot of vodka you might assume is Russian is not actually made in Russia.
Data from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States shows that only about 1.2% of vodka imports between January and June 2021 came from Russia, meaning the stock is limited to begin with.
In addition, several brands that have ties to Russia are actually headquartered elsewhere. Smirnoff, for example, is owned by the British company Diageo and made in Illinois, among other locations. Stoli is actually manufactured in Latvia.
As of Thursday, both vodka brands had notes on their websites distancing themselves from their Russian roots — and firmly establishing which side they're on.
"While we do not have any operations in Russia, we do in Ukraine and across many of the bordering countries," Stoli Group's global CEO, Damian McKinney, said in a statement. "For decades, Stoli Group has supported the marginalized and those at risk of unwarranted aggression. We stand now with all Ukrainians and Russians calling for peace."
If you're looking to use your money to back Ukraine, you might want to do some research or seek out brands like Khor, which has the hashtags #StandWithUkraine and #UkrainianVodka in blue and yellow on its homepage, before you decide to boycott Russia-adjacent vodka. Alternatively, consider taking a look at your investments or donating to charity.
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