Why Are You Boycotting American Vodka To Punish Russia?

Only 1.2 percent of U.S. vodka imports come from Russia.


New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has decided to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine by ordering the removal of Russian-branded liquor from state-run liquor stores. Governors of Ohio, Utah, and Pennsylvania have also ordered Russian liquors off the shelves. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott asked Texas restaurants and shops to stop selling Russian goods.

It's a weirdly authoritarian response, especially against the retro-socialist background of having state-run liquor stores in the first place. It also isn't going to accomplish what these governors think, unless their only goal is to look like they're doing something, because the economic harms will fall on people completely outside Russia's borders.

Let's start with the obvious: The booze you're removing is already here. To the extent that the profits go back to Mother Russia, that's already happened. Russia loses zero rubles when you take the vodka you already paid for and hide it in the stockroom for a few months.

But there's a bigger issue: "Russian" vodka often isn't actually from Russia at all.

We went through all of this back in 2013, when Russia's parliament passed an anti-gay law and LGBT activists responded with a boycott of what they thought was Russian vodka. There was a logo and everything. The primary target was Stolichnaya Vodka, one of the more popular brands.

Yet the Stoli that gets imported to the United States is not Russian at all. It's made in Latvia, and the company that manufactures it is based in Luxembourg. Stoli, furthermore, had developed strong ties to the LGBT community and even financially backed community projects. The law was awful, but this attempt to punish Russia for passing it did not actually hurt Russia at all—and Russia certainly hasn't gotten any friendlier to LGBT people. But it did get some organizers a lot of media attention.

Similarly, this new boycott idea will have a negligible impact. Stoli still isn't produced in Russia, and the company had even posted support for Ukraine solidarity on its website.

Meanwhile, imports from Russia are fairly minimal in the big scheme of things. The most recent data from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, from 2019, lists $22.3 billion in Russian imports. That may sound like a lot, but Russia's Gross Domestic Product for 2019 was $1.6 trillion. Our imports are less than 1.5 percent of that.

And of those imports, food and liquor barely factor at all. Total agricultural and food imports from Russia that year totaled just $69 million. The top import was fuel: We imported $13 billion in mineral fuels like natural gas from Russia in 2019.

Reuters reports that only 1.2 percent of U.S. vodka imports came from Russia in the first half of 2021. Much more comes from France. Smirnoff is produced right here in the United States.

In a change from their coverage of the LGBT vodka boycott, lots of media outlets are pointing out this time that boycotting vodka does not impact Russia's economy in any way. It may make people who are otherwise helpless over foreign policy (like state governors) feel like they're doing something. But the economic impacts of a vodka boycott—if there are any—are going to be felt by people who aren't connected to Putin at all, and in many cases aren't even Russian.

So don't pour your vodka down the drain. You're not actually helping Ukraine by wasting your booze. You can still buy Ukrainian liquor, too!

NEXT: Exposing Donations to Political Causes Can Chill Free Speech

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Fuck Joe Biden

      1. #IfYoureNotWithBidenYoureNotUsingApostrophes

  2. Virtue signalling never makes any sense; why should this gesture be any different?

  3. Just put masks on the bottles, that will keep us safe.

  4. Because the infallible American war machine demands it of the faithful.

    Now excuse my while I dump this bottle of Stoli and eat my FREEDOM fries, your traitorous asshole.

  5. Freedom booze!

    1. Victory Vodka!

  6. "An overwhelming majority of Americans support stiffer economic sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine but oppose sending U.S. troops to intervene, according to a poll released Monday."

  7. If Putin calls off the mass murder operation I'll celebrate it by buying Russian vodka.

  8. Vodka in the US is way overpriced.

    1. Really? Have you tried buying lumber?

      1. Isn't Russian vodka made from wood?

      2. I blame Canada. I could be wrong, but it already has a catchy song.

        1. my s.o. sang that every day for two weeks during the olympics.

  9. Why Are You Boycotting American Vodka To Punish Russia?

    Because the virtue is not going to signal itself. The alternative is to wade into the morass and after 10 hours realize no one knows what they are talking about. Sadly that does not generate likes.

    1. Exactly the signal is far more valuable to them than any effect the virtue may have in the real world

    2. Because a lot of people are uninformed about where products are made. They just equate "vodka" with "Russian". A lot of these people include politicians, who are not required to be well informed to hold their jobs

    3. Yeah, people desperately need those social media updoots. Dopamine is a more addictive drug than cocaine.

  10. I couldn't give a flying fuck about boycotting Russian vodka.

    It's the bullets that piss me off. Sure they've got steel casings and caustic powder. But they're cheap! At least they were.

  11. Same reason people killed Dachshunds in 1941/1942. Vodka is, to Americans, a symbol of Russia.

    If people wanted to send a message, they'd boycott Maid in China for the fentanyl killing 100,000 Americans every year.

    1. When the war started, my family stopped speaking German at home, stopped subscribing to German newspapers, and quit the Reformed Church to become Methodists.

    2. "killed Dachshunds in 1941/1942"

      Wait, what? Is this one of those whitewashed areas of history I have heard so much about? It certainly wasn't taught in my WW II class. We focused on generals and deployments and battles and deaths and camps and stuff. But nothing about dachshunds.

      1. I thought it was WWI ("the Great War") that the dachshund genocide occurred in the US. I recall either Heinlein or E. B. White writing about it, in the context of WWI.

  12. The point of virtue signaling is always the signaling, not the virtue.

  13. Tito's Handmade Vodka is better anyway.
    But that's distilled in Texas, so it probably needs to be canceled too.

    1. Some good vodka being made in Ohio these days, too.

    2. Only vodka I buy.

    3. Good vodka is too easy to make, and has no real terroir, so importing it is rather silly.

      1. Yes, 'good' is subjective, but regardless of which qualities you prefer they can be mimicked anywhere.

  14. Who cares? What good is vodka for anyhow? No flavor and only good for mixing. Give me a good aged bourbon, rye or rum any day. Something with some character to it.

    1. Scotty: When are you going to get off that milk diet, lad?
      Chekov: This is Wodka!
      Scotty: Where I come from, that’s soda pop. This is a drink for a man.
      Chekov: Scotch?
      Scotty: Aye.
      Chekov: It was inwented by a little old lady from Leningrad.

      1. Star Trek TOS was by far the best, but not really a Scotch fan either. Maybe just haven't had a good one, but it always tastes a bit fishy and medicinal to me. Love Irish Whiskey.

        1. Good Scotch isn't meant to be taken straight. The traditional way is Scotch and water. Tastes less "medicinal" that way.

        2. Balvenie carribean cask. Aged in rum barrels for hints of vanilla.

        3. Irish whiskey is by far the best

        4. The highlight of my trip to Ireland was the tasting room at the Jameson distillery in Dublin.

        5. Try a Highland Scotch, especially one finished in sherry casks - e.g. Glenmorangie, or Oban (the gateway drug.)

          If you do not like sea or iodine/band-aid avoid all things Islay (Lagavulin, Laphroig, Ardbeg, Ardmore, etc.) Leave those for me.

  15. I don't really get this. There's a wonderful Russian restaurant nearby where I live that also sells a variety of Russian goods presumably to whatever Russian expat community there may be in my city. Clearly, the people running it would rather live in America than Russia. Why do they, specifically, need to be punished for what Putin does? Buy Ukraine a belt of machine gun ammo if you hate Putin's war. Don't slap around the people who left that shithole to sell borscht.

    1. Does the Ukrainian army have a GoFundMe?

      1. Yes, but apparently it got cancelled

        1. Wow. I thought this was just a joke, then I looked it up and it was real. I really should have anticipated that, given the clown universe we live in.

          1. GFM probably realized that sending money to a notoriously corrupt Slavic nation probably wasn't the best idea.

            1. What about sending money to notoriously corrupt progressive organizations?

        2. Ditto their Patreon

  16. It's covid theater all over again, guys.

  17. Maybe you should read up on a concept called symbolism

    Even if it were made in Russia, it wouldn't have an economic impact. But the symbolism is important, it's a way of telling Russia to go fuck themselves.

    1. Doesn't make it any less stupid. Note that these chowderheads were just fine with *buying* Russian vodka despite their rather abysmal record and previous invasions, but going in to Ukraine is now a bridge too far?

      Yeah, the symbolism is present, but it's entirely solipsistic. It doesn't have shit to do with Russia's evil.

      1. And as the article points out, to double down on the stupidity, they're pouring out a marketing gimmick, not actual Russian vodka.

        1. Russian Standard, an actual Russian vodka, is available in liquor stores in my areas.

  18. 888 Distillery on Nantucket makes spectacular vodka.

  19. "Why Are You Boycotting American Vodka To Punish Russia?"

    Sadly, because most people are retarded and just cannot look into things before making their grand statement to the world.

  20. We're still playing right into Putin's hands. This whole exercise is about how US is the big bad bully that won't let Russia have any autonomy if/when it challenges our power structure and we react by punishing its people and not the govt?

    We're giving the rest of the fence sitters a very convincing argument not to deal with America. Look at what happens when you don't do what we ask!

  21. I plan to buy Kaspersky Total Security for my computers, along with all the RSX and Gazprom stock I can afford, because fuck everybody who both virtue signals their ignorance and believes American media.

  22. I boycott vodka because it is like drinking rubbing alcohol. There is nothing good about it. Gin, OTOH, is the nectar of the gods.

  23. The effect may be negligible but that's the same argument used to justify a million here and a billion there of wasted spending in the Federal budget that collectively adds up to trillions of watse. Target it towards actual Russian products, sure, but don't pretend that slicing as much of that 1.5% of Russia's economy from US imports isn't worth it.

  24. In WWII there were numerous drives to recycle for the war effort. Pots and pans were a big thing. They would be recycled into tanks! So donate your pots and pans! It was a lie of course. We had no shortage of iron ore and it was a lot easier to make steel from iron ore than from pots and pans, which instead were piled up and left to rust. The officials who ran the program just wanted people to feel like they were contributing to the war effort. So when you see shelves empty of vodka know that you are contributing to the war effort. Like the pots and pans.

  25. Live by Russian branding. Die by Russian branding.

  26. Boycott vodka? We need to scotch this idea! The political tensions have been stirred up enough, no need to mix them with ginned up cultural vituperations! History offers strong proof of that!

    1. Your stirring words have left me shaken.

  27. "especially against the retro-socialist background of having state-run liquor stores in the first place"

    I think I've mentioned this before, but it's an example of socialism working as intended. The whole *point* was to make hard liquor worse and less accessible.

    Anyway, vodka:liver::Russia:Ukraine

  28. The only booze I have drank for decades is Bourbon, and then not much of that. so I am neither supporting or punishing Russia by my drink of choice.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.