U.S. and Canada Remove All Russian Vodka from Shelves in Protest

by Chris Haney

As Russian forces continue their invasion of Ukraine, bars and liquor stores across America and Canada are pulling Russian vodka from their shelves and, in some cases, are pouring out bottles of the spirits. Although it likely has minimal impact or influence on President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, removing Russian vodka has become a symbolic gesture of support for Ukraine.

What You Need To Know

  • Bars and liquor stores in America and Canada are removing all Russian vodka from their premises.
  • Governors in Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have ordered government-run liquor stores to cease sells of Russian vodka imports.
  • Canadian provinces have ordered local liquor stores to remove the products from their shops.
  • Local businesses and bars in the U.S. are removing Russian vodka from their inventories.
  • As of 2021, only 1.2% of vodka is imported from Russia.
  • The removal is unlikely to have a tangible impact, but is a symbolic gesture of support for Ukraine.

U.S. Lawmakers Order State-Run Liquor Stores to Ditch Russian Vodka

Governors in several U.S. states have ordered government-run liquor stores to cease all sells of Russian vodka products. The move is an act of solidarity with the Ukrainian people as the Russian military continues their march into the neighboring country.

For example, Utah Governor Spencer Cox joined other states in removing the spirits from shelves. On Saturday, Cox instructed his state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to ditch all Russian-produced and branded products.

“We will do our part to push back on the Russian invaders and stand with our sisters and brothers in Ukraine,” Cox said over the weekend. He also noted that Utah is reviewing all state procurements to check for further Russian ties.

Cox’s executive order became one of many across the nation recently. The governors of Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania made similar gestures of support for besieged Ukraine through Russian vodka sanctions in each state.

On Saturday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine ordered the state’s Department of Commerce to stop all sales of vodka made by Russian Standard. He isn’t outlawing all brands since many Russian-styled vodkas – like Stolichnaya and Smirnoff – are made in other countries, including the United States. DeWine said Russian Standard is “the only overseas, Russian-owned distillery with vodka sold in Ohio.”

On Sunday, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority announced it’s removing seven “Russian-sourced vodka brands” from stores. Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin also asked state agencies to review any other ties to Russia.

As mentioned, the removal is unlikely to have a tangible impact on the Ukraine invasion. In fact, only 1.2% of U.S. vodka is imported from Russia as of 2021, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Russian vodka only accounted for $18.5 million of America’s $1.4 billion worth of vodka imports in 2021.

Canadian Officials Order Stores to Get Rid of Vodka Inventory From Russia

Last week, our neighbors to the north took action by ordering local liquor stores to remove the Russian alcohol from their shelves. Close to 700 stores in the province of Ontario, Canada have been ordered to get rid of the product. In addition to Ontario, the provinces of Manitoba and Newfoundland are joining in on the removal of Russian vodka in all stores.

According to the Canadian Press, Finance Minister of Ontario Peter Bethlenfalvy spoke out against Russia’s attacks on Ukraine. Bethlenfalvy also directed the provincial Liquor Control Board to make sure liquor stores remove the alcoholic products from their shops.

“Ontario joins Canada’s allies in condemning the Russian government’s act of aggression against the Ukrainian people,” Bethlenfalvy said. “And we strongly support the federal government’s efforts to sanction the Russian government. We will continue to be there for the Ukrainian people during this extremely difficult time.”

In 2021, Canada imported C$4.8 million ($3.78 million) worth of vodka products from Russia, according to Statistics Canada. Compared to vodka brought into the country from Russia in 2020, Canada imported C$6.3 million ($4.95 million) worth of the product that year. That’s a decline of 23.8% in one year even before officials implemented the local sanctions. Yet vodka is still the second most popular spirit for Canadian liquor consumers after whisky.

Local Bars Dump Russian Vodka From Their Menus

Local businesses in the U.S. are also taking it upon themselves to boycott the Ukraine invasion. Many independent liquor stores and bars are removing Russian vodka from their shelves and menus across the country.

In Wichita, Kansas, the Jacob Liquor Exchange chose to get rid of more than 100 bottles of Russian vodka. The store removed many from shelves while also pouring some bottles out on the ground. The store’s wine director and partner Jamie Stratton opened up about the decision to local news station KSNW-TV.

“I think the whole world knows by now that Russia’s at war with Ukraine for no apparent reason,” Stratton told KSNW. “I guess this is our sanction … and this may be small, but every small thing makes a difference.”

In Vermont, workers at the Black Line Tavern shared a video on social media pouring Stoli vodka down the drain. The tavern is part of Magic Mountain Ski Area, which shared the clip on their Twitter account on Thursday. A bartender pours the bottle out while saying, “Sorry, we don’t serve Russian products here.”

In Oregon, Pine Tavern owner Bill McCormick filmed himself pouring out all of his establishment’s Russian vodka. The Bend, Oregon bar owner spoke to FOX 12 of Portland about the decision. He admitted he took a loss of a few hundred dollars over the dumped vodka. However, he said the protest and symbolism of his actions are worth the money.

“Russia is acting as though it’s 1939 and going into Europe with a full force that they have in the Ukraine. I am so concerned about it metastasizing into other countries,” McCormick said to FOX 12.