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On the rocks: Governors ban Russian vodka sales in state liquor stores

While the symbolic gesture will not have extreme economic ramifications, it is meant to send a message of support to the Ukrainian people.
A shelf is emptied of Russian Standard Vodka on Monday at a Fine Wine & Good Spirits store in Dresher, Pa. Matt Rourke / AP

Several states have banned sales of Russian-made vodkas in their liquor stores, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Utah’s governor signed an executive order Saturday requiring the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to immediately remove all Russian-made and Russian-branded products from store shelves.

“Russia’s ruthless attack on a sovereign nation is an egregious violation of human rights,” Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement announcing the executive order. “Utah stands in solidarity with Ukraine and will not support Russian enterprises, no matter how small the exchange.”

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu also signed an executive order requiring state liquor outlets to remove Russian-made and branded alcohol.

In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine directed the state’s Commerce Department to cease the purchase and sale of Russian Standard, the only Russian vodka sold in Ohio (under the brand names Green Mark and Russian Standard).

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And the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board on Sunday instructed all Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores and licensee service centers to remove Russian-made products.

Like in Ohio, the order has limited impact because only two products were affected: Russian Standard and Ustianochka 80-proof vodkas are stocked in Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores, the board said. 

While many of the most popular vodkas have Russian-sounding names and Russian branding, many are produced elsewhere. Romanov vodka, for instance, is made in India.

As for some of the most popular vodkas, Titos is made in the U.S., as is Skyy. Grey Goose is made in France.

“Some of the popular vodka brands consumers may think are Russian are not produced in Russia. There is not a lot of Russian-made vodka in the U.S. marketplace," said Lisa Hawkins​, with the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

"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," she added.

So while the move will not have extreme economic ramifications for Russia, the symbolic gesture is meant to send a message of support to the Ukrainian people.

In Canada, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario on Friday announced that “all products produced in Russia will be removed from LCBO channels,” including 679 of its stores across the province.

While some bars in the U.S. made a show of getting rid of their Stoli, the company said on its website that “the Stoli vodka brands and its owner Yuri Shefler were exiled from Russia nearly two decades ago,” and the brand is registered in Latvia.

In a statement titled: “Stoli Group Denounces Russian Aggression,” the company said in part:Stoli Group has had a long history of fighting oppression from the Russian regime. We unequivocally condemn the military action in Ukraine and stand in support of the Ukrainian people.”