Shaken Not Stirred - TribPapers
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Shaken Not Stirred

Anyone for a Vodka Martini? Photo by Taylor Simpson.

Raleigh Russian vodka is no longer available in North Carolina

The N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, through an executive order, has pulled the products from its more than 430 stores across the state.

Executive Order No. 251, which Gov. Roy Cooper signed Monday, suspends the availability of spirituous liquor products produced by Russian entities, the ABC says. Russian-produced special-order products are also no longer available. 

The order comes in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and directs state government agencies and departments to review all existing contracts and operations and to terminate any agreements or operations that directly benefit Russian entities, a news release says.

The move is largely symbolic. Just five Russian brands are currently affected, though the ABC continues to compile a comprehensive list. Affected brands, ABC spokesman Jeff Strickland told the Carolina Journal on Tuesday afternoon, are Hammer & Sickle, Beluga, Imperia, Zyr and Russian Standard. These account for 10 individual products, including mini-bottles and the like.

Popular vodka that may sound Russian is actually made in the United States or elsewhere, such as Smirnoff, which is owned by liquor conglomerate Diageo and produced in Illinois. Stolichnaya comes from Latvia. Diageo also owns Crown Royal whisky and Captain Morgan’s line of rums. Some of the world’s best-selling vodka, such as Absolut and Grey Goose, are made in Sweden and France, respectively.

“There is not a lot of Russian-made vodka in the U.S. marketplace,” Lisa Hawkins toldForbes. She’s senior vice president for public affairs of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

“Imports of Russian vodka to the United States are down nearly 79% since 2011, and accounted for only 1.3 percent of total vodka imports in 2021.”

Roughly $1.4 billion of vodka was imported into the United States in 2021, with France as the biggest supplier of imported vodka, at $660 million, said Hawkins, according to Forbes.

North Carolina distillers make their share of vodka, too. From Blue Shark in Wilmington to Tiny Cat in Greensboro to TOPO in Chapel Hill to Asheville Vodka from Cultivated Cocktails. N.C. vodka is mostly produced in small batches, with local wheat and corn, for example. It typically costs more than Russian vodka but generally tastes much better.

Editor’s Note: John Trump is a contributor for the Carolina Journal.

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