Vodka Signaling: the Latest in Empty Gestures

by Kerry Dougherty

You would think that after two years of folks marching around with useless rags on their faces and wearing rubber gloves to grocery shop, we’d be weary of empty gestures.

You would be wrong.

Over the weekend another kind of mass foolishness gripped the country that was watching in horror as Russia attacked Ukraine:

Vodka signaling.

If you weren’t dumping your vodka down the drain and demanding that liquor stores smash the bottles already on their shelves — you know, the stuff the retailers ALREADY BOUGHT FROM RUSSIA — you were secretly supporting warmonger Vladimir Putin.

Politicians, including the leader of the Democratic brain trust running Virginia’s State Senate, DEMANDED Russian vodka be swept from ABC store shelves.

“Strong action”? Removing bottles of booze? The Ukrainians are forever in your debt, Senator.

Who wants to tell Lucas — or the ghostwriter of her Tweets — that Virginia taxpayers PAID for that vodka. Ages ago. How does taking an inventory loss help Ukraine?

Yet, dozens of knobturners in the Senate sent Lucas messages cheering her brilliant idea, she said.

Odd. I didn’t hear any of those Mensa members demanding that the U.S. gin up oil and gas production and cease buying crude oil from Russia.

By Saturday afternoon the governors of Texas, New Hampshire and Ohio embarked on their own impulsive fool’s errands, clearing Russian vodka from their liquor store shelves.

Proving, if there was any doubt after the lunacy of the past two years, that critical thinking is in short supply everywhere.

Virginia’s Gov. Glenn Youngkin took an intelligent approach. He ordered actions that could actually hurt Russia in the long term.

Youngkin’s order declared that he was:

Ordering the Department of General Services to immediately review all contracts across government and procurement to determine what, if any, Virginia tax dollars are spent on goods and services from primarily Russian companies.

  • Calling on the City of Norfolk and the City of Roanoke to end sister city partnerships with Russian cities.
  • Calling on the Virginia Retirement System Board of Trustees and university endowment funds to divest in a prudent and orderly fashion any and all holdings of the Russian Ruble and any and all securities of Russian companies.

By Sunday afternoon, the apparatchiks at Virginia’s ABC Board couldn’t resist. They declared that they were removing Russian vodka from the state-owned ABC stores. They did this not at the behest of the governor, but “in the spirit” of his order.


Virginians bought that vodka. Sell it, dammit. And don’t buy any more.

It’s worth remembering that, according to USA Today, only 1.2% of all vodka sold in the U.S. comes from Russia.

The most popular vodkas in the U.S. including Smirnoff, Ciroc, Tito’s, Absolut, Svedka, Grey Goose, SKYY and New Amsterdam — are not made in Russia. They are made in Sweden, France, the U.K. and the U.S.

That didn’t stop one saloon owner from posting a video of himself emptying bottles of Stoli to teach Putin a lesson. That Russian-sounding vodka is made in Latvia.

At least read the labels before wasting good liquor.

Watching the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine leaves many of us feeling helpless. We want to DO something. Pouring vodka down the drain may be therapeutic, but it’s an empty gesture. We’d be better off drinking it. Straight.

If Americans really want to hurt Russia, we should rebuke the Green New Deal factotums pulling Joe Biden’s strings, regain energy independence and stop buying Russian oil.

That actually would send a “strong signal” that America is serious about punishing her enemies.

This column has been republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.

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38 responses to “Vodka Signaling: the Latest in Empty Gestures”

  1. walter smith Avatar
    walter smith

    I repeat my offer of my free Stolichnaya disposal service. DM me if you need help.
    For America!

    1. Matt Adams Avatar

      Stoli isn’t Russian, I’d change that to Russian Standard (which is what Russian’s drink).

      1. walter smith Avatar
        walter smith

        Really? Those Commie bastards! Or Capitalist bastards?

  2. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

    The Vodka is good but the meat is rotten, in so many words.

  3. Yet Kerry praises the virtue signaling by Youngkin!

  4. tmtfairfax Avatar

    If we were serious about both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy independence, we’d move to more nuclear power, especially with seemingly major improvements in fusion technology. And we need to build an energy distribution network that is reliable.

    I don’t like vodka all that much, so I’m already contributing to peace in Eastern Europe.

  5. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Kerry may be correct about a small percentage of vodka being consumed in U.S. being from Russia. But, she is flat out wrong in her statement that “Virginia taxpayers PAID for that vodka.” “Virginia taxpayers” have not paid for any liquor. ABC operates on its revenues. Taxes paid on liquor sales, as well as a good chunk of the profit from liquor sales, go to support the state’s overall budget. Furthermore, even ABC does not own the liquor in its warehouses. While in the warehouse, the liquor is still legally the property of the distributor.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      What about once the liquor goes into the ABC store? Is that when the state takes possession?

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        Yes. That is when ABC pays the distributor or is obligated to pay.

    2. Excellent point.

  6. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    “If Americans really want to hurt Russia, we should rebuke the Green New Deal factotums pulling Joe Biden’s strings, regain energy independence and stop buying Russian oil.”

    Anybody want to let Kerry know that we are net petroleum exporters under Biden (we weren’t under Trump) and that developing our own renewable energy resources permanently removes the yoke of dependency on GLOBAL oil markets and corporations from our neck…??

    1. George  Walton Avatar
      George Walton

      Yeah, that has worked so well for Germany.

      1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
        Eric the half a troll

        What part is inaccurate?

    2. Timothy Watson Avatar
      Timothy Watson

      In 2019, the United States imported $7.1 billion in crude and refined petroleum from Russia.

      1. Stephen Haner Avatar
        Stephen Haner

        Apparently they are major suppliers to Hawaii, which of course has to import 100% from somewhere and still uses oil in electricity generation.

    3. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Can’t wait to take on Russian armor with tanks running on solar panels, jets fueled by peanut oil. EV batteries are unstable enough without getting hit by sabot rounds.

      Biden has gutted our production, with the effects just starting to show up. It is impossible to run a modern economy on wind and solar alone. I think you, Eric, would accept more nuclear. But others would not. Germany at least is rethinking it nuke retirements. Good.

      Don’t drink vodka. I tend to agree that throwing away stock already paid for is an empty signal and refusing to buy more for years to come is the real sanction. When the day comes to boycott Chinese products we’ll have more targets (and more pain on our part.)

      1. Matt Adams Avatar

        Blanket sanctions impact the public, which aren’t going to overthrow because they’ll be murdered. Sanctions the person, freeze their holdings and they will finally feel the pinch.

  7. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Want some freedom fries or freedom toast, Karen?

    Yes, the “C” in ABC is “Control” not “Consignment”.

    Lots of weapons being delivered to Ukraine who will enthusiastically use them.

    Putin used too small of a force to do the job, and they are about to realize a mistake.

  8. Paige Gillespie Avatar
    Paige Gillespie

    Stoli is actually made in Latvia, a member of NATO! Drink up!

  9. WhatMeWorryVA Avatar

    Virginia doesn’t pay the distributor until the product is disbursed to the stores. So if it hasn’t hit the shelf it hasn’t been paid for. Its a brand new big warehouse and VAABC can lose cases of booze for a very long time…..

  10. I agree that a “ban” on Russian vodka in Virginia is an empty gesture.

    How much of the vodka sold in Virginia ABC stores is imported from Russia in the first place?

    Stolichnaya has a Russian name but the Stoli we drink here is distilled primarily in Latvia.

    Smirnoff, founded in Russia by a Russian, is currently distilled in many countries, including the U.S. – but none is imported here from Russia (NOTE: the current Smirnoff Company is in a trademark dispute with decedents of Pyotr Smirnoff. They are in Russia).

    Grey Goose is French
    Absolute is Swedish
    Tito’s is from Texas
    Finlandia is from, well, Finland.
    New Amsterdam (the official Vodka of the NHL) comes to us from Modesto, California.
    And my current favorite, Cirrus, is distilled from actual potatoes right here in Virginia.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      American Revolution vodka.

      Veteran owned and operated.

      Distilled in Idaho.

        1. They also make a good, but not great, bourbon.

          Belmont are still comparatively new to bourbon-making and I am rooting for them to get better as they gain experience.

      1. Their distilling and filtering process look great although I prefer potatoes for vodka, saving the corn for bourbon.

        I’d love to give it a try, though. Unfortunately, I am not going to be in Idaho, Arizona or Montana any time soon.

        1. Matt Adams Avatar

          Corn you say, there is plenty of “white Lightening” distilled in VA, even the legal kind.

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Reyka —

      But Everclear is all you need. Cut ~50-50 with water for desired proof and…

      Pour through burnt toast for bourbon
      Add molasses for rum
      Add turpentine for gin
      Add a worm for tequila…
      And so on, and so on

      1. Ah yes, Iceland’s contribution to the world of vodka. It is quite good.

        RE: Turpentine – I’ve found that Sunnyside brand methyl-ethyl-ketone results in a slightly more gin-like flavor…

  11. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    George Jones would have something to say about this:

  12. VaPragamtist Avatar

    I can understand the thought behind this article–not wanting to give Lucas any credit for VA ABC taking Russian-sourced vodka off the shelves.

    And if the author had done a little more research, she would have found that ABC had been planning this about 36 hours before Ben Tribbett (Lucas’s ghost tweeter), had seen other states doing it and suggested it.

    But the idea itself–most certainly not only Lucas’s, but may others’, and days before her–is good. The average person can stand in solidarity against Russian and other foes through seemingly meaningless gestures. I still call them Freedom Fries and refuse to eat Heinz Ketchup.

    1. Which brands of vodka will you be boycotting?

      1. VaPragamtist Avatar

        All but Tito’s. I’m brand loyal.

    2. Matt Adams Avatar

      Berkshire Hathaway own’s Heinz, Sec. Kerry never got a dime from it and it’s manufactured in the US.

      1. VaPragamtist Avatar

        Yeah, you must have missed where I called it a “seemingly meaningless gesture.” Some symbolic gestures lose their meaning if you think too hard about it.

        1. Matt Adams Avatar
          Matt Adams

          Your seemingly meaningless gesture phrase wasn’t tied to your last sentence. Write better.

  13. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Of course, the real elephant in the room is this:

    With 37% in global equities, one has to wonder at Russian and Chinese positions.

    “The market value of the Total Public Equity Program as of June 30, 2021, was $37.2 billion, representing approximately 37% of the total fund. The program is dominated by traditional strategies valued at $28.56 billion or 76.7%. The program also employs equity-oriented hedge fund strategies valued at $8.67 billion or 23.3%. The objective of the portfolio is to exceed the Custom Benchmark over longer-term periods, net of all costs. The current Custom Benchmark is the MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI) IMI (net of VRS tax rates).”

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