Cocktails & Spirits

Total Wine Pulls Russian Vodka

Bottles of Russian Standard vodka at a Walgreens store in Hollywood.
Bottles of Russian Standard vodka at a Walgreens store in Hollywood. Photo by Laine Doss
For nearly a week, people around the globe have been horrified by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Celebrity chef and humanitarian José Andrés cut short his hosting duties at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival this past weekend to fly to Poland. The chef is tweeting from Lviv in Ukraine, where he and his World Central Kitchen are helping feed people inside the country.

On this continent, meanwhile, Ohio, Utah, and New Hampshire, along with Ontario, Canada, have called for the removal of Russian imports on store shelves. Closer to Miami, Jupiter-based Charlie & Joe's restaurant, owned by football hall of famer Joe Namath and his business partner Charles Modica, has banned all Russian vodka from its bars.

Public sentiment aside, the moves are purely symbolic. Newsweek reports that Russian vodka, for example, amounts to a little over 1 percent of all vodka consumed in the U.S., with Russian Standard the best-known import. (Many vodka brands that sound Russian are made in other countries. Stolichnaya, for instance, originated in Russia but is now distilled in Latvia. The company has posted a message of solidarity for Ukraine on its website.)

In Miami, home to a sizable Russian community, stores appear to be divided as to whether to pull Russian products from shelves.

At Matryoshka Deli Food in Sunny Isles Beach, as New Times has reported, Russian and Ukrainian products are sold side by side.

Spirits superstore Total Wine, on the other hand, has removed all Russian imports from its shelves, according to Edward Cooper, vice president of public affairs and community relations for the chain. A recent search for Russian vodka on Total Wine's website returned the Ukrainian flag's colors of blue and yellow, along with a link to a selection of Ukrainian vodkas to purchase instead.

In an email to New Times, Cooper included the following statement: "Total Wine & More has ceased the purchase and sale of Russian-made products including vodka. We have removed all Russian-made products from our shelves until further notice. We are ceasing the purchase and sale of Russian-made products in order to protest Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine."
Though rumors have circulated on the internet that Publix had pulled Russian products, when reached by New Times, the grocer's corporate office in Lakeland was noncommittal. A consumer relations representative said that "no current information is available while the situation is currently being discussed."

On a recent visit, the Walgreens Liquors in Hollywood was fully stocked with Russian Standard vodka.

Miami-based caviar retailer Marky's Gourmet will continue selling Russian products as long as they remain available.

"There's a large Russian community in Miami and we have to serve them, an employee at the shop on the 79th Street Causeway said in a phone conversation with New Times. (The company's beluga caviar is harvested from a Florida aquafarm.)
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times, covering the restaurant and bar scene in South Florida. She has been featured on Cooking Channel’s Eat Street and Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race. Doss won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature on what it’s like to wait tables. In a previous life, she appeared off-Broadway and shook many a cocktail as a bartender at venues in South Florida and New York City. When she’s not writing, you can find Doss running some marathon then celebrating at the nearest watering hole.
Contact: Laine Doss