This Might Be The Only Reason People Drink Grey Goose Vodka

What is vodka, really? Before federal regulators expanded the definition of the spirit in 2020 to allow a little sugar and citric acid, vodka was a neutral spirit with no color, aroma, taste, or character (via Food & Wine). While the recent government rule change allows flavor and character to officially enter the world of vodka, Francois Thibault, the creator of Grey Goose vodka, insists nothing whatsoever is added to his brand (via Alcademics). Grey Goose is fermented winter wheat, grown in the Picardy region of France, that is then distilled to nearly pure alcohol. The high-proof distillate is then shipped to Cognac, where Grey Goose adds water from its private well to bring its product down to 80 proof.

So what are you getting for your money when you buy Grey Goose? Studies using wine have shown that our brains trick us into believing something tastes better if it costs more (via Science Daily). Grey Goose is three times more expensive than Costco's store-brand French vodka, which has outscored Grey Goose in blind taste tests (via Business Insider). Could that be all there is to the Grey Goose phenomenon? Do people drink it because it's expensive, not because it's good? If George Clooney had one of those big, 1.75-liter bottles of Kirkland vodka prominently displayed at his in-home bar, would everyone else come to their senses?

Clearly, people aren't drinking Grey Goose for the taste

Liquor reviewers who aren't allowing their brains to be rewired by Grey Goose's price tag don't like the vodka. Spirits Review and others dismiss it as "avian fashion victim" vodka, suggesting that people are only buying Grey Goose for its name and associated hipness. Spirits Review gave Grey Goose a four-out-of-10 rating, with a score of two out of 10 on value. The refined palates of the tasters at The New York Times tried 20 high-end vodkas in 2005 when the whole super-premium vodka fashion craze was in full swing. Oh, and they threw a commoner called Smirnoff into the competition, just for fun. Smirnoff wound up being the overall favorite. Grey Goose didn't even crack the top 10 and was said to be unbalanced and overly sweet.

The reason people drink Grey Goose, according to marketing experts, has nothing to do with taste. The vodka is an "everyday luxury" that a lot of people can afford. That Rolex on that hedge-fund manager's wrist might be out of our price range, but we can afford to splurge on the same Grey Goose martini he's drinking (via New York).

Grey Goose is a lesson in how to build a luxury brand

Grey Goose was the brainchild of American businessman Sidney Frank, who in the 1990s decided to make his new vodka in France, to lend it that country's air of artisanal superiority. He invented the category of super-premium vodka with the following strategy: In order to beat the best-selling premium vodka at the time, which was Absolut, he created a new vodka, made it in fancy France rather than rough-and-tumble Russia or Sweden, and charged nearly double what Absolut asks for a bottle of vodka.

What's the final step in creating a super-premium vodka that will succeed? Marketing. First, take it to the trendiest bars in New York City, and put it in the hands of the trendiest people there. (Wait, was that Ethan Hawke?) Finally, pay for product placement so that the leads in Sex and the City are ordering Grey Goose on the show (via Spencer Brenneman). 

You have the beautiful and famous drinking the most expensive vodka on the shelf. So it has to be the best, right? Either that or maybe you want to keep your Costco membership current and be happy with your bottle of Kirkland.