How Stoli Is Trying To Help Ukraine's Refugees

Stoli is doubling down on its efforts to show that it stands with Ukraine. In a press release issued earlier today, the vodka company announced it will release a limited-edition bottle with the colors of the Ukrainian flag covering it in markets that include the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy, and Latvia.

Money made from the product will be donated to World Central Kitchen, the nonprofit food organization led by Chef José Andrés. The group has been coordinating food deliveries on the frontlines to Ukrainian citizens and the refugees fleeing the country. Recently, a partner of World Central Kitchen was even hit by a Russian airstrike because they happened to be in the frontline city of Kharkiv. "As Ukrainians continue to suffer unimaginable losses, we are doing our small part to show unequivocal support," Damian McKinney, Stoli Group's CEO, explained. "This Stoli Vodka bottle will not only provide financial resources to Ukraine but is also a symbol of solidarity."

Additionally, Stoli has initiated a "Cocktails for Ukraine" program that "encourages bars and restaurants" as well as customers to donate a dollar for every Stoli cocktail sold, though it's unclear why the donation is simply recommended instead of handled by the vodka company directly.

Stoli is trying to appear less Russian

This is the second move Stoli has made to establish a reputation as an anti-invasion vodka. In early March, it decided to rename all the vodka it sells outside of Russia from Stolichnaya to Stoli. Speaking to Food & Wine, the company said this was to demonstrate "the founder's vehement position on the Putin regime; the Stoli employees determination [sic] to take action; and the desire to accurately represent Stoli's roots in Latvia."

This "desire to accurately represent Stoli's roots" could be genuine. However, it's hard not to see it as a reaction to the world's decision to boycott Russian goods in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. As CNN reported in late February, this went as far as state governments attempting to have liquor stores remove Russian vodka. But, as the piece notes, most vodka isn't even made in Russia. We know Stoli is made in Latvia, and CNN additionally points out that while Smirnoff was originally Russian, it's now owned by a British company and is made in Illinois.

Still, because few people are aware of the actual production behind Russian-seeming vodkas, brands like Stoli seem to feel the need to overplay the fact that they're not Russian. At least they're benefitting World Central Kitchen in doing so.