Boy, Oh Boycott: Understanding The Real History Of Stoli Premium Vodka


So, as you may have noticed, there’s been a lot of talk about boycotting Stoli vodka because of its ties to Russia. While the intentions are good, they are a bit misguided. The good queens at Brightest Young Things provided a comprehensive history of the Stolichnaya brand, accompanied by some timely GIFs. The following six more or less give you a vodka-soaked gist of what this boycott is all about and why it’s actually doing more harm than good.

For the sake of transparency, and the fact that there’s probably a Stoli Premium Vodka ad to the right of this story right now, Queerty and our sister site, GayCities, are producing The Original Stoli Guy program with SPI, which makes and distributes Stoli Premium Vodka worldwide and is headquartered in Luxembourg in Western Europe (in other words, not Russia!).

BYT’s Complete History of Stoli Vodka as Told by GIFs, however, is completely unbiased.

So without further ado, let’s set sail on this booze cruise through the history of Stolichnaya, via BYT & Queerty.

Stoli was traditionally a Russian vodka until it was acquired by Russian billionaire Yuri Sheffler, who absconded with the brand in 2001 following a crackdown by President Vladimir Putin on the country’s Scrooge McDucks.

BYT: In the case of Stolichnaya and Sheffler, Putin was all like “I will hunt you down to the end of the Earth and take your vodka company. And Sheffler was like “Whatevs…”


So for the past 12 years, Stoli hasn’t been a Russian company. Rather, it’s owned by SPI, which as stated in the above disclaimer, is headquartered in Luxembourg. But that didn’t keep Putin from setting up his own Stoli, sold exclusively in Russia. You may have noticed Russia does not produce many international brands, only natural resources. That’s because the Russian government tends to usurp and then ruin any good brands. Sweden has more great brands for a country a fraction the size.

BYT: Putin’s zombie Stoli only sells Stolichnaya vodka inside Russia, but it retains the same label and packaging. Think of it as Stoli’s evil Russian twin. But, unless you’re drinking Stolichnaya vodka in Russia, you are not drinking Russian Stoli vodka. You’re drinking Dutch/Latvian vodka.


Putin, being a manly man’s man and generally a giant prick, still wanted to guzzle whatever Stoli outside of Russia that he could.

BYT: So, he decided to go all Legally Blonde and fight Yuri Sheffler in every court he could around the world in order to take control of the Stoli brand.


But he’s lost every battle so far. He has won, however, a campaign to demonize gays with a series of laws banning so-called “propaganda” and the adoption of Russian orphans by same-sex foreign couples.

BYT: That pissed off the gays, and they decided to do something about it.


That’s where Dan Savage stepped in with his #DumpStoli campaign, and as a result the streets have ran drunk with vodka (or aqua) dumped and ditched by gay rights activists and bars alike. The catch, however, is that Stoli’s not actually Russian.

BYT:  “Whatever,” Dan Savage and his ‘Dump Stoli’ friends responded. “At the end of the year Stoli will be a Russian company again.” Well…not exactly. A court in the Hauge ruled that the Stoli brand in the Netherlands, Luxemburg, and Belgium did belong to the Russian Federation. So, it could be possible that Putin could be selling his zombie Stoli vodka in those three countries soon (but, just there). But, it’s still unclear if that will happen. We’ll wait to see what the legal experts have to say.


In the meantime, the DumpStoli campaign isn’t hurting Russia but it is hurting Latvia and its LGBT community, as expressed in a statement by the Latvian LGBT group Mozaika, calling for an end to the boycott:

We would like to draw your attention to the “Dump Stoli! Dump Russian Vodka!” campaign, which is aimed at the Stolichnaya vodka brand. Stolichnaya vodka is not produced in Russia, and it is misleading to say that it is a Russian product. All Stolichnaya vodka for worldwide export is produced in Latvia….As you know, Latvia was under Soviet occupation for over 50 years, therefore we are still very often mistakenly considered to be a part of Russia. Latvia is a proud member of the European Union and is striving to be an open, democratic country.

We would kindly ask you to reconsider your actions in regards to ‘Dump Stoli! Dump Russian Vodka!’ as this campaign will only harm Latvia, Latvia’s economy and employees of the company Latvijas Balzams. It could also backfire and have unintended negative consequences for the extremely fragile LGBT community in Latvia.

BYT: So, can you drink Stoli? If you are outside of Russia, drink up. Not only is Stolichnaya an extremely LGBT friendly brand, every bottle of Stoli vodka sold pisses off Vladimir Putin to no end. We hope that Dan Savage will soon join reality so we can go back to fantasizing about giving him blowjobs.*


*[Ed. Note: 3-Way.]

Make sure to check out the complete history of Stoli over at Brightest Young Things. And click here to read an open letter from Stoli CEO Val Mendeleev to the LGBT community.

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  • Danny

    How much money does Gaycities and Queerty make in advertising dollars from Stoli and its Brands?
    Answer that question! It will truly show the bias and spin of the above article.
    Queerty “Free of an Agenda except that gay one” Bullshit!
    The only Agenda you are interested in is the “Bottom Line”.

  • Sparkyu1

    Bought and sold, Queerty. How much does it cost to buy you?

    You forget that Stoli’s “support” and “open letter” only came in after the controversy – and that they’ve only belatedly added an incomplete non-discrimination policy. “Support” is not the same as “marketed too”. Buying adverts – even here – doesn’t mean they support us. It means they want our money

    And, of course, they do get their products from Russia

    But, most of all, they hold onto their Russian status, they market themselves as Russian vodka. Russian is seen as a mark of quality to be proud of. With the homophobia, it should be a mark of shame and boycotting is part of that – it is saying that advertising yourself as Russian is not a selling point while Russia persecutes GBLT people

  • Sparkyu1

    You can see how much Stoli pushes its “Russian-ness” as a selling point:

    But hey, they’re giving you money, that counts as support, right?

  • Zach

    Bravo, guys! Thanks for bringing this forward!

  • boring

    You guys act as if you didn’t install Adblock, yo.

  • MK Ultra

    Wait a minute. I was always on the fence about the Stoli boycott.
    But as I understand this article, Latvia is now making demands and threats?
    “Either give us money or we will punish our LGBT”?
    Holding human rights hostage? That was basically a threat disguised as a comment.
    And Stolichnaya’s obvious PR tactics disguised as support are condescending at best.
    I’m now fully on board with the boycott. The old Sovjetskii sojuz together again.
    Stolichnaya and Latvia can both GTFO as far as I’m concerned.

  • Polaro

    Well, Latvia is much better than Russia, but it still is not very good. While being gay is no longer illegal there, there is a lot of anti-gay violence that goes unchallenged. I’m on the fence on this one. How about we just ask the nice CIA to administer polonium-210 to Putin and his gang of thugs. I mean, what are we paying taxes for?

  • boring

    Here’s an idea. Maybe you shouldn’t be drinking alcohol anyway. Just do what I do instead: cocaine.

  • Kenover

    This is a complete load of crap and you know it. First of all, there isn’t “talk” of boycotting Stoli…it’s happening all over the US from NYC to San Francisco and all across Europe too. And where do you get off trivializing the persecution and murder of Russian gays and lesbians with cutesy little video clips? Shame on you, Queerty!

    Stolichnaya Vodka is owned by SPI (Soyuzplodimport) Group, which is controlled by Yuri Scheffler, a Russian oligarch who sails around the world in a $300 million yacht and is one of the 100 richest men in Russia. If you think he doesn’t have any influence with Vladimir Putin, you don’t know how the world works. The company is incorporated in Luxembourg for tax reasons and the vodka is distilled in Latvia from Russian ingredients imported from farms in Russia that SPI Group owns. If that’s not a Russian company then Honda and Sony are not a Japanese companies.

    Go ask Coors Beer and the Coors family whether boycotts work or not. For those who don’t remember, the Coors family supported right-wing, homophobic organizations and causes like the Heritage Institute and the American Enterprise Institute, which is their right, but they also tried to bust the brewery workers union and unfairly fired gay and lesbian employees in 1977 — setting off a decade-long boycott of Coors beer in the gay community. After a bitter fight and a change in management, Coors encouraged gay and lesbian workers to organize and in May 1995 Coors became the 21st publicly traded US corporation to extend employee benefits to same-sex partners — long before most other companies.

    Don’t let anyone tell you boycotts don’t work; they do! More importantly, they bring public scrutiny and condemnation upon the wrongdoers. Business is about making money and, as has been noted many times before, money talks.

    SPI Group understands the power of boycotts all too well, which is why they’ve mounted a major PR campaign to protect their LGBT market share. Suddenly the Stoli website has gone rainbow gay and PR flacks are shouting out the company’s support for LGBT rights. And they’re buying positive press at media outlets like Queerty by “sponsoring” events that pour cash into your coffers. If they really want to do something positive, they should stop the PR charm offensive and take all this money and donate to underfunded Russian LGBT organizations that are under siege and mount a media campaign against the oppression of gays and lesbians in Russia, but they don’t — because there’s no profit in it for them. So they continue funding this cynical PR campaign to keep gays in the West swilling Stoli — a mediocre vodka at best.

    I salute all gay bars who have stopped serving Stoli….and all publications that refuse their bloody hush money. But it’s not just this company. All LGBT people of conscience should BOYCOTT ALL RUSSIAN PRODUCTS AND THE 2014 SOCHI OLYMPICS. Hit them where it hurts…in the wallet and the court of public opinion. Putin is a vain little dictator who cares about this image in the world. Actions must have consequences. Make Putin, the Duma, and the Russian Orthodox Church pay for this anti-gay pogrom!

  • zaneymcbanes

    All right. I was going back and forth about the Stoli boycott and this has pushed me back into the being okay with buying it camp. And I do like it quite a bit. It’s a solid vodka. I hadn’t realized that about Putin creating the phantom Stoli company and that court ruling only hypothetically applying to the Netherlands, Belgium, etc.

    And as for the whole pro-Russian argument, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Russia. It’s Putin and his crazy policies. My cousin (who’s also gay) lived there for quite some time and told me something great. He said, “I love Russia. But not that Russia.”

  • Kevin

    They depend upon decades of identification as a Russian product. Boycott, and make them defend their brand in this globalized world market.

  • DarkZephyr

    Oh My GOD the article is accurate though. Stoli has nothing to do with what Russia is doing. Persistence in Ignorance is SO destructive.

  • MK Ultra

    @Polaro: I agree completely. But I think America likes having Russia as a rival once again.
    @zaneymcbanes: I agree to this too. Russians have faced very hard conditions for a very long time. They are used to violence and periods of instability. Putin, his government, and most importantly the Orthodox church are what’s behind this piece of “blame a minority so you don’t pay attention to our real problems” propaganda.
    @DarkZephyr: I don’t know about that. They now proudly advertise that their vodka is produced in Latvia – that’s not a good thing considering Latvia is pretty harsh on their LGBT too.
    @Kenover: Well said!

  • TheMarc

    @Kenover: Yes by all means…boycotts work!! Remember that company Chik Fil A was it? Oh wait, I know that’s the name of the company because they’re still very much in business. Don’t drop BS about how all boycotts work especially in this example. Latvian, Russian, or Klingon; it does not matter where Stoli or any other Russian vodka is made, Russia’s recent crack down on the LGBT community was a decision made by…RUSSIA, not SPI. SPI/Stoli can go bankrupt tomorrow and it will not have the tiniest impact on Putin’s mind set. International political pressure (write your congressman type stuff) is the only thing that will garner the desired response from Russia. And speaking of trivializing this crisis, I know it’s probably totes trendy to pour out Russian vodka, etc. but it as I mentioned before, it will have little impact on actual policy as SPI Group or any Russian vodka maker is not actually the Russian government. So all this boycott does is create yet more armchair and velvet rope activists who get to hold their head up high as they have defended gay rights in Russia by ordering a Sky and soda versus a Stoli and soda. Bars get great PR by having “dump Stoli” nights. Yay! Look at them they’re doing…something.

    Oh and by the way, a lot of outrage over this deplorable, anti-gay atmosphere in Russia…but when do we start boycotting Jamaican products? Why hasn’t that caught on yet? How about a community wide travel boycott to all of the Middle Eastern countries who are anti-gay? Oh, I know people in this community mention it. They chide and make fun of Uganda for a day or two; but where is the great cry for change for the LGBT community in these countries? Gee I wonder what’s different about Russia?

  • Cam

    @TheMarc: said… “Yes by all means…boycotts work!! Remember that company Chik Fil A was it? Oh wait, I know that’s the name of the company because they’re still very much in business. Don’t drop BS about how all boycotts work especially in this example


    Chik Fil A…you mean the company that got a store kicked off the Campus of Emory University? You mean the store whose board told the owner he needed to shut up and stop spouting anti-gay rhetoric? You mean the company that was refused openings in Boston and Chicago? You mean the company that after a one day surge has had declining sales?

    Oh yeah, but Boycotts don’t work…..remember Target? They went from their CEO donating money to anti-gay causes and telling gays to F-off, to having large mutual funds threaten to dump their stock if they didn’t knock it off, they then disavowed his donations and donated money to gay causes, Coors Beer, same thing, etc…

    But oh yeah, boycotts don’t work do they?

  • TheMarc

    @Cam: And how exactly do you imagine this boycott “working?” The goal of the Chik Fil A boycott wasn’t simply to produce a decline in business, but for them to change their anti-gay policies. Which they didn’t.

    And remind me how much Stoli does the Russian government produce and distribute in the US?

  • Ottoman

    I guess Queerty missed the part of the open letter from Stoli’s CEO that said all the ingredients are sourced directly from Russia.

  • Polaro

    @Kenover: Actually, the boycott hurt the Coors brand rather significantly. Did not change the company’s behavior because it was owned outright by a bigot.

  • 2eo

    Notice how these articles are always posted by “Editors” not one of the so called journalists has the slightest amount of bottle or integrity to attach their name to the cretinous drivel.

  • LaTeesha

    Wow. A desperate move by Queerty to justify supporting one of its advertisers. Shameful and one of the reasons Queerty remains a tabloid site.

  • Cam


    Mark, you said “@Cam: And how exactly do you imagine this boycott “working?” The goal of the Chik Fil A boycott wasn’t simply to produce a decline in business, but for them to change their anti-gay policies. Which they didn’t.”

    No, actually the goal of the boycott is to show other companies and politicians that it is bad for their business to be anti-gay. Chick Fil A lost stores and money, mission accomplished.

    You seem to be incredibly invested in not boycotting, may I ask why you seem to be taking this personally?

  • Spike

    Ahh, Queerty sticking up for it’s advertisers. Shock & awe. That’s gay journalism for your!

    Wonder what Queerty would be posting if the margins weren’t plastered with stoli ads. Probably postings about guys in their underwear.

  • TheMarc

    @Cam: Ok fine, ya know what if that’s a victory, I concede the Chik Fil A effort. Never have to mention it again. My apologies. Now how do you imagine the boycotting of Stoli playing out? How exactly would you equate Chik Fil A and Stoli?

    As far as my “investment” in not boycotting, I have no financial interest in any of the companies involved. If you are detecting a sense of passion it is derived from the fact that some seem hell bent on attacking a company that has in the past supported the LGBT community (if for no other reason than they realize being pro-LGBT is good for business) because of actions of a government with which they have no direct affiliation other than sharing a country of origin. And that upsets me. Action for action’s sake is offensively stupid. If someone wants change they should at least direct their efforts at the source of their frustration.

    Punishing a company with incidental ties to Russia that has provided past support for this community is like killing your friend to spite your enemy. And the enemy, the Russian government, could care less if Stoli falls off the face of the Earth.

    By the way, I don’t appear to be any more passionate or personally invested in this debate than you. So why are you so intent on making sure the boycott continues?

  • AxelDC

    It’s just too easy to buy great Swedish and French vodka that a boycott would be simple for gays.

    I’d take Svedka or Pinnacle over Stoli anyway.

  • BabyGurlJessi

    Why is it that Stoli is the only Brand that is being boycotted when there are a lot more vodka brand out there that are made in Russia the largest being Russian Standard which sells over 20 million cases a year

  • Cam


    You are the one defending Stoli, I have never said to boycott them, I corrected your false statements that boycotts don’t work, which you have now conceded to me.

  • BigWoody

    Stoli’s Latvian bottling plant is in the city of Riga. Ethnic Russians make up 40% of the population of Riga. By comparison, 27% of Latvia’s total population are ethnic Russians.

    According to Wikipedia; “Most people in Latvia have prejudices against homosexuality, usually rooted in social conservatism and lingering preconceptions dating from the Soviet period. Anti-gay sentiments have recently been increasingly exploited by various religious groups and POLITICIANS.
    Lesbians and gays are often attacked in the streets or in meeting places and can make no criminal charge against their attackers.

    SPI owns and operates two distilleries in Russia, including the largest distillery in Russia. This is where the raw alcohol for Stolichnaya is distilled.
    Nearly all of the processing of Stolichnaya occurs in Russia. Only the final step occurs in Latvia. The Russian distillery in which it is made and the factory in which it is bottled in Latvia are owned by SPI.
    The SPI Group, the company that owns the Stolichnaya brand has never claimed that Stolichnaya is anything but a Russian vodka, and they continue to reinforce that claim in most world market (excluding the United States). They benefit worldwide from the Russian branding. Text with links to sources is here —

    In the above article, BYT states:
    “So for the past 12 years, Stoli hasn’t been a Russian company. Rather, it’s owned by SPI, … is headquartered in LUXEMBOURG”
    “A court in the Hauge ruled that the Stoli brand in the Netherlands, LUXEMBURG, and Belgium did belong to the Russian Federation. So, it could be possible that Putin could be selling his zombie Stoli vodka in those three countries soon”
    SO… the evil Stoli will be sold where the good Stoli is headquartered?

    @DarkZephyr: “Stoli has nothing to do with what Russia is doing.” Yeah, and Florida orange juice had nothing to do with what Anita Bryant was doing… exept for MONEY!

    The boycott serves a very real purpose by alerting the world and the Russian people how dangerous Putin’s fascist control is becoming. Putin must be modeling his current political campaign to control the masses after Karl Rove’s philosophy of bringing out the conservative base by scapegoating the homos.

    I will not watch the 2014 Olympics. I say we boycott Queerty, and Smirnoff too, just for the hell of it. Can someone recommend another snarky gay tabloid site that is not sucking on Stoli’s teet?

  • TheMarc

    @Cam: Well let me stop ya right there. My statement was roughly that not ALL boycotts work; since you appear to be such a student of semantics and so on. So am I to understand your sole motivation for engaging me was to point out a boycott that did “work” and you have no “dog in this fight?” I find that odd since it was YOU who questioned my motives for my defense of Stoli. Why would my motives for my response matter when ultimately all you wanted to show me was that my use of Chick Fil A as an example was not a good example of a boycott not working?

  • Rob Moore

    I guess I cannot boycott what I don’t buy anyway. I remained loyal to Absolut, which supported LGBT causes long before the Russians renamed the Politburo back to the Dumas and changed the letters for the KGB.

Comments are closed.