Truth from Dare: Snubbing Stolichnaya

Aug. 1, 2013 | 3 Comments

BY DERIN DEREGO / Special to the Star-Advertiser

Anyone who knows me knows my drink of choice is Stolichnaya vodka and water with a splash of lemon. Always the socially conscious consumer, I was slightly alarmed when I heard rumblings of a Stoli boycott.

Apparently, the Russian government recently passed several laws targeting homosexuality, making it illegal to support gay rights, distribute homosexual propaganda, and of course, for gays to engage in public displays of affection.

stoliThe international gay community has been reeling from the passing and subsequent enforcement of these laws. In efforts to put pressure on the Russian government to rethink their actions, gay activists have called for a number of responses from the gay community and leaders of world powers. The proposals are as extreme as boycotting the 2014 Olympics and pulling the visas of Russian politicians, to boycotting my favorite vodka.

While I find laws that deny a specific group basic human rights appalling, I don’t think the answer is to single out one company. Especially a company that has supported the LGBT community long before it became en vogue to do so. Stoli has sponsored gay pride celebrations for more than a decade, and in 2006 the company produced “Be Real: Stories from Queer America,” a series of short documentary films featuring remarkable achievements by members of the LGBT community.

Punishing one company won’t make a backwards regime that considers homosexuality a choice rethink their beliefs. Activists should look for solutions likely to make a real difference, and calling for large corporations to boycott all things Russian seems like it might have a bigger impact.

One activist suggested that instead of boycotting the Olympics, which would hurt the athletes most, why not call on their sponsors, like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, to rethink their investments during the 2014 games in Russia. Such an act would put pressure on Russia to abandon their inhumane laws, or at the very least, suspend them during the games.

The latter would at least give visitors and athletes some peace of mind, since Russian leaders have said the laws apply to tourists as well — meaning if you’re a gay athlete competing in the Olympics and you are caught holding hands with your significant other, you could be thrown in jail.

In any case, I’m definitely not going to ditch one of the key components of my favorite cocktail just because it has ties to an archaic regime. It should also be noted that while Stoli is considered a premium Russian vodka, it’s actually produced in Latvia, which was once part of the USSR but is not part of Russia. If activists are going to call on people to boycott a company, they should probably do some research first.

In less political news, this weekend is chopped up with lot of to-do events. Aside from the usual Friday (this week is a First Friday in Chinatown) and Saturday festivities, prepare yourself for Sunday, Aug. 4, when scenester brunching returns with “Afternoon Delight” at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach.

Later that day, head to the Queen Kapiolani Hotel’s pool deck for the kickoff of “DRIP Day Club,” a new monthly pool party. Then cap the night off at the Modern Honolulu’s “Ice Cream Sundays” party at The Study.

Yes, summer is in full swing — and since we dodged a tropical storm this week (for the most part), make the most of this weekend by taking advantage of some fun Sunday offerings.
When he’s not out and about at the hottest parties and other events in Honolulu, Derin “Dare” Derego works as an account executive at a local radio station group. Reach him via email at or follow him on Twitter.

  • Christa Wittmier

    ” If activists are going to call on people to boycott a company, they should probably do some research first.” TRUTH FROM DARE!!

  • Steve Forseth

    How utterly insensitive for Derego to say: ” I’m definitely not going to ditch one of the key components of my favorite cocktail just because it has ties to an archaic regime.” I bet you purchase Nazi manufactured soap from WWII too!

    ““A lot of people are saying, ‘We can’t do this, we can’t do that,’” says Harvey Fierstein, “You can do everything!”

    Stoli’s marketing to the LGBT in the US is truly impressive. But, before the announcement of this boycott, Stoli did not spend one ruble to advocate for the LGBT’s in Russia.

    Also Derego states activists “should probably do some research first,” regarding the connection of Stoli with Russia. Apparently Derego didn’t do his own research

    Stoli (parent company SPI Group) still has deep roots within Russia!
    When Stoli stops sourcing their ingredients from Russia, then perhaps we can call off the Stoli boycott .
    The actual facts about Stoli/SPI’s involvement in Russia can be checked out on the company’s website:

    What information will you find there?
    1. Two of SPI’s three production facilities are located in Russia (in Perm and Tambov).
    2. The distillery in Tambov is Russia’s largest.
    3. SPI is the world’s largest exporter of Russian vodka.
    4. While SPI cannot sell Stolichnaya in Russia, it does sell a long list of other vodka brands that it produces in Russia.
    5. The company purchases 85,000 tons of Russian grain per year.
    6. SPI’s agricultural subsidiary, Raduga, farms 3,700 hectares of land in Russia.
    7. Besides its production facilities and farmland, SPI has other significant real estate holdings in Russia.