Old Port Spirits and Cigar in Portland removed its supply of Stolichnaya vodka from the shelves. Store manager Josh Flynn is pictured with the warehoused bottles of Stoli on Monday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Maine restaurants, bars and liquor stores are pulling several brands of vodka from their shelves in a symbolic effort to condemn the invasion of Ukraine – even though little of the vodka sold here actually comes from Russia.

Gov. Janet Mills has joined the effort and on Monday called on Maine spirit retailers and restaurants to remove Russian-made spirits from their shelves and for the state Liquor and Lottery Commission to delist the products as a “symbolic but clear sign that Maine stands with Ukraine.” Governors in several other states have made similar moves in recent days.

Delisting would prevent additional Russian-made spirits from making their way to Maine retail and restaurant shelves until further notice, the governor’s office said in a news release. The commission must vote to delist a product. 

“Maine stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine in the face of this abhorrent, unprovoked assault on their country, their freedom and their lives,” Mills said in a statement. “As we bear witness to the escalating tensions, I support the Biden administration’s efforts to implement aggressive sanctions that punish Russia and cripple its economy. …”

Maine is not the first state to take a stand against allowing imports from Russia.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed an executive order over the weekend that directed state-run liquor and wine outlets to stop sales of Russian-made products. Other states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio and Utah, have issued similar boycotts.


Former Maine Gov. Paul LePage, the Republican front-runner to take on Mills in the November election, issued a statement Monday urging Mills to take action and ban all Russian-made products.

“It is a move which will signal our state’s resolve against Russian aggression,” LePage said. “We should stand up and show support for Ukraine.”


Many Maine retailers and restaurants had already removed Russian vodkas – and a few non-Russian ones – from their shelves and menus before the governor’s announcement Monday.

Russian Standard and Hammer + Sickle are the only two Russian-made spirits sold in Maine. Many of the big-name vodka brands such as Smirnoff, New Amsterdam, Pinnacle, Orloff and SKYY are distilled domestically. 

In fact, only about 1 percent of the vodka imported into the United States in the first half of 2021 was from Russia, according to a report from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.


But the correlation between Russia and vodka, especially Russian-sounding brands, has been hard to shake.

Stolichnaya, or Stoli, for example, has been boycotted by several businesses across the country, with videos circulating online of bartenders and store owners pouring it down the drain. But despite its Russian roots, Stoli is made in Latvia, is owned by a Luxembourg company and has spoken out against the invasion.

Old Port Spirits and Cigar removed its supply of Stolichnaya vodka from the shelves. Owner Jacques deVillier said that although the vodka is made in Latvia, he heard that the grains come from Russia and wanted to do his part to support Ukraine. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Many Maine businesses, too, have removed Stoli from their shelves, along with Smirnoff and other brands that actually hail from Russia.

Jacques deVillier, owner of Old Port Spirits and Cigars, quietly removed all Stoli products from shelves over the weekend.

At the time, he didn’t know it wasn’t made in Russia. But even afterward, deVillier stood by his decision to halt sales. He said Tito’s Handmade Vodka – based in Texas – is the shop’s largest vodka brand, anyway.

“I think it sends a signal,” he said about the decision. “We need to stand up for freedom.”


A former military intelligence officer, deVillier said he’s been impressed by the Ukrainians and their bravery and wishes there was more he could do.

“I’m just angry. Those poor people, they didn’t want a war, they were just minding their own business,” he said. “I didn’t do it for a response, I did it for myself. I had to do something.”


Montsweag Farm Restaurant in Woolwich is undergoing a few renovations this week, which owner Wayne Wescott said provided a good opportunity to give the bar a bit of a refresh. That included removing Stoli and Hammer + Sickle from its offerings. 

It won’t have much impact on the business, and it won’t make any difference in the conflict, but Wescott wants to do anything he can to show support for Ukraine. 

Wescott said he is also trying to find other ways, such as potentially bringing in a Ukrainian vodka brand or possibly ordering custom “Stand with Ukraine” T-shirts for staff. 


Roger Tracy, owner of Skip’s Lounge in Buxton, also stopped selling Stoli and Smirnoff over the weekend as a symbolic gesture. 

It’s a fine line, he said: There are Russian-American customers who come in regularly, and he doesn’t want to disrespect them, but it’s a small stance he’s able to take. 

If anything, it’s an opportunity to promote more Maine-based alcohols, Tracy said. 

Cold River Vodka, a Freeport-based distillery, expects to see that same thought reflected in customer demand. 

Stoli is one of the brand’s main competitors for blueberry vodka, and Cold River owner Chris Dowe said his company is likely to see an increase in sales as Stoli and other products continue to be removed from shelves. 

“It’s great for us but kind of weird,” he said about videos circulating of people pouring out their Stoli. “It’s extreme, but I can understand people’s thoughts.” 


Dowe expressed concern for brokers who rely on sales of large vodka names such as Stoli and Smirnoff. 

“It’ll affect people that live here,” he said. 

Old Port Spirits and Cigar store manager Josh Flynn organizes bottles where the now-removed vodka products had been at the store on Monday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Hannigan’s Island Market on Peaks Island also announced over the weekend that the store would no longer stock Russian vodka in support of Ukraine.

The store removed Smirnoff and Stoli from its shelves, owner Bob Hannigan said.

Even though those companies aren’t from Russia, the symbolism was the important part, he said.

It’s unclear how other Maine businesses and organizations might approach Russian exports, whether they be products or arts and culture.

The Portland Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Concert Series is scheduled to kick off June 25 with a performance of 19th-century Russian composer Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, along with Beethoven’s Concerto in D Major, at the Seaside Pavilion in Old Orchard Beach.

Executive Director Carolyn Nishon said Monday that no programming changes had been made in reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but “we will be bringing together members of the organization to discuss it more fully.”

Staff Writer Eric Russell contributed to this report.

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