About Me

Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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    How Did We Get to Be Vodka Nation?

    By kyle | August 30, 2011

    Vodka was all but unknown in this country prior to World War II and as late as the 50s it wasn’t a terribly popular drink. It doesn’t offer much in the way of taste. So how did it achieve its dominant position starting in the 1960s? Victorino Matus has a superb piece in The Weekly Standard that answered all of my questions. The most hilarious part is when a guy jealous of Absolut’s success decides, hey, I can call up a distillery in France to make my rotgut, slap a “made in France” label on it, charge twice as much as Absolut and pocket the difference.
    It’s really a great advertising story — taking a product that is more or less tasteless (vodka’s official definition is basically that of diluted grain alcohol) — or, even if it isn’t tasteless, has its taste rendered irrelevant by the fact that people almost always mix it with strongly-flavored juices –and branding it as an “aspirational” or luxury product with huge markups. In taste tests, stuff like Smirnoff easily beats the Ketel Ones of the world. It’s also a highly gendered story — vodka, like lite beer, was originally heavily pushed toward women, who saw it as more ladylike than the traditional American brown liquors (and today see it as a calorie-conscious choice). But in the last 20 years, men have become ladies and now shamelessly order concoctions like “Stoli Razz and Sprite.”

    Topics: Advertising | 3 Comments »

    3 Responses to “How Did We Get to Be Vodka Nation?”

    1. CenturionTerminator Says:
      August 31st, 2011 at 10:30 pm

      I thought we were a beer nation?

    2. Floyd R Turbo Says:
      September 1st, 2011 at 5:24 pm

      I thought we were a Cosmo nation. And gawd-awful lite beer

    3. spongeworthy Says:
      September 2nd, 2011 at 6:00 am

      I’ve asked a few bartenders about the most popular liquor among the truly hard-core, day-drinking functional alcoholics. Usually, they tell me vodka. I suppose this is because the drunks feel that it is more difficult to detect on the breath.