WASHINGTON, June 11 (RIA Novosti) – Well-known US entertainment personalities are lending their names and faces to vodka, helping propel a spirit once little known in the United States to the most popular liquor in the country, industry experts say.
From actors Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray, to rapper P Diddy, Russian-born ballet legend Mikhail Barishnikov and others, celebrity-endorsed brands are also part of a boom in the number of vodka producers and marketers, they say.
Vodka has gone from “a very, very small part of the market that didn’t even appear in a cocktail book” during the Prohibition era in the 1920s to the clear favorite spirit of Americans, who last year bought more than 65 million cases of 12 bottles of vodka each, Noah Rothbaum, author of “The Business of Spirits”, told RIA Novosti.
“That’s a pretty meteoric rise to go from an obscure spirit to the biggest in less than 100 years,” Rothbaum said.
According to popular legend, Vodka, a staple for centuries in Russia and elsewhere in eastern and northern Europe, got its first big bump up the US popularity scale in 1962 when British secret agent James Bond, played by Sean Connery, was offered a vodka martini – shaken, not stirred – by his nemesis Dr. No in the Bond movie by the same name.
Since then, various vodka labels have harnessed the talents and notoriety of celebrities to push their products.
Ciroc vodka, which is distilled from grapes (unlike most vodka which is made from grain or potatos) was going nowhere in the United States until rapper P Diddy (real name Sean Combs) came on board in 2007. Two years later, sales had increased nearly seven-fold.
Comedian Dan Aykroyd went one better than P Diddy and created his own vodka brand, called Crystal Head, in 2008. Aykroyd’s vodka is reportedly filtered through quartz crystals that allegedly impart spiritual qualities to the beverage.
Besides having the star of “The Blues Brothers” as its founding father, Crystal Head got another celebrity boost in April this year when a limited edition gift set was created to mark the 50th anniversary of rock ‘n’ roll legends, the Rolling Stones.
Two months earlier, Aykroyd’s vodka won a gold medal for excellent taste at the international tasting contest at the PRODEXPO exhibition in Moscow.
Former Kirov and American Ballet Company dancer and choreographer Barishnikov has teamed up with actor Bill Murray to introduce Slovenia vodka to Americans. The vodka is reportedly made with water from the Slovenian alps and is only available in a limited number of US markets.