Ukrainian Horilka is to vodka as Scotch is to whisky – a unique national take on a spirit. We should all drink this triple-distilled Ukrainian wonder.
Ukrainian Horilka is a terrific drink that is little known in the outside world. It’s time to put that right.
What is Horilka?
“Horilka” is vodka from Ukraine. When I was British ambassador in Kyiv, I ran an unsuccessful campaign to persuade the Ukrainian government to press for geographical indicator status for Horilka. At the time, Swedish, Russian and Finnish friends based in Kyiv all told me that Horilka was better than Swedish, Russian or Finnish equivalents (I shall not identify these wise and sophisticated individuals, as some represented some of the vodka-producing countries mentioned). But so far as I am aware, nothing ever happened.
Ukrainian Horilka: how we can help
Here are two ways in which we can help support Ukraine, through Horilka:
(i) we as consumers should seek out and buy Horilka next time our vodka supplies need topping up. Horilka is excellent – traditionally triple-distilled for extra smoothness. Other countries produce great vodka, too – Polish vodka, say, or Swedish vodka. But none of these – correct me if I’m wrong – are known by a single word encompassing the country of origin and the product. Just as “Bourbon” means whisky from the United States, or “Scotch” means whisky from Scotland, “Horilka” means vodka from Ukraine. It’s unique and deserves wider recognition and more sales. Check it out.
(ii) The outside world – including the European Union – should immediately recognise Horilka as a geographical indicator. Geographical indicators, or GIs, apply when a product originates from a specific country, region or locality. Famous examples include Champagne. You can’t call a drink Champagne unless it comes from the Champagne region of France, even if your product is just as good or better. Irish cream is another GI; so is Parma Ham. Horilka should be one, too. Just as you go into a bar and ask for a “Scotch” rather than just a whisky, or “Champagne” rather than “sparkling wine”, in future people should ask for a “Horilka” rather than a mere vodka.
A long-term project
Boosting Ukrainian Horilka will be a long-term project. Visiting my local supermarkets in Vienna to secure Horilka for this piece I found other brands – including Russian ones – but no Horilka. Putin’s unprovoked and bloody invasion may be temporarily stopping Ukrainian Horilka producers from exporting.
The image of my golden Dürer bunny enjoying a chilled snifter is what Germans call a “Symbolbild” – a symbolic image, as I could not source any Horilka. But if Ukraine emerges intact and – despite the terrible loss of life and suffering – to some degree victorious from the current war, enjoying and protecting Horilka will be a small action we can take to spread Ukrainian values – and quality – around the world.
It’s time to celebrate Ukrainian Horilka.
Russia-Ukraine war: other resources
If you want to know more about why President Putin launched an unprovoked and catastrophic war against Ukraine, see my Russia-Ukraine war explainer. You may also find my post on Reverse Conspiracy theories and Ukraine worth a look.