Smirnoff Red Label #21


Smirnoff Red Label #21 vodka

the immigrant and the mule

This is a review of Smirnoff Red Label #21 vodka from the US. I sampled it in Germany in 2010. It’s clear, 40% alcohol, and I thought it was a bit disappointing.

This vodka seems to be one of the most dominating vodka brands in Western Europe and in the US. Most German bars I’ve been to were basically stacked with Smirnoff Red Label #21 vodka.

Russian soldiers

I was wondering why it was so popular, so I asked the internet. What I found out was that most of the Russian soldiers who were stationed in East Germany in the 1990s used to enjoy spending their money on three things: Marlboro cigarettes, Levy’s jeans, and Smirnoff Red Label #21 vodka.

Russians buying American vodka? Fascinating.

the odyssey of Smirnoff Red Label #21

But is Smirnoff really American? It’s currently owned by Diageo, a huge beverage alcohol company from the UK that also owns Ketel One and Ciroc:

Diageo site
from on September 27th 2021

But does that make it British? I went to, a slick site where the brand boasts of being THE WORLD’S #1 VODKA and offers cocktail recipes. Also the bottle design seems to have changed a bit:

Smirnoff vodka site
from on September 27th 2021

There’s a brief introduction to the history of Smirnoff, and it says that the Smirnovs created it in Russia in the 19th century before emigrating first to Turkey and then to France. They eventually ended up licensing production to a Russian from New York City.

So I guess you could say Smirnoff Red Label #21 vodka is American now.

The Mule

And another thing: apparently the Smirnoff brand was involved in the invention of the Moscow Mule in 1941?

Moscow Mule on Smirnoff vodka site
from on September 27th 2021


what’s up with the taste, though

Okay, time for a review of Smirnoff Red Label #21 vodka: I bought this bottle for 11€/700ml, so I guess the price is pretty competitive. The bottle design was okay, but I like the newly redesigned version better.

But what about the taste? Sorry, but I thought it was average. It fought too much on the way down. And the aftertaste was boring. There’s not much I can say about it at all.

mix it

I have no clue why this stuff is so popular, but I think it is one of those vodkas which should be consumed with lots and lots of fruit juice. Or be made into a Moscow Mule.