I was re-watching “The Sopranos” the other day. I highly recommend it, as the series holds up, but in Season Three, I was jolted by a jarringly inauthentic moment. An alleged Russian mobster pours drinks for himself and Tony Soprano… of Grey Goose vodka.
Now, I realize the French have made quite a reputation for themselves in matters of gastronomy and intoxication. Their wine, their cheese, their duck confit; far be it from me to push the people out of their well-deserved lane. To be honest, their accomplishments generally outshine my own hereditary Slavs in that department.
But vodka, vodka we know.
Contra your neighborhood hipster bar, there is no such thing as “craft vodka.” Vodka is vodka, and there are only two kinds of it at the end of the day. There’s the good kind, which tastes like melted ice and allows you to conduct your business in the morning, and the bad kind, which comes in a plastic bottle and tastes like a draining fluid hangover, but has the advantage of being a cheap buzz until you wake up with a spike through your temple. Grey Goose is the latter, priced like a fine bottle from Reims.
Whoever decided that we should extend the gourmet trust the French have rightfully earned in other arenas to vodka should be tried by a jury of his peers and executed in the street.
Yes, in the coronavirus-free heyday of the 2010s, Grey Goose had a good PR department pitch. They convinced customers their product was the equivalent of a bottle of Dom for marked-up table service—that buying it communicated a certain sophistication, written in dollar signs, to the surrounding clientele.
But let’s be honest, in terms of quality, you’d be better off purchasing a $25 fifth of Finlandia or Stoli from the local liquor store than spending the big bucks on a bottle of Grey Goose, which, if the company was more candid, would come in a plastic bottle like Popov.
In a sense, the most offensive thing about Grey Goose is the transparent reliance on marketing to absolve all sins. Look, I know this is America, advertising capital of the world, but some things are sacred.
In some tension with its French roots, Grey Goose is all marketing, no cattle. Apparently the company managed to get itself declared “the winning shot” of the U.S. Open, which is why during my one attendance at that sporting event over the years, I consigned myself to drinking it.
To be fair, with the amount of melon involved in the Open’s signature cocktail, you can hardly taste how crappy the vodka is. But that’s the sort of thing that ought to be confined to college parties and the lowest shelf at the store, and that’s exactly what offends me about Grey Goose.
Even the French origin of Grey Goose is more smoke than fire. Although it’s produced in France, the brand was conceived by the same American who started importing Jägermeister, another alcohol disappointment. The label is now owned by Bacardi.
I realize it’s 2020. I understand that insipid “influencers” now rule popular taste, and that they’re probably no worse than the tastemakers who came before them.
But please, leave vodka out of this neoliberal branding nightmare. Save your money, and order something else. Your wallet, and your virtual presentation in the morning, will thank you.