Mike Hickman, owner of Missouri Mike's, samples his new drink concoction. It's called "Eff-Putin" and is in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Hickman is replacing all his Russian vodka with Ukrainian vodka to show his support for Ukraine. (Photo: Missouri Mikes)

OPINION |

In his own entrepreneurial way, Mike Hickman, owner of two Springfield restaurants, supports Ukraine.

Today, you can drink his Russian vodka — which he had already purchased and wants to get rid of without having to toss it down the drain — and the sale proceeds go to humanitarian efforts to help the Ukrainian people.

Tomorrow, you can drink the new vodka he’s stocking to replace the Russian vodka. It’s called Nemoriff  — made in Ukraine

Similarly, proceeds will go to help the Ukrainian people.

Either way, you get to drink vodka.

Hickman’s establishments are Missouri Mike’s BBQ & More, 2833 W. Chestnut Expressway, and Missouri Mike’s, 1724 E. Battlefield Road.

“We are not going to shut down the Russian government,” he says. “It’s about supporting Ukraine — and not Putin.”

His vodka campaign initially had the Code Name “Eff-Russia,” he says. 

But on reflection, he narrowed the focus to “Eff-Putin.”

A screwdriver the colors of the Ukrainian flag

“Eff-Putin” just happens to be the name of his new version of a screwdriver, which is made with vodka floating atop orange juice.  But in the “Eff-Putin,”  blue food coloring is added to make the colors of the Ukrainian flag —  blue and yellow.

Hickman, 42, doesn’t follow the news much, and he tells me he’s not a political person.

But when he saw tanks rolling into Ukraine and civilians of Kyiv hunkering down to fight a world military powerhouse, he felt compelled to do something.

No, he says, he is not of Ukrainian descent. 

His customers have been supportive, he says, and he is open to additional ideas on how he can, as a businessman, support Ukraine.

Across America, businessmen like Hickman have responded in kind.  

When possible, they have pulled Russian products, primarily vodka,  from their shelves to protest the invasion.

In fact, a handful of governors have joined the cause.

According to a Monday story in the Guardian, the governors of Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Utah ordered boycotts of Russian-style vodkas. These products account for a tiny fraction of the U.S. vodka market.

In Canada, the Ontario liquor control board made a similar decision on Friday, removing all Russian-made products from its 679 stores.

“Utah stands in solidarity with Ukraine and will not support Russian enterprises, no matter how small the exchange,” said Utah Gov. Spencer Cox.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has expressed support for Ukraine but has not suggested any specific state action against Russian products, such as vodka.

One of the more visible Russian-branded vodkas, Stolichnaya, is actually produced in Latvia, a member of NATO and the European Union.

On its website, the company has said it “stands for peace in Europe and in solidarity with the Ukrainian people,” according to The Guardian story.

Stolichnaya is owned by a Russian-born billionaire, Yuri Shefler, who now lives in Switzerland. Russia banned the sale of Stolichnaya within its borders because of an ownership dispute that went to the Russian supreme court.

This is Pokin Around column No. 17.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at spokin@sgfcitizen.org. His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin