I'm trying to better understand the meaning of the phrase in the Skyy Vodka ad ("Vodka so filtered we even took the Russia out of it"). AFAIK the name Russia is never used with a definitive article, but I also doubt that Skyy promoters are uneducated. Can someone please explain why "the Russia"?

Vodka so filtered we even took the Russia out of it

  • "also doubt that Skyy promoters are uneducated" hahahahahahaha! you've never worked in an ad agency, my son
    – Fattie
    Jul 29, 2014 at 10:20
  • Of course real vodka comes from Poland!
    – user63230
    Jan 6, 2015 at 3:34
  • The Russia today is weaker than the Russia under the Tzar/Stalin/pick an autocrat.
    – pazzo
    Jan 6, 2015 at 5:13

5 Answers 5


It's a joke. Vodka is well known in the West as a Russian spirit, even as a stereotype of Russia. Skyy is saying that their vodka is so well filtered, they removed something that no one would have thought would be possible to remove from vodka (i.e., its association with Russia). That's all. If you start looking for alternate definitions of "Russia," or find it meaningful that Skyy is made by an Italian company, you're overthinking it.

"The Russia" is not normally acceptable, as you note, but it follows a widespread pattern of pairing "the" with unexpected words in informal conversation for effect, as a form of metonymy: wipe the smug right off his face.

  • the perfect answer
    – Fattie
    Jul 29, 2014 at 10:22

The advertisement is a play on a popular folksy phrase with many variations along the lines of:

You can take the [girl] out of the [country], but you can't take the [country] out of the [girl].

As just one example, the intended meaning is that a "country girl" (as in Southern/Midwestern American girl) could move to the "Big City" but still live and act in a "country" manner.

Essentially the idea of the saying is that you can change your locale and location, but your essence remains the same. It is sometimes meant to be offensive, such as in the example above the speaker could be suggesting that the "country girl" is unrefined and cannot succeed by the standards of the "Big City" life.

Or, it could actually be taken as a statement of self-empowerment -- suggesting in fact that no matter where you are or what your circumstances, you are still true to your roots and your core being.

Therefore, in the case of this advertisement, Skyy is suggesting that the best vodka comes from Russia, such that Russia itself is a metaphorical component of the essence of vodka -- to the point that you cannot separate vodka from the notion of Russia. This takes Russia, the country, into a metaphorical existence as some essential component of something. Thus the reasoning behind the definite article with "the Russia".

The advertisement is simply a joke to highlight that the while there is an innate harshness of grain-based alcohols -- since they retain a high percentage-by-volume (ABV, alcohol by volume) of ethanol (alcohol) -- there is also a desirability for taste and the notion of palatable "smoothness". So, expensive liquors are often touted for their "smoothness" as seen as a product of filtration, and many liquor brands will advertise something like "filtered four times", or some such similar statement. More filtration meaning less harshness in taste.

And to fully beat this dead-horse on explaining the joke, the idea is that Skyy has created a vodka so smooth by filtering it so well they even removed the essential "Russia"-ness of it, something assumed entirely inherent. And, again, their language in the wording of the advertisement is a direct reference to the colloquial, folksy phrase.

  • Your interpretation seems to be corroborated by the tag at the bottom of the poster reading "West of expected".
    – Erik Kowal
    Jul 29, 2014 at 2:41

'The Russia' here refers to some quality of Russia and not the country itself. Its like saying New Delhi is the Paris of India (here the paris is used to denote the capital city)


I think you can be sure that Skyy promoters are well educated. Grammatical constructs that sound almost, but not quite, correct are used in advertising to draw and keep attention. The fact that this question was asked indicates Skyy succeeded in using "the Russia" in the ad.

"Bad" grammar is often seen in advertising. Here are some of the most well-known (at least in the U.S.) slogans:

  • "Think different."
  • "Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee."
  • "Got milk?"
  • There is nothing wrong with the grammar in any of the three examples you cite. 1. Think can take an adjectival complement like big, small, bigger. 2. Saying that there is no one who does not like Sara Lee is not the looked-down-on negative concordance of “I ain’t got no”, but rather the perfectly respectable affirming version where the negatives cancel each other out. 3. This is just dropping the predictable Have you portion from the start the sentence following normal rules for the same. In short, all those things you decry as having bad grammar do in fact have perfect grammar.
    – tchrist
    Jul 29, 2014 at 5:25
  • The only useful answer here, for non-English speakers trying to understand what is going on. Precisely as Krug explains, ... constructs that sound almost, but not quite, correct are used in advertising to draw and keep attention. I would just describe it as phrasal constructs which "sound off" or make you think twice - it's a real trend at the moment. (well for 30 yrs.) Fantastic observation.
    – Fattie
    Jul 29, 2014 at 10:24
  • tchrist - that's why he put "Bad" in quotes. "decry as having bad grammar" I don't see anyone decrying anything? That "slightly off" sound which is an absolute staple of advertising, starting with about the mid 80s I'd say (you could probably narrow it down to campaign palace in oz. and the obvious unmentionables in london) - i agree that it's hard to know quite how to characterise or label it: sort of "surprising" grammar or "almost off" grammar or "almost-off sentence construction" (certainly linguists, somewhere, study this, and probably have terms for it - but I do not know them)
    – Fattie
    Jul 29, 2014 at 10:27
  • @tchrist I didn't claim the examples were bad grammar. This EL&U question might prove informative: english.stackexchange.com/questions/69547/…
    – D Krueger
    Jul 29, 2014 at 14:48

The brand clearly wants to distance itself from the Russian varieties which appear to dominate the market. Given Russia's anti-Western, Anti-Gay, anti-European, anti-Ukrainian anti anti anti attitude who wouldn't want to distance themselves from that 'Evil Empire'.

In this case Russian is seen as an impurity which this brand claims to have filtered out. The ad is brilliant -at least for those who read the news and understand just how unpopular Russia has become.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.