Absolut Spike Lee

When Spike Lee’s Absolut Brooklyn vodka comes up in casual conversation here in Brooklyn, two things are mentioned: first, a wide-eyed warning that it’s a limited time offer, and I’d better hurry. Second, people always say they want it for the bottle, like they’re going to save it. Who has an apartment big enough for these things? I always bring up the flavor. What am I going to do with an apple-ginger vodka? (Absolut recommends mixing it with ginger ale and a squeeze of lime.) I’ll pass.

The 1 Liter bottle is $24.99 and it’s not clear to me if it’s available outside of New York City. The Brooklyn vodka is the latest in a series of city-themed vodkas that started with New Orleans in 2007, and followed with Los Angeles and Boston.

There is a charity link in the Absolut/Spike Lee collaboration. The company said it would donate $50,000 from its profits to Habitat for Humanity’s affordable homes project in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, the setting for many of Lee’s films.

In an age when product placement is rampant, celebrities are “brands,” and collaborations are lucrative, few people blink at Brooklyn’s favorite director hawking a Swedish liquor. That’s why I was tickled to read an indignant scolding from a fellow Brooklynite.

Yesterday, Atlantic Monthly contributor and Fort Greene, Brooklyn resident Clay Risen took Lee to task for “selling out not just his name, but also his borough and its culture.” He continued:

“Underneath all the talk about ‘stoop life’ and locally inspired flavors is a multinational liquor company eager to take advantage of Brooklyn consumers; to do so, it sought out an archetypal authentic local to give it a level of street cred. And for all his proven commitment to defining and celebrating the borough, Lee gladly signed on.”

And adding insult to injury, when Lee appeared at the Brooklyn Blogfest, he spent most of his time talking about Absolut.

But anyone who remembers Spike Lee’s Nike commercials, in which he repurposed his Mars Blackmon character from She’s Gotta Have It to fawn over Michael Jordan and sell shoes, shouldn’t be too shocked that the director is hooking up with a major multinational corporation.

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