Russian ladies who lunch are finally given their very own vodka

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The Independent Online

It's the Marilyn Monroe of Russian vodka. The violet-tinted liquor bottle has been dressed in a white skirt, blowing up to reveal not a shapely thigh but the new "Ladies' Vodka" label.

In a country where everyone from fishermen to aristocrats have their own vodka, Damskaya Vodka is carving out a niche appealing just to women. "Between us, girls," whisper the ads plastered across Moscow.

"Vodka is Russia's national product, but no one has ever thought to make vodka for women," says Natalia Shumilina, the marketing director at Deyros, the company that is producing Damskaya. "Women drink much less vodka than men, but now they have a product especially for them, we hope that will change."

The tipple comes in five varieties, with flavours including vanilla, almond and lime. A half-litre bottle, which has an alcohol content of 40 per cent, retails for between £5 and £6, which places it in the upper-middle price range for vodka in Russia, where the bargain-basement version can still be bought for about £1.50 per bottle.

The company wants to aim its product at well-to-do women from across the social spectrum. "It's not just for businesswomen," says Ms Shumilina. "Our customers could be family women with husbands and children – they will go to their friends' houses and drink vodka."

Some Russian women remained less than convinced about the new product. "Vodka is always a masculine drink so it seems pointless to make a ladies' one," says Daria Fedorova, a 23-year-old Muscovite advertising executive. "If I want to drink something feminine I'd drink Martini."

But others thought that the trend might catch on. "I think this will be very successful," says Svetlana Kolchik, the deputy editor of Marie Claire Russia. "The fact that it comes in flavours will be popular, and a lot of women might use it to make cocktails with."

Deyros hopes to sell half a million bottles per month by the end of the year, which is still a drop in the vodka ocean compared to the country's most successful brands. Putinka Vodka, launched shortly after Vladimir Putin's accession to the Kremlin, has become hugely popular by linking its name to the President, and sells about eight million bottles a month.

Critics say that the new product could add to Russia's alcohol problems. Doctors estimate that more than one in 10 Russians are alcoholics, and many heavy drinkers are women.

"Women drinking vodka is not only unhealthy, it's ugly and un-ladylike," said one doctor. "They should stick to more appropriate drinks for women, like champagne or white wine."