Antifreeze vodka is not a myth

Counterfeits spirits have been seized in a nightclub

An enterprising businessman has been caught cutting corners in a potentially lethal way by filling bottles of Smirnoff with antifreeze more commonly used to stop your car engine getting too cold.

One or two shots would cause sickness, while slamming any more potentially risks of causing extremely serious injury.

And if chugged in any large quantity, it can even cause organ failure.


The crime came from a man curiously nicknamed Andy Kebab, who was was sent to jail this week for peddling bottles of Smirnoff Red Label which were actually full of antifreeze and car screen wash.

Funnily enough, his particularly deadly brand contained less alcohol than your average vodka, as Kebab’s bottles came out with 4.5 per cent less potency than Smirnoff. But they were guaranteed to give you a far worse hangover.

Kebab, real name Andreas Antounas was selling his special brew to shops and even nightclubs in Weston-super-Mare.

He was handed a 20 week prison sentence, suspended for two years, with 100 hours of unpaid work and a £100 victim surcharge – so you’d think we’d be done with it.

But the curious case of Kebab and the antifreeze is just one of many counterfeit vodka cases which mean we never truly know what we might be sipping.

Last year thousands of bottles of the stuff was seized across the country.

And it was even disguised behind labels of popular vodka brands – Smirnoff, Glens and Kommissar.


Worryingly, people in Derbyshire might have been lapping up the stuff – as 20,000 empty bottles and empty cans of antifreeze were discovered at an illegal factory in the county.

And down in Luton, 166 bottles of counterfeit vodka were seized from three shops across town.

To help us out, some of the labels thankfully had spelling mistakes – but some even had fake “duty paid” stickers.

How is counterfeit vodka made?

Strictly speaking vodka, tends to be made from potatoes, or if you’re extra fancy from wheat (Grey Goose anyone?) or even grapes (Ciroc).

But not only can this get expensive, it also takes time for the ingredients to ferment.

Without much cash, time or desire for customer satisfaction, counterfeiters turn to great big tubs of substances like antifreeze to give their booze a kick.

Professor Paul Wallace, chief medical adviser to alcohol education charity Drinkaware told The Tab: “Commonly used substitutes for ethanol include chemicals used in cleaning fluids, nail polish remover and automobile screen wash, as well as methanol and isopropanol which are used in antifreeze and some fuels.

“These other types of alcohol can produce similar effects to ethanol in terms of making you feel tipsy. But they are also potentially very dangerous.

What happens if you drink antifreeze vodka?

The counterfeit stuff will still get you drunk, but what’s actually going on inside your body once you take a swig?

Professor Paul said: “Drinking alcohol containing these chemicals can cause nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, drowsiness and dizziness.

“Drinking it can lead to kidney or liver problems and even coma.

“Illegally produced alcohol should be avoided at all costs.

“You don’t know what’s in it in terms of the actual chemicals – and you don’t know the strength of what you’re drinking because it’s not been produced to the standards of commercial alcohol.

How can you tell if your vodka is counterfeit?

If the manufacturers are observant enough to leave typos out of their labels, or avoid giving it a name like “Russian Masquerader” or “Vlad’s Special” which immediately ring alarm bells, it’s not so easy to tell if your vodka is fake.

Professor Paul Wallace said: “Look out for fake versions of well-known brands and be wary of unusual brand names you haven’t seen before.

“Vodka, the most commonly counterfeited spirit, shouldn’t have any white particles or sediment in the bottle.

“If any alcohol tastes or smells bad, don’t drink it.”