Chernobyl vodka is real, but you can’t drink it yet


An abandoned house in the exclusion zone, complete with beer bottles.

Sean Gallup/Getty

The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl remains the worst nuclear accident in human history, leaving a 1,000 square mile region of the Ukraine uninhabitable since 1986. While some have continued to live there and tourists flock to the radioactive zone in droves (thanks to HBO’s fantastic series), the surrounding areas have been reclaimed by nature. Now, the BBC reports, a team of scientists have produced the first consumer product out of the exclusion zone since the nuclear disaster: An artisan vodka dubbed “Atomik”.

The Chernobyl Spirit Company, has brewed up the vodka from “slightly contaminated” rye grain they planted within the exclusion zone. While many traditionally think of vodka as produced from potatoes, these days most vodka is made from grains such as wheat and rye. Part of the process also involved using water from Chernobyl’s aquifer, which has been shown to contain traces of radioactivity. 

James Smith, an environmental scientist from the University of Portsmouth, is part of the team at Chernobyl Spirit Company and has published numerous studies discussing the effects of radioactive pollutants, with a focus on accidental releases. If you’re worried about drinking radioactive vodka — don’t be.

“This is no more radioactive than any other vodka,” Smith told the BBC, explaining how the distillation process ensures any potential radioactive contaminants don’t make it to the final product.

However, there’s a little problem. Anyone wanting to taste the nuclear nectar will have to wait because there is currently only a single bottle of the stuff in existence. Now, I know the internet will be clamoring for a taste, because humans have proven to be incredibly interested in seemingly forbidden liquids. I remember when some suggested we should drink the fluid from an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus that was discovered in 2018.

I know you want to taste the not-so-radioactive drop, but you’ll have to wait.

The team plan to manufacture more Atomik before the end of the year, with the aim of making a profit they can then give back to the local communities that surround the abandoned exclusion zone.

“After 30 years, I think the most important thing in the area is actually economic development, not the radioactivity,” Smith tells the BBC.