Americans’ thirst for tequila, whiskey and other spirits is on the rise.

By Rieva Lesonsky

Americans are drinking more these days—more alcohol in general and more tequila specifically, according to Nielsen. Spirits were the “strongest performer across all adult beverages” in 2018 within on-premise channels (meaning bars and restaurants), with dollar sales growth of 2.1% year-over-year, Nielsen reports. In off-premise sales (retail outlets) the “total spirits category grew dollar sales by 2.8%” compared to the year before.

Tequila led both the on-premise and off-premise categories. In retail channels, Nielsen reports, “white/silver tequila, the largest subcategory, drove the highest percent growth versus 2017, while mezcal, a smaller subcategory, posted the highest growth rate.”

In bars, restaurants and other on-premise venues, “volume sales of tequila increased 7.1%,” with sales of añejo, reposado and white silver tequilas leading the way.

Whiskey also had a strong 2018 in bars, restaurants and retail outlets. At retail, straight bourbon sales were up over 5% from 2017. Blended Irish whiskey and American rye whiskey, reports Nielsen, experienced “double-digit growth within the total whiskey category, but contributed fewer dollars than bourbon.”

In bars and restaurants, whiskey saw volume growth of 1.3% compared with 2017. Bourbon and Irish whiskey led the whiskey pack in 2018, with volume increases of 2.6% and 6.3%, respectively. Nielsen says this category is “worth watching in 2019.”

In another report, Nielsen says that when it comes to ordering cocktails in bars and restaurants, price is often not a prime consideration. The “go-to drink” for 56% of Americans is a margarita, with an average cost of $9.49—compared to the average cocktail cost of $9.

Americans’ alcoholic beverage of choice varies by time of day, Nielsen reports. If they’re drinking after midnight, Americans are more likely to order martinis and Long Island Iced Teas—“drinks with higher alcohol content.” Early drinkers prefer mimosas and Bloody Marys. Nielsen says “mocktails” and non-alcoholic cocktails are also popular in the morning—and adds that sales of Virgin Marys and “skinny margaritas” are increasing in on-premise venues.


Tequila stock photo by Igor Normann/Shutterstock