Americans’ Alcohol Preferences Remain Relatively Steady, Though Liquor Overtakes Wine

September 14, 2023

This article is included in these additional categories:

Boomers & Older | CPG & FMCG | Demographics & Audiences | Household Income | Industries | Men | Women | Youth & Gen X

Some 62% of American adults drink alcohol, while 38% are total abstainers, according to Gallup’s latest annual survey of alcohol consumption in the US. This suggests that alcohol consumption has moderated somewhat since last year, when two-thirds (67%) reporting having occasion to use alcoholic beverages such as liquor, wine or beer, and one-third (33%) abstained totally.

Gallup notes that the 62% who report drinking this year is in line with the 63% average over the survey’s history, dating all the way back to 1937. The highest rates of alcohol use were recorded between 1974 and 1981, at 71% of adults.

Looking at various demographic groups, the data indicates that drinking is higher than average among middle-aged adults ages 35-54 (66%), adults with annual household income of at least $100,000 (79%), and college graduates (74%).

Meanwhile, among alcohol drinkers, almost one-third (32%) reported having had a drink in the previous 24 hours, hewing close to the middle of the 26-40% range in the past 40-odd years dating back to 1984. Another 37% of drinkers reported their last drink within the previous 2-7 days, while a further third (32%) last drank more than a week earlier.

Liquor Overtakes Wine

The survey asks alcohol drinkers if they most often drink liquor, wine, or beer. In almost all of the surveys dating back to 1992, beer has been the type of alcohol that a plurality of respondents drink most regularly.

This year is no exception to that trend, with 37% saying that they drink beer the most, outpacing wine and liquor. This represents a slight rebound from last year, when 35% said they drank beer the most, the lowest rate in the survey’s history. When the question was first asked in 1992, almost half (47%) of all drinkers said they consumed beer the most.

Alcohol drinkers’ preference for wine has dipped slightly, at 29% this year, down from 31% last year. In fact, it’s the first time since 1996 that preference for wine has dropped below the 30% threshold.

What seems to be changing is the preference for liquor: this year 31% said they most often drink liquor, representing another new high in the survey, besting last year’s mark by a percentage point. This is the 5th time that liquor preferences have exceeded 25% in the past 6 editions of the survey, whereas that mark had never been attained in any survey edition before 2017.

It’s also the first time in the survey’s history dating to 1992 that more drinkers have said they drink liquor most often than wine.

When sorting by demographic group, the survey results show that beer is by far the favorite among men, being the most often consumed by 53% of male respondents, compared to 29% for liquor and 15% for wine. By contrast, a plurality (44%) of women drink wine the most, with liquor (31%) next, ahead of beer (22%).

Among 18-34-year-olds, it’s a close race between beer (42%) and liquor (40%), with much less preference for wine (16%). Among the middle-aged (35-54), liquor and beer are evenly matched (34% share apiece), with wine close behind (31%), while among those ages 55 and older, beer is the most often consumed by 38%, ahead of wine (35%) and liquor (23%).

Among college graduates, wine is the clear favorite (39% share), with liquor (30%) edging beer (29%) as the second-most often consumed. And while wine (35%) is slightly ahead of beer (34%) for higher-income adults, beer is the favorite for those with annual household income of less than $100,000.

In related news, recent research indicates that among adults ages 21 and older, fewer than 4 in 10 would pay a premium for higher-quality wine/spirits (39%) and beer (37%).

For more, check out the full Gallup survey results here.

About the Data: The 2023 results are based on a July survey of 1,015 US adults (18+).


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