We’re Officially in a Liquor Economy

VAKS-Stock Agency / shutterstock.com
VAKS-Stock Agency / shutterstock.com

For decades now, the country has looked at the strength of its economy by a variety of factors. From home sales to unemployment, each standard of measurement tells us something unique about the American culture and way of life.

Now, for the first time, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) has announced that liquor has outsold beer. With 42.1% they out-edged beer’s 41.9% of the market and capped off a trend that has been slowly emerging over the last two decades. Back in 1999, beer was the undisputed champ, with 56.1% of sales going their way, and liquor only pulling in 28.2%

Since then, spirits have been scratching and clawing their way up the charts. No longer the strange smell on Uncle Tommy’s breath on Christmas Eve or what the bum hid in a paper bag, things like whiskey (especially bourbon) and tequila are now drinks of class that can be enjoyed by people at all price points.

Just over last year, American whiskey (including bourbon) has posted a whopping 10.5% boost in revenue over 2022. Tequila (including mezcal) has posted even better returns, with a 17.2% increase. Both liquor titans are profiting extensively from celebrity endorsement/branding deals. Tequila alone has scored names like The Rock, Sammy Hagar, and Kendall Jenner all sling their signature brands. Whiskey on the other hand has attracted Matthew McConaughey, Bob Dylan, and Metallica to put their stamp on the barrel as well.

The culture is changing as are the consumers. Instead of binge drinking on the lowest of low booze like many college-aged kids do, millennials are now starting to evolve into drinking quality over quantity. They see it as a good thing to spend $100-200 a bottle to enjoy with friends. Beer, unfortunately, just can’t keep up, and craft breweries just aren’t doing enough to gain that interest that was there just 5 years ago.

Raise a glass, for the liquor economy is here to stay.