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Elliott Morss | February 21st, 2018

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Drinking Patterns, Global and Local

© Elliott R. Morss, Ph.D.

I recently wrote an article on the global entertainment industry. It documented that the world spends more on drinking, entertainment drugs, and prostitution than any other forms of entertainment.

This article focuses on global and local (US) drinking patterns. In particular, it presents data on the per capita consumption of beer, wine, spirits, and alcohol. In the Global section, beer data come from the Beer Handbook of the Beverage Information Group. Wine and spirit data come from the IWSR database. In the Local (US) section, all data are from Beverage Information Group. In both sections, total alcohol data are generated assuming conversion ratios of 5%, 11%, and 45% for beer, wine and spirits, respectively.

 Global

 When drinking is examined on a country-by-country basis, several interesting patterns emerge. One set of countries simply drinks more than the others. And then there are the leading beer, wine, and spirits countries.

 a. Most Alcohol

Consider first overall drinking as measured by total alcohol consumed. While neither China nor the US drink much per capita, they are the leading consumers of alcohol because of their size. In contrast, as can be seen in the following table, Russia and South Korea get on the list because they do drink heavily. There is a significant positive correlation between per capita income and alcohol consumption, which makes the heavy drinking in the poorer countries even more impressive.

Total Consumption of Alcohol, by Country

Per Capita Total Drinking
Alcohol Alcohol Age
Consumption Consumption Population
Country (Liters) (Mil. Liters) (in millions)
China 4.3 5,637 1,303.7
United States 8.9 2,632 295.9
Russian Federation 16.0 2,296 143.2
Brazil 6.6 1,232 186.8
Japan 8.7 1,105 127.8
Germany 13.3 1,096 82.5
South Korea 19.1 931 48.8
France 11.2 683 60.9
United Kingdom 10.0 604 60.2
Spain 11.1 481 43.4

Source: IWSR

We turn now to the countries that consumed the most alcohol per capita (drinking age population). Of the top twenty countries in this total alcohol category, 12 are in the Eastern European/Russian region. The 10 leading countries are presented in the following table. It is notable that Ireland, a country with a reputation for drinking, consumes only 65% as much alcohol as South Korea.

Alcohol Consumption Per Capita

Beer Spirits Wine Total
12 oz. 1.5 oz. .75 liter Alcohol
Country Cans Shots Bottles Liters
Top 50 Country Average 194.5 181.6 33.7 9.9
 South Korea 104.6 832.6 6.9 19.1
 Estonia 273.8 502.1 17.3 16.3
 Russian Federation 229.0 549.9 12.0 16.0
 Croatia 244.3 108.5 99.3 14.7
 Czech Republic 463.7 206.5 21.7 14.2
 Germany 336.0 151.2 52.2 13.3
 Lithuania 236.2 352.9 17.6 12.7
 Ireland 367.5 164.7 32.8 12.5
 Slovenia 273.2 84.1 68.1 12.2
 Slovak Republic 224.3 217.5 45.0 12.0

Source: IWSR

b. Most Spirits

Consider next spirits (Scotch, Whisky, Vodka, Gin, Rum, etc.). As with the total alcohol category, there is a large representation of heavy drinking from Eastern European countries. Scotch is a popular drink in non-Muslim Asia, and four Asian countries are included in the top twenty list. The ten leading spirits drinking countries are presented in the following table.

Spirits Consumption Per Capita

Beer Spirits Wine Total
12 oz. 1.5 oz. .75 liter Alcohol
Country Cans Shots Bottles Liters
Top 50 Country Average 194.5 181.6 33.7 9.9
 South Korea 104.6 832.6 6.9 19.1
 Russian Federation 229.0 549.9 12.0 16.0
 Estonia 273.8 502.1 17.3 16.3
 Lithuania 236.2 352.9 17.6 12.7
 Latvia 193.2 270.6 19.0 10.4
 Haiti NA 269.0 0.8 NA
 Kazakhstan 76.2 264.8 8.5 7.3
 Romania 187.2 264.4 39.1 11.8
 Japan 139.2 258.8 12.2 8.7
 Ukraine 175.6 257.8 9.9 9.1

Source: IWSR

The consumption of spirits in South Korea is truly remarkable. The data has been cross-checked and does appear to be accurate. They mean that the average South Korean adult has 2.25 shots of Scotch or other spirit daily. Heavy drinking of spirits explains South Korea’s position as the leader as measured by total alcohol consumed.

c. Most Beer

 While beer is a favored drink in a number of the heavy drinking countries, we also see countries such as Germany and Ireland that are known as beer loving countries on this list (see table below). The appearance of Venezuela is notable inasmuch as it is a low alcohol-consuming nation.

Beer Consumption Per Capita

Beer Spirits Wine Total
12 oz. 1.5 oz. .75 liter Alcohol
Country Cans Shots Bottles Liters
Top 50 Country Average 194.5 181.6 33.7 9.9
 Czech Republic 463.7 206.5 21.7 14.2
 Ireland 367.5 164.7 32.8 12.5
 Germany 336.0 151.2 52.2 13.3
 Austria 299.2 94.8 56.9 11.9
 Venezuela 282.0 116.2 4.3 7.7
 Belgium-Luxembourg 281.8 96.5 47.3 10.8
 Estonia 273.8 502.1 17.3 16.3
 Slovenia 273.2 84.1 68.1 12.2
 Macedonia 264.9 85.8 31.8 9.0
 Poland 256.1 235.1 9.6 10.0

d. Most Wine

The top 20 wine consuming nations include six of the largest wine producers: France, Italy, Portugal, Spain Argentina, and Australia. The 10 largest per capita wine-drinking nations are presented in the following table.

Wine Consumption Per Capita

Beer Spirits Wine Total
12 oz. 1.5 oz. .75 liter Alcohol
Country Cans Shots Bottles Liters
Top 50 Country Average 194.5 181.6 33.7 9.9
 Croatia 244.3 108.5 99.3 14.7
 France 90.3 154.5 79.2 11.2
 Georgia NA 156.4 78.4 9.6
 Italy 86.9 NA 75.7 NA
 Slovenia 273.2 84.1 68.1 12.2
 Switzerland 162.8 88.2 65.6 10.1
 Portugal 161.3 80.6 62.7 9.7
 Austria 299.2 94.8 56.9 11.9
 Argentina 109.3 NA 53.5 NA
 Germany 336.0 151.2 52.2 13.3

Source: IWSR

 U.S. Drinking Patterns

According to IWSR data, the United States is not a heavy drinking country. It consumption of 8.9 liters of alcohol per capita means it ranks 36th on the global list of countries. It also ranks 21st on beer, 31st on spirits, and only 44th on wine.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to look at drinking pattern in the US, broken down both by states and other regions.

I. State Breakdowns

In the state listings that follow, the District of Columbia, Nevada, and New Hampshire are left out because visitors/out-of-state purchasers artificially inflate their data.

a. Most Alcohol

We start with the most alcohol consumed. As can be seen by the following table, Wyoming leads all states in total alcohol consumption. Delaware is a very close second. It is perhaps notable that with the exception of Louisiana and Florida, all states on this list have long, cold winters, as in Eastern Europe and Russia.

Most Alcohol – Annual, Per Capita

Total
 Area Alcohol
Liters
United States 10.16
Wyoming 14.77
Delaware 14.59
Wisconsin 13.34
North Dakota 13.01
Alaska 12.98
Montana 12.43
Louisiana 11.89
Colorado 11.77
Florida 11.74
Vermont 11.41

Source: IWSR

b. Most Beer

In terms of beer drinking, there is only one state (South Carolina) on the list that is east of the Mississippi River.

 Most Beer – Annual, Per Capita

Beer
Area 12 oz.
Cans
  United States 312
Wyoming 504
North Dakota 419
Louisiana 413
Montana 408
Wisconsin 396
Texas 395
South Dakota 390
Mississippi 379
Nebraska 374
South Carolina 368

c. Most Wine

In the wine-drinking category, New England states (Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island) lead all others. And their consumption is actually higher because they buy from New Hampshire. The three Western wine producing states (California, Oregon, and Washington) are on this list.

Most Wine – Annual Per Capita

Wine
Area .75 Liter
Bottle
United States 15
Massachusetts 26
Vermont 25
Delaware 25
Connecticut 23
New Jersey 23
California 23
Rhode Island 22
Hawaii 22
Washington 21
Oregon 21

Source: IWSR

 

d. Most Spirits

Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana, and Wisconsin appear on both the leading beer and spirits drinking state lists (none are on the leading wine list). Alaska was ranked 5th on the per capita alcohol list. It is not on either the leading beer or wine list. But it is back for spirits. Delaware did not appear on the beer list, but it is on the wine a spirits list.

Most Spirits – Annual Per Capita

Spirits
Area 1.5 oz.
Shots
United States 171
Delaware 314
Alaska 271
Wisconsin 262
Wyoming 256
North Dakota 248
Minnesota 233
Colorado 225
Florida 222
New Jersey 210
Montana 203

Source: IWSR

II. Most Drinking by Region

It is also interesting to examine drinking patterns by US Regions. In the following table, the District of Columbia, Nevada, and New Hampshire are included. The states included in each region can be found in the Appendix. Overall, as measured by total alcohol consumed, the Mountain states drink the most, followed closely by New England. The Southwest leads in beer drinking, the Solid South. New England leads in wine consumed per capita. The West region that includes the large wine producing states is second on wine drinking.

Per Capita Consumption, by Region

Beer Spirits Wine Total Population
Region 12 oz. 1.5 oz. .75 liter Alcohol 18 years
Cans Shots Bottles Liters And over
  United States 312 171 15 10.16 227,719,424
Mountain 337.79 215.59 15.87 11.54 9,630,242
New England 294.81 213.00 24.79 11.47 11,068,992
South Atlantic 318.34 184.09 15.26 10.52 31,411,968
Farm 333.24 186.73 9.58 10.37 10,718,553
Southwest 372.49 144.57 10.57 10.30 26,137,351
West 284.13 168.93 22.64 10.23 36,484,848
Midwest 328.13 169.60 12.76 10.20 39,486,115
Solid South 349.88 152.70 8.62 9.90 11,002,299
Mid-Atlantic 279.43 168.29 17.12 9.68 42,431,668
Bible Belt 289.58 129.58 7.26 8.27 9,347,388

Source: IWSR

III. Red and Blue Drinking

Politicians talk of Red and Blue states, with the former are Republican/Conservative and the latter are Democratic/Liberal. The following table indicates Blue states drink more wine, spirits, and overall, while the Red states are the beer drinkers.

Per Capita Consumption in Red and Blue States

Beer Spirits Wine Total Population
Region 12 oz. 1.5 oz. .75 liter Alcohol 18 years
Cans Shots Bottles Liters and over
United States 312 171 15 10.16 227,719,424
Blue 324 208 20 11.46 5,466,245
Red 338 165 10 10.08 3,423,882

Source: IWSR

APPENDIX

State – Region Groupings

Bible Belt – West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky

Mid-Atlantic – District of Columbia, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York

Solid South – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas

Midwest – Wisconsin, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana

West – Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, California

Southwest – New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma

Farm – North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas

South Atlantic – Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina

New England – New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Connecticut

Mountain – Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Idaho, Utah

Red and Blue Groupings

Blue – California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin

 Red – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming

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