Whiskey/brown spirit overview

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Whiskey Overview

Americans prefer their whiskey neat and drink it most often for special occasions like parties, nights out, and when gathered with friends. On-premise consumption of whiskey is on the rise, contrary to other alcoholic beverages.


  • The consumption of whiskey in the US varies monthly and grows each month as the year progress, with the lowest consumption month being February and consumption peaking in December.
  • A survey conducted in 2018 asked Americans for what occasions they buy alcohol. The options were divided into beer, wine, and liquor (with whiskey being included as a liquor). From these results, it was found that 18% would buy liquor for every day or casual drinking (vs 47% beer and 35% wine), 33% for a party (vs 43% beer and 24% wine), 32% for a special event (vs 15% beer and 53% wine) and 25% as a gift (vs 7% beer and 67% wine).
  • The same survey discovered that 8% drink liquor several times a week, 7% once a week, 16% a few times a month, 23% a few times a year and 42% don’t drink it at all.

Work-related Consumption

  • The top 5 industries that allow or sponsor alcohol consumption are Technology, Construction, Advertising, Entertainment and IT.
  • Usually, consumption happens during holiday parties (48%), team bonding events (24%), meetings and lunches with clients (13.4%) and sponsored happy hours (12%). On the other hand, 45.3% of participants surveyed responded that their companies do not allow alcohol consumption at the office or at work events.
  • According to the same survey, 35% of respondents prefer not to drink during work events.
  • Whiskey is considered one of the most acceptable drinks for work-related events.

General Alcohol Consumption

  • The occasions Americans consume alcohol most are bachelor/bachelorette parties, night out with friends, wedding reception, night out with co-workers, family gathering, office party and date night. (S10)
  • A survey asked consumers which events they would enjoy less if alcohol was prohibited. Their responses were wedding receptions (53%), a night out with friends or co-workers (38%), and an office party (35%).
  • Between liquor, wine, and weer, liquor is preferred for bachelor/bachelorette parties, night out with friends and wedding receptions.
  • Occasions that people consider “drink worthy” are birthdays (83%), a friend’s engagement (77%), wedding anniversary (77%), finishing a busy workweek (62%), job promotion (62%), earning a degree (59%), purchasing a new home (50%) and starting a new job (43%).

Whiskey Preferences

  • The Dramming survey conducted in 2013, with whiskey drinkers worldwide (including the US), discovered that 76.5% of participants prefer to drink their Whiskey neat or with water, 9% with ice, 5% with a mixer and 9.5% in cocktails.


  • Of those asked, 28% of Millennials believe it takes too much effort to go out to drink vs 15% of Baby Boomers.
  • Meanwhile, 55% of Americans overall prefer to drink at home.
  • They perceive drinking at home as more relaxing, less expensive, and more personal.
  • Of in-home drinkers, 38% choose to do so as a way to better control their alcohol intake.
  • People were 18% less likely to drink away from home in 2018 than in 2017.
  • This tendency is expected to continue to grow with younger generations.
  • Bars and restaurants are trying to focus on experiences and visuals that can’t be duplicated in someone’s living room in order to attract more customers. (S7)
  • Overall, it is less common than it was a year ago for those who drink alcoholic beverages away from home are more likely to say they are visiting drink-focused. This includes bars in general (20% less vs 10% more), nightclubs (17% less vs 7% more) and sports bars (17% less vs 10% more).
  • Meanwhile, venues that offer unique experiences are winning customers who drink away from home such as breweries (19%), entertainment venues (14%) and independent restaurants (13%) all saw their consumers increase in 2018.

Trends in On-Premise Consumption

  • Despite the trends, on-premise consumption of spirits continues to grow, unlike other categories such as wine and beer. Flavored vodka and whiskey are growing faster on-premise than off.
  • People have shown a continuous interest in learning about whiskey. They want to learn from the experts and connect with people who share their passion and spirits education is a big trend.
  • Additionally, 40% of bars and restaurants usually stock between 5 to 10 brands of whiskey, while 14% carry more than 21 brands.


We began this research by looking for any available information about the occasions and preferences of American whiskey consumers. We looked through news journals, industry-specific databases, case studies, and press releases from key players in the Whiskey industry to find information about the overall habits of whiskey drinkers. We found a case study about an unidentified whiskey brand that discovered that most of the clients sharing pictures drinking the brand did so indoors. Additionally, we found insights about general alcohol consumption but not enough to fully address the requested information.

Our next effort was to look for industry trends with a focus on whiskey consumption. We referred to several market reports that highlighted information about triple distilled and distilled spirits. From this, we found several insights about flavors, discontinuations, the rise of American whiskey, barrel finishes, and market shares. However, nothing in these reports was specific enough to whiskey for us to triangulate a direct response to the requested information.

Next, looked into how each generation drinks whiskey and their preferences. We found several sources about consumer trends and some pointing out that Millennials consume more spirit drinks than previous generations and that Millennials have a higher preference than Boomers for drinking at home. We then visited the sites of popular brands and distilleries, such as Jack Daniel’s and Jameson Irish. However, none of the press releases or About Us/story sections found on these websites contained information related to consumer trends or preferences.

As the last method for finding whiskey-specific information, we search for surveys about in-home consumption, bartender reports, bar sales, among other hard data possibilities that would give us enough info to draw a comparison between how people consume their whiskey and when they do it. We looked into credible news publications, business journals, market researches, and industry-related sites. In doing this, we discovered that Jack Daniel’s was the most recommended shot by bartenders among other key insights. However, none of the information was specific enough to provide an accurate calculation.

Finally, we broadened our research to general-alcohol consumption. With this approach, we found some additional insights. However, specific trends, preferences about the main occasions Americans enjoy alcoholic beverages and the differentiation between at-home and on-premise consumption. Therefore, we expanded the scope to include older sources. However, detailed information that could fulfill the requested information was not available in the public domain. With that said, we found insights about why people chose to drink at home and that this trend does not necessarily apply to spirits, especially Whiskey. From what we could gather, this probably has to do with the fact that a lot of people want to learn more about spirits. As Cheers Online pointed out, “spirit education is huge on-premise” and the rise of craft spirits, with 40% of the respondents from the Cheers Online Survey offering spirit flights (against 51% beer flights and 31% wine flights), with whiskey being one of the most popular spirit flights.

Despite our attempts, we could not find the main occasions Americans drink whiskey in particular. However, we were able to provide insights about spirits (or liquor) and the main differences in consumption from other types, like beer or wine, as noted in the research criteria.