Spirits Sales Surpassed Beer for the First Time Ever in the US

It's liquor before beer according to a new economic report, with tequila, American whiskey and spirits-based RTDs leading the way

Three people (hands only) holding three full margaritas on a table. According to a new economic report by DISCUS, spirits sales (helped by tequila) just passed beer sales in the U.S.
Forget the brew: Americans are embracing Margaritas
Linda Raymond / Getty

When it comes to getting a drink, Americans are starting to prefer spirits and spirits-based canned cocktails more than beer, according to a new economic survey.

Getting into the numbers: per the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), spirits supplier sales domestically were up 5.1% in 2022 to a record total of $37.6 billion, while volumes rose 4.8% to 305 million 9-liter cases. Spirits gained market share of the total U.S. beverage alcohol market for the 13th straight year with supplier sales rising 0.8 share points to 42.1% (each point represents $890 million in supplier revenue). Most importantly, this represents the first time spirits supplier revenues have surpassed beer (41.9% market share).

Tequila and Canned Cocktails Are Pretty Much Fueling the Booze Industry Now
A year-end study on alcohol sales in the U.S. shows very few category gains — and some concern for Scotch, Cognac and gin fans

“Despite the tough economy, consumers continued to enjoy premium spirits and fine cocktails in 2022,” DISCUS President and CEO Chris Swonger says. “Cocktail culture continues to thrive in the United States, supporting jobs in the distilling, hospitality and agriculture sectors.”

Diving a bit deeper, some recent boozy trends (both good and bad) continue to solidify. Tequila is buoying the market (sales up 17.2%) while American whiskey (up 10.5%) continues to grow. And consumers are buying the good stuff. “More than 60% of the spirits sector’s total revenue was from sales of high-end and super-premium spirits, mainly led by tequila and American whiskey,” Christine LoCascio, DISCUS Chief of Public Policy & Strategy, says. “While many consumers are feeling the pinch from inflation and reduced disposable income, they are still willing to purchase that special bottle of spirits, choosing to sip a little luxury and drink better, not more.” 

Some other findings from this year’s DISCUS Annual Economic Briefing:

  • The hospitality industry is down 750,000 jobs from pre-pandemic levels.
  • Distillery tourism generated an estimated $715.2 million in Texas in 2022 (data was only available for three states).
  • Premixed cocktails, including spirits ready-to-drink (RTD) products, were up 35.8% to $2.2 billion.
  • Brandy and Cognac sales saw steep declines (down 12.3%).


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