Drowning Our Sorrows: These Are Americans' Favorite Alcoholic Beverages

Americans are increasingly choosing healthier food options like quinoa, kale and avocado over chicken wings, chips and other unhealthy snacks. But when it comes to alcohol, a longstanding favorite continues to dominate, despite new, low-cal options: Beer.

According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans who drink alcohol continue to prefer beer (40%) over wine (30%) and liquor (26%) - a trend that has persisted since Gallup started taking the survey 25 years ago.

Unsurprisingly, beer is particularly popular among men, with 62% of male drinkers saying they prefer beer, compared with 19% of female drinkers. Less-educated and middle-income Americans also tend to choose beer.

However, Americans aren’t the world’s heaviest beer drinkers – not even close. Another report released earlier this month shows the average European consumes between one and four drinks a day, enough to notably increase the risk of colorectal and esophageal cancers. Americans drink 20 percent less alcohol each year than Europeans.

Here’s a quick summary of Gallup’s findings:

  • Four in 10 alcohol consumers say they most often drink beer
  • 30% prefer wine, while 26% opt for liquor
  • 62% of Americans drink alcohol, consistent with historical trend

Beer has been Americans’ alcoholic beverage of choice for decades, Gallup said.

"For the past two decades, at least three in 10 drinkers have said they prefer wine, peaking at 39% in 2005. Wine was slightly less popular in the early to mid-1990s. Women are significantly more likely than men to prefer wine, at 50% vs. 11%, respectively. This beverage is also preferred more among college-educated adults."

However, liquor is rising in Americans’ estimation. The number of Americans saying they prefer liquor reaching its highest level in the 25 years since Gallup started taking the survey.

The percentage of those surveyed who selected liquor as their drink of choice ticked higher to 26%, the highest level in the poll’s history. However, the increase over the past 13 years – up from 24% in 2004 – is negligible. The 26% of drinkers who named liquor as their beverage of choice is the highest in Gallup's 25-year trend, but similar with the 24% recorded in 2004. The percentage naming liquor has typically been closer to 20%. Future measurements will help determine whether the current figure marks the beginning of a trend toward an increased preference for liquor.

A solid majority of Americans say they drink alcohol at least occasionally.

“The majority of American adults consume alcohol at least occasionally, with the current 62% figure nearly matching the 63% historical average in Gallup's trend dating back to 1939. The percentage of Americans who drink has been fairly steady over nearly eight decades, with a few exceptions. The drinking percentage held near 70% in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The figure dipped below 60% at several points between the 1930s and 1950s, as well as in select polls from 1989 to 1996.”

Though the number of Americans who are willfully abstinent is perhaps the most surprising data point from the survey was the number of Americans who say they don’t drink.

“Meanwhile, 38% of U.S. adults totally abstain from alcohol. That figure has remained below 40% since 1997.”

As Gallup notes, many of the Founding Fathers enjoyed beer, and it remains the most popular alcoholic beverage in the US today. Meanwhile, the brewing industry has seen tremendous growth in recent decades. Americans have thousands of breweries to choose from in 2017, compared with fewer than 100 in the early 1980s.

And, judging by Americans' insatiable appetite for craft beer, those numbers will likely continue to climb.