Every now and then, it is incumbent on a nation to take stock, look inward and reflect on an important and heartfelt question: “How drunk are we right now?” With the holiday season well underway and the merry-go-round of party-hangover-party-hangover revving up toward full tilt, we decided to take a quick statistical survey of America’s drinking landscape, and report back on the state of inebriation of the Union.
How much are we drinking?
According to figures from the International Wine & Spirits Record, a leading authority on the global drinks industry, the United States consumed 7.74 billion gallons of alcoholic beverages in 2015. That sounds like a lot—it’s about the same as the amount of water that flows over Niagara Falls in three-and-a-half hours—but in the grand scheme of things it’s actually a fairly responsible intake. According to a 2014 report by the World Health Authority, the US ranked 48th in the world in terms of alcohol consumption—way behind Russia (fourth), Australia (ninth) and the majority of European countries. American citizens, in fact, absorb roughly half as much pure alcohol into their bloodstreams per year as the world’s heaviest drinkers, whom you’ll currently find propping up the bars of Moldova (world #1) and Belarus (#2).
Where are we drinking?
By state, the biggest booze consumers are naturally the ones with the most people, leading with California (which threw back 3.6 billion liters of booze over the year), Texas (2.7 billion liters), Florida (2.1 billion) and so on, roughly in order of population size. But it’s very different when you look at how much booze the people in each state are personally putting away. By cross-referencing the IWSR’s data with population estimates for 2015, you can figure out the number of liters imbibed per person, and it turns out that the heartiest drinkers, statistically, reside in New Hampshire. On average, people in NH individually put away 154 liters of booze over the year, the equivalent of ten 300ml bottles of beer a week each.
Among the most populous states, Florida is generally partying the hardest per capita with 103.3 liters of alcohol consumed per person in 2015. In even less surprising news, Texans are drinking way more beer than any other state of over 10 million inhabitants—three-fifths of their alcohol consumption in 2015 was cold, cold beer. New Yorkers and New Jerseyites, by contrast, are the sixth- and third-least beery Americans respectively, with beer brands comprising only 44 percent and 37 percent of their boozing last year. Keep it Gatsby, New York.
The District of Columbia, meanwhile, is the part of the country where the most spirits are consumed by far. Whether it’s the daily influx of commuters and tourists or the heavy responsibility of government that drove it to drink, the folks in DC glug down over two and a half times the national average, or just under 16 liters of spirits each.
For the record, the three most temperate states overall are Kentucky (74.7l per capita), Arkansas (72.3l per capita) and last by a long stretch, perhaps not too shockingly, is Utah (58.7l per capita). More surprisingly (unless you live there, maybe), the technically dry state of Mississippi ranks 23rd overall.
Why are we drinking?
Americans are almost always ready to raise a glass at the slightest excuse: 89 percent of those surveyed said they drink alcohol on New Year’s, which is, according to the survey, hands down the booziest holiday of the year. That said, it’s not the beeriest calendar event: That would be the Super Bowl, where of the three quarters of Americans saying they’ll be drinking, 60 percent will be marking the spectacle with a beer or seven.
The second most popular holiday for getting tipsy—ahead of both Christmas and Thanksgiving—is July 4th, which, aside from New Year’s, is also when the greatest number of people (32 percent) opt for spirits. And in a blow for both Irish national pride and the sanctity of love, more people (68 percent) are drinking on Valentine’s Day than St Patrick’s Day (64 percent).
Less well documented is America’s secret drinking holiday, a day when just over half the population celebrates with a sneaky glass of (mainly) wine. Next Mother’s Day, dispense with the flowers and tokens of appreciation; what mom really wants, statistically speaking, is sweet Chardonnay oblivion.