Last modified on May 26th, 2022 at 5:06 pm

It’s no secret: Americans like to drink. From beer and wine to hard drinks, the average American enjoys an alcoholic beverage on a regular or semi-regular basis — whether they drink to celebrate, unwind, or for any other reason. 

Yet as all bar owners know, it isn’t always easy to determine exactly what consumers want to drink — and how + where they want to drink it. While predicting bar industry trends isn’t an exact science, examining data from studies and surveys can help you make better decisions about the direction of your business’ growth. From lower calorie and low sugar drinks (like hard seltzer) to fancy cocktails with fresh ingredients or unusual flavors, we’re breaking down the next big things for the bar business. 

General National Drinking Statistics & Trends

Each year, the federal government performs a survey of approximately 70,000 people aged 12 and older for the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). This study provides important information on tobacco, alcohol and drug use, as well as issues related to mental and physical health.  The survey is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency in the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

These surveys provide important information on patterns of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug use and misuse. They also reveal trends in the use of these substances. 

 

This report contains data that can be incredibly useful to bar owners. In 2020, 68.7% of American adults aged 18 and older reported that they drank alcohol in the past year. 54.2% stated that they drank in the past month. 85.2% of people reported that they had drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime.

According to the most recent NSDUH, an estimated 136.4 million Americans aged 18 or older were current alcohol users (i.e., they drank in the past month). Most of these Americans were aged 26 or older, with 119.2 million people in this age group reporting that they drank alcohol in the past month. 17.2 million adults between the ages of 18 and 25 were current alcohol users.

The number of alcohol consumers decreased in 2020 compared to previous years. In 2018 there were an estimated 137.6 million Americans aged 18 or older that were identified as current alcohol users. Current users decreased 1% from 2018 to 2020. However, consumption has increased. 

The NSDUH isn’t the only entity conducting surveys on alcohol use in the United States. The IWSR analyzes trends in the alcohol industry, and offers its reports and analysis tools for sale on its website.

According to a report from the IWSR, total alcohol beverage consumption increased 2% in 2020, which was the largest gain for alcohol consumption in the country since 2002. This increase could partly be attributed to the trials and tribulations Americans faced during the global pandemic, but a larger factor was the increase in ecommerce alcohol sales. Online purchases of alcoholic beverages have increased significantly in 2020. Online sales were driven by necessity, but it is a trend that is here to stay. Breweries can capitalize on this trend by building and optimizing ecommerce shops for their beverages.

 

Bar Industry Statistics

The bar industry itself has quickly recovered from the 2020 pandemic and is once again on the rise. The bar and nightclub industry market is estimated at $28.6 billion in 2022, which is a 14.1% increase from 2021. There are approximately 62,647 registered bars in the US, which is also an increase of 4.2% from 2021. 

The competition can be steep in certain metropolitan areas. The top 10 cities with the most bars per 10,000 households can be found below: 

  1. San Francisco, California (16.5)
  2. Maui, Hawaii (14.6)
  3. Reno, Nevada (14)
  4. New Orleans, Louisiana (13.6)
  5. Portland, Oregon (13.3)
  6. Las Vegas, Nevada (12.8)
  7. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (12.7)
  8. Whitewater, Wisconsin (12.3)
  9. Sheboygan, Wisconsin (12.1)
  10. Ithaca, New York (12.1)

If you were planning to open a bar in one of these metros, you may want to consider other nearby cities that may be underserved to gain market share more quickly. 

Wages have also increased for bar employees. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for bar staff members is $12.67 per hour, which is an increase from $12 in 2020. 

A further breakdown of the data collected from the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides additional insights into pay and employment. The states with the highest employment level in bartenders can be found below:

State

Employment

Employment per thousand jobs

Location quotient

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage 

California

39,060

2.36

0.69

$ 18.30

$ 38,070

Texas

38,600

3.16

0.92

$ 13.33

$ 27,730

Florida

35,890

4.17

1.21

$ 13.92

$ 28,950

Wisconsin

22,330

8.11

2.35

$ 11.46

$ 23,840

Ohio

22,170

4.26

1.24

$ 12.62

$ 26,250

The top paying states actually differ from the states with the highest level of employment. The top paying states for bartenders can be found below:

State

Employment

Employment per thousand jobs

Location quotient

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage

Arizona

11,620

4.03

1.17

$ 21.71

$ 45,150

Hawaii

2,140

3.90

1.13

$ 21.48

$ 44,680

Washington

9,810

3.06

0.89

$ 21.21

$ 44,120

New York

20,110

2.32

0.67

$ 21.05

$ 43,780

District of Columbia

2,400

3.62

1.05

$ 20.57

$ 42,790

The industries with the highest levels of employment in bartenders are as follows:

Industry

Employment

Percent of industry employment

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage 

Restaurants and Other Eating Places

217,290

2.30

$ 15.63

$ 32,510

Drinking Places (Alcoholic Beverages)

134,980

43.98

$ 13.63

$ 28,350

Civic and Social Organizations

28,860

11.04

$ 11.55

$ 24,030

Beverage Manufacturing

26,100

9.30

$ 15.20

$ 31,610

Traveler Accommodation

26,060

1.90

$ 15.03

$ 31,270

The top paying industries for bartenders are as follows:

Industry

Employment

Percent of industry employment

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage 

Other Personal Services

190

0.06

$ 17.77

$ 36,960

Merchant Wholesalers, Nondurable Goods (4244 and 4248 only)

360

0.04

$ 17.73

$ 36,880

General Merchandise Stores

(Estimates Not Released)

(Estimates Not Released)

$ 16.93

$ 35,220

Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly

310

0.04

$ 16.49

$ 34,300

Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools

200

0.01

$ 16.39

$ 34,080

Drink Statistics & Trends

While many consumers will drink a variety of different alcoholic beverages, there are consumers who identified as only drinking from one category. The breakdown in consumers who only drank from one category can be found below: 

  • Beer only, 22%,
  • Wine only, 17%,
  • Spirits only, 14%, and
  • Other (cider, hard seltzers, etc.), 11%.

The drinks consumers prefer have also been slowly evolving over the last couple of years. Beyond the main categories for spirits, there are several subcategories that have been gaining traction. 

Flavored Beverages

Interest in flavored drinks has grown significantly in the past two years. Flavor is the top sales driver for the ready-to-drink category of alcoholic beverages, but that has created a halo effect for alcoholic beverages as a whole. Flavored alcoholic beverages are outperforming traditional non-flavored alcoholic beverages in every category (from beer to whiskey, and more). 

Agave-Based Drinks

US Tequila Sales

U.S. consumers drink more tequila than anyone else in the world. Bartenders reported a growing interest in mezcal due to its smooth, smoky flavors. Other popular flavors include spicy, bitter, and herbal flavors.

As U.S. consumers become more interested in low sugar and low alcohol drinks, the volume of wine consumed has not risen as sharply as consumption of spirits. A wine industry report for 2020 predicted that wine will continue to be less popular than spirits and drinks like hard seltzer. The price of wine in the United States has been dropping.

U.S. citizens have been, and continue to be the largest consumers of tequila in the world. According to IWSR, tequila consumption increased 8.5% in 2021. Bartenders reported a growing interest in mezcal due to its smooth, smoky flavors. Other popular flavors include spicy, bitter, and herbal flavors.

Both Tequila and mezcal are produced from the harvested core of the agave plant. Agave-based drink sales increased 15.9% in 2020 and have surpassed rum to become the third largest alcoholic beverage category behind vodka and whisky. 

Non-Alcoholic Beverages

There is a growing interest among bar patrons for non-alcoholic beverages as Americans become increasingly more health-conscious. Non-alcoholic drinks are projected to account for a third of the spirit beverage market by 2024. Non-alcoholic drinks can come in many forms and include: non-alcoholic beer, non-alcoholic wine, non-alcoholic whisky, and non-alcoholic tequila.  

Cannabis-Infused Beverages

There are currently 18 states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use and CBD is legal nationwide. Interest in cannabis-infused beverages has grown over the past two years. The market for cannabis beverages is currently estimated at $752 million in the United States and is expected to reach $2 billion globally by 2026. Cannabis beverages can be infused with CBD, THC, or both. The effects of alcohol tend to wear off faster with cannabis beverages, which is appealing for consumers that want to recover quickly. 

Hard Kombucha

Normal kombucha does contain a small amount of alcohol due to the fermentation process, but it isn’t enough to induce any effects. Hard kombucha is fermented longer to a higher level of alcohol content. Hard kombucha can contain anywhere from 4-8% alcohol content. The global market for hard kombucha was estimated at $215.2 million in 2021 and is expected to grow to $1.08 billion by 2028. 

Drink Preferences By Demographic

While there are overarching trends, drink preferences do vary by demographic. A poll conducted by Gallop investigated the types of drinks that were preferred based on age, gender, and income. The demographics with the strongest preference for each drink category can be found below: 

  • Beer: Most preferred by men between the ages of 18 and 34 who were not college-educated and had an annual income less than $100,000. 
  • Wine: Most preferred by women aged 55 and older who were college educated and had an annual income of $100,000 or more. 
  • Spirits: Most preferred by Men aged 18 to 34 who were not college-educated and had an annual income between $40,000 and $99,999. 

Some of the older members of Gen Z are now of drinking age and will greatly influence drink trends. A study conducted by Numerator analyzed Gen Z’s drinking habits and preferences. Overall, they found that Gen Z prefers moderation and is very mindful of their drinking habits. Compared to Millennials, members of Gen Z spend 40% less on alcohol and are less likely to consume wine and beer regularly. 

What alcoholic beverages is Gen Z spending money on? 

  • Flavored malt beverages
  • Spirits, especially Cognac and cordials
  • Blush wine

Gen Z consumers have a preference for sweeter flavored beverages. As more of Gen Z matures to reach drinking age, these growing preferences will likely lead to shifts in trends we see in the near future.

Alcoholic Beverage Trends to Expect in the Bar Industry in 2022

Based on the surveys and studies conducted, there are a number of trends that you can expect to see in 2022. Depending on your brand, you may want to incorporate one of more of these trends, such as:

  1. Stocking cannabis-infused drinks
  2. Offering mocktails
  3. Using different or interesting ingredients to create cocktails, like kombucha or jalapeños

Of course, these trends may not be right for your business. Before taking on any of these trends, carefully consider whether it makes sense to do so based on your brand and your overall marketing strategy.

Actionable Statistics For Bars

How These Bar Industry Statistics and Habits Can Help You Adapt Your Business Model

These statistics and habits can be used to retool your bar business for maximum success. 

Reports from The IWSR demonstrate that health-conscious consumers increasingly want drinks that fit their lifestyle — whether that means beverages without alcohol, low calorie drinks, or low sugar drinks. At the same time, customers want beverages that taste good — and are interested in more unique flavors than they have been in the past.

If your bar currently lacks a selection of alcohol-free beverages, consider changing that up for 2022. Choose some delicious no-alcohol beers to offer as part of your regular rotation. At the same time, ask your bartenders to develop mocktails that offer a delicious alternative to alcohol-based beverages.

These mocktails could even be a version of alcoholic beverages that you or your staff creates. For example, if you craft a jalapeño-infused martini, think about how you could infuse non-alcoholic drinks with similar flavors. Keep the top flavor profiles in mind when creating both cocktails and mocktails — spicy, smoky, bitter and herbal — and be sure to use fresh ingredients when possible.

To appeal to health-conscious consumers, think about stocking popular low calorie favorites like hard seltzer. When developing a menu of signature cocktails, consider how much sugar is going into each beverage. Providing a menu with ample low-sugar options can help you increase your overall sales.

You can also stock your bar with new and interesting spirits, like mezcal or even locally brewed spirits. Having a wide selection of both the most popular alcoholic drinks as well as unique new options can help to increase your market share. 

Of course, these ideas are just that: ideas. If your bar is branded in a particular way, such as a spot for no-frills drinks, it doesn’t make sense to start offering hand-crafted cocktails that feature fresh herbs or infused spirits. Having an incoherent brand strategy can actually hurt your bottom line — so stay focused on what makes your bar unique, and stick to the brand that works for you.

How We Can Help Bar Owners with Branding

No matter how many alcoholic beverage trends — if any — you choose to incorporate in your bar this year, expanding the reach of your business is still a top priority. Whether you run an upscale dive bar, a sports bar, or a lounge-style bar, there are any number of ways to grow your market. A branded plastic cup or even custom stadium cups can put your brand right in the hands of your customers.

At Budget Branders, we are committed to offering custom disposables for less. Traditionally, branded cups and other items were an item that only the biggest chains could afford, ordering millions of cups at a time. We offer custom-printed restaurant supplies at prices and quantities that are doable for small and medium-sized bars, restaurants, and more. If you’d like to know more about how we can help your bar, contact us today or submit a quote request for one or more of our products.