Holidays and alcoholic beverages often seem to go hand in hand in the United States. There’s just something about a celebration that seems to invite folks to break out the drinks. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2019 Consumer Expenditure Survey data, the average consumer unit in the U.S. spends $579 on alcohol annually. But on certain holidays, they spend significantly more than they do on any other day of the year.
To find out which holidays are the ones where people spend the most money and consumer the most alcohol, GOBankingRates used data from Alcohol.org’s survey of consumers. GOBankingRates also looked at industry reports and contemporary news coverage to find details on how much Americans spend on each holiday.
Last updated: June 29, 2021
Mardi Gras has a long history of alcohol sales, pre-pandemic, according to the New Orleans Business Alliance. In normal years, Mardi Gras and the Carnival season typically bring a $1 billion economic impact to New Orleans in general. Though it’s hard to parse out how much of that is alcohol, revelers tend to drink about 4 1/2 alcoholic beverages during this holiday, according to Alcohol.org.
However, the pandemic has changed many things, and 2022’s Mardi Gras will not likely have the same level of sales as typical years. According to The New York Times, which interviewed a New Orleans pub owner, alcohol sales are down. But with increased rates of vaccination, 2022 may return to its pre-pandemic levels. Only time will tell.
New Year’s Eve
According to marketing and CRM firm Womply, New Year’s Eve is the No. 1 biggest day of the year for sales for local alcohol stores. Total sales at all stores in their network increase 159% on Dec. 31. For comparison, on a typical day, the average liquor store in this analysis brought in $1,068 in revenue, processed about 46 transactions, and the average customer spent about $23.07 per ticket. On New Year’s Eve, the busiest shops process more than 200 daily transactions. Partiers report drinking 4.4 drinks on this holiday, according to Alcohol.org.
St. Patrick’s Day
The Irish pride holiday of St. Patrick’s Day has historically been the highest-grossing day of the year for U.S. bars and restaurants, according to a recent NielsenIQ analysis. Though the pandemic slowed things down in 2020 and 2021, there’s a good chance that 2022 will see a return to these kinds of figures.
In 2018, as an example, beer sales leapt 174% on St. Patrick’s Day, and spirits sales by 153%. Bars, restaurants and pubs in Chicago made, on average, $8,287 on beer sales alone. Revelers reported consuming an average of 4.2 drinks during this holiday, according to Alcohol.org.
Fourth of July
Turns out people are as passionate about beer as they are about independence. CNBC reported on data from WalletHub in 2016 that Americans spent $1 billion on beer alone for the Fourth of July. Additionally, the National Brewers Association of America ranked Independence Day as the No. 1 holiday for beer sales, giving St. Patrick’s Day a run for its money. Consumers reported drinking 3.8 alcoholic beverages on average for this holiday, according to Alcohol.org.
Halloween may seem like a holiday just for kids, but adults apparently like to celebrate, as well, by breaking out a little booze. According to a survey of 15,000 California adults for BevMo, one of the largest beverage retailers in the Golden State, 44% of respondents said they would spend more than $100 for alcohol on Halloween, while a similar percentage said they would spend between $50 and $100. Adults report drinking 3 1/2 alcoholic beverages on average on Halloween, according to Alcohol.org.
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Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo, a holiday that celebrates the Mexican victory over Napoleon’s French forces, is often celebrated with beer, malt beverages and tequila.
According to Nielsen, Americans bought more than $735 million worth of beer and related malt beverages during the week of Cinco de Mayo in 2015. In 2013, tequila sales more than doubled on this holiday, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of America.
Tequila, in general, is a growing spirit in the U.S. and one of the fastest-growing drinks categories in the country, according to an ISWR report. Revelers reported drinking an average of 3 1/2 alcoholic beverages on Cinco de Mayo, according to Alcohol.org.
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Memorial Day may be a time to remember our veterans’ sacrifices, but it is also a time when Americans increase their alcohol expenditures. In 2019, Americans spent nearly $3 billion in alcohol (in retail stores) in the weeks before and after Memorial Day last year, according to Nielsen data.
In fact, that same year, Memorial Day was the second-biggest holiday for alcohol consumption, behind the Fourth of July, Nielsen reported.
Consumers say they drank 3.3 alcoholic beverages on average on this holiday, according to Alcohol.org.
Americans celebrate Labor Day, the holiday that acknowledges the efforts of American workers, by chilling with an alcoholic beverage. Consumers report drinking an average of 3.2 alcoholic beverages on this day, according to Alcohol.org. In 2016, the NBWA ranked Labor Day as No. 3 in its list of beer sales holidays.
And in 2020, the week leading into Labor Day showed alcohol sales up 6.5% compared to the same week in 2019, according to Nielsen. Spirits sales were up 33.4% and wine was up 17.9% in the same week.
Winter brings with it a number of holidays, both religious and secular. December, in particular, is one of the biggest months for alcohol sales, according to data from the Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve Economic Data portal on wholesaler beer, wine and distilled alcoholic beverages sales by month. In 2019, sales jumped from $13.67 billion in November up to $16.14 billion in December before dropping back down to $10.45 billion in January. This trend persists in most years. Consumers report drinking an average of 3.1 alcoholic drinks in these holidays, according to Alcohol.org.
While consumers definitely break out the drinks on Thanksgiving Day, according to marketing and CRM firm Womply, the day before Thanksgiving is actually the biggest day for alcohol sales around this holiday. Some industry insiders call it “Blackout Wednesday” as data from more than 2,900 local beer, wine and liquor stores across the U.S. show sales leaping to 130% higher than a normal day on Thanksgiving Eve. Consumers report drinking 2.7 alcoholic beverages on average for this holiday, according to Alcohol.org.
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Methodology: For this support piece, GOBankingRates used data from Alcohol.org’s survey of consumers to identify the top ten holidays where people drink the most on average. After identifying each holiday and the average number of drinks consumed, GOBankingRates looked at industry reports and contemporary news coverage to find details on how much Americans spend on each holiday. All information was collected on and up to date as of May 25-6, 2021.