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    Expert Column: A Drink for All Seasons and Reasons

    Exploring alcoholic beverages of choice for different occasions

    Many a volume has been authored on the best practices for pairing a wine with whatever you might be serving up for dinner, or whether a stout or an IPA would best accompany that stew bubbling away on the stove. But when it comes to alcoholic beverage choices for American adults (aged 21 and up), how much does the “when” factor into the type of drink one chooses?

    Quite a bit, as it turns out: when presented with a broad selection of adult beverage types, Americans 21+ (who drink several times a year or more) clearly reach for different drinks on different occasions. Beer is the top choice as something they’re most likely to drink throughout the year (though table – that is, not sparkling – wine is the top choice for women and the over-65 set). Table wine gets the silver medal overall, though the second tier shows considerable variation by age and gender. For those aged 21-44, liquor/spirits/cocktails hold this position while wine is choice number two for those 45 and older. Meanwhile, liquor/spirits/cocktails are the second highest year-round pick for men while beer holds this distinction among women.

    However, when thoughts turn to upcoming yuletide festivities, it would appear that visions of cabernet, chardonnay or other grapes may start dancing in these Americans’ heads, as table wine is the top choice for Christmas.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 1,951 adults aged 21 and older (of whom 1,176 drink alcohol several times per year or more) surveyed online between Aug. 20-22.

    Beer follows wine as the second choice for Christmas overall, though among women and those aged 65 and up, liquor, spirits or cocktails come in as the second choice to sip around the tree. These preferences all echo those seen for Thanksgiving, while preferences shift considerably as one continues to review the holiday calendar throughout the year.

    Bubbling in the New Year

    When the ball begins to drop in Time’s Square on Dec. 31, bubbles may be rising in flutes and coupe glasses around the country, as sparkling wine is the top selection for New Year’s Eve. Liquor/spirits/cocktails are the second choice overall, though among women they share this position with table wine.

    A different kind of bubbles on Super Bowl Sunday

    On Super Bowl Sunday, these Americans turn from grapes to grains, as beer is the top selection across the age spectrum and for both men and women. Liquor/spirits/cocktails come in second, while flavored malt beverages are choice number three overall; those aged 55 and older turn to table wine as their third choice.

    Different top choices but a common runner-up when we celebrate the saints (Valentine and Patrick)

    Wine, it would appear, is for lovers. That’s the top takeaway from table wine’s pole position come Valentine’s Day, with ages and genders in full agreement. As the calendar moves on to St. Patrick’s Day, it may not come as a surprise that beer takes first chair. However, these saints do have some common ground, as liquor, spirits and cocktails come in as the second most popular drink on both their holidays.

    Cinco de Mayo follows the good St. Patrick’s lead, with beer being the most popular drink followed by liquor, spirits and cocktails. Come Mother’s Day, though, it’s time to get out the bottle opener again as wine takes back the top spot and holds steady through Easter.

    Beer – the official adult beverage of summer?

    Once grilling season kicks off, beer seems to hang on as the top holiday selection until things cool off. It’s the number one selection both overall and, more specifically, across age and gender lines for Memorial Day weekend, the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekend.

    In fact, the entire roster of top five selections is consistent across all three of these holidays, with liquor/spirits/cocktails coming in second and table wine third. While perhaps less well known, flavored malt beverages are the fourth most common selection for these holidays, while hard cider comes in fifth.

    “Consumers’ thirst for different alcoholic beverages often swings dramatically from one season, holiday event or celebration to another throughout the year," Danny Brager, SVP, beverage alcohol, Nielsen, told Progressive Grocer. "By understanding and planning for these shifts, retailers can best meet their shoppers’ needs by stocking, merchandising, and promoting the right products at the right time,” 

    Sources: Nielsen and Harris Poll

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