What’s on Gen Z’s Bar Cart?

A look inside Gen Z’s alcohol preferences

Going to the bar isn’t what it used to be, at least not for Gen Z. And we’re not even talking about metaverse pub-crawls (yes, those do exist). It’s simpler than that. Beer is no longer the go-to option. The trend away from beer may have started with Millennials, but Gen Z is now leading the way toward spirits. There are a few reasons for this, and we will go into all the interesting details later. It’s crucial to know what Gen Z wants because they make up a big portion of consumers (40%) in the US and have a spending power of about $150 billion.

So, what do we need to know? Gen Z is focused on wellness and sustainability. Knit has covered this earlier about food. In fact, 73% of Gen Z are willing to pay more for sustainable products. They also want to feel like they are doing something positive for their bodies. It can be adding spices to liquors that have anti-inflammatory properties or adding other ingredients to cocktails that are good for the gut or nervous system.

You might have heard that Gen Z drinks less than other generations. You might even have heard about the ‘sober-curious’ trend. But despite this, Knit found that drinking increased during the pandemic. It matches research that shows that 75% of American adults drank an extra day per month in 2020. In our 2022 Gen Z Alcohol Report 35.5% of Gen Z respondents said they drink more now than before the pandemic started. But we also found out a lot of other interesting preferences from Gen Z in regards to alcohol and favorite alcohol brands.

So, without further ado, here’s what’s on Gen Z’s bar cart. 

Gen Z’s favorite alcohol types

Liquor and spirits top Gen Z’s list, favored by 74.7% of our respondents. Beer doesn’t even make it into the top three. Indeed, it was the second favorite –– flavored malt beverages –– that knocked beer down from the podium. If you’re guessing what kind of FMBs we’re talking about, you’re probably right: hard or spiked seltzer. It’s a clear favorite. Although, Gen Z drinkers also like hard tea and lemonade (65%).

Gen Z’s favorite liquor

It’s all about the vodka. In fact, Tito’s Vodka tied at 16.6% for the most frequently mentioned alcohol brand, together with the hard seltzer, White Claw. Right behind them was Smirnoff Vodka at 12.1%. What is it about these vodka brands that our respondents like so much? Price, taste, and good to mix were mentioned for both vodka brands. Or as one of our Gen Z put it about Tito’s Vodka: “High quality but not too expensive.” That goes in line with the fact that over half (54.3%) of our respondents only spend up to $30 on alcohol per month.

Whiskey and Bourbon

This will probably not come as a surprise to anyone, but Gen Z males were much more likely to say they preferred whiskey and bourbon than their female counterparts. Indeed, Gen Z males were more than twice as likely (52.7%) as Gen Z females (27%) to say they had a preference for whiskey. The difference was even bigger for bourbon, where males (30.9%) were more than three times as likely as females (9%) to say they preferred it.

Gin

Gin is interesting because it was the liquor type with the biggest difference between Gen Z students and Gen Z workers. Zoomers who were part of the workforce had gin as their third liquor preference (50%) behind vodka (75%) and tequila/mezcal (65%). It was down to fifth place at 29% for Gen Z students.

Tequila and Mezcal

Two groups had tequila and mezcal as their top liquor choice when broken down by ethnicity. Those groups were respondents who identified as Black or Hispanic. Vodka came in second for both. As many as 92.9% of Hispanic Zoomers mentioned tequila and mezcal as their favorite liquor type. The number was 85.7% among Black Gen Z. Black respondents also had the lowest preference for Vodka at 71%.

The rise of seltzer

We discovered that two of the top-four favorite alcohol brands among our Zoomers are seltzer brands. White Claw, also mentioned above, (16.6%) tied for first place, and Truly Hard Seltzer (9.5%) was in the fourth spot. What is it about seltzer that speaks to Gen Z? A couple of statements from our respondents stand out: “They’re easier to drink in moderation” and they are “affordable.” It goes back to Gen Z as a health-conscious generation that in general doesn’t spend as much on alcohol. Seltzer has fewer calories than beer and offers more flavor options. But there are other reasons, too, why FMBs were able to kick beer out of the top-three spot. Beer advertising has traditionally been focused on white men, which leaves out other groups and doesn’t fit with Gen Z’s more fluid view on gender.

Wine

One of the most fascinating parts about wine in our report is the even spread within the category. In general, there weren’t big differences in preference between the various types of wine. But there are some interesting distinctions. Red wine was mentioned the most, especially among Gen Z in the workforce. They were more likely than full-time Gen Z students to prefer it (80% to 62.9%). Females also stated they enjoyed drinking rosés more than males (70.4% to 42.1%). Gen Z full-time workers was the one group that actually preferred wine over FMBs.

Beer

There’s been some bad news for beer, but do not fret. Beer is still popular with Gen Z males. It was their second most popular beverage (75.7%) in our report, and lager was their favorite type of beer. Gen Z females were the ones who truly helped knock beer out of the top three with as few as 33% naming it as a favorite. When Gen Z females did drink beer, they preferred ales.

Getting that urge to go and have a cocktail or hit the after-work scene? We don’t blame you. Our mouths are watering, too. But before you do, click on the bottom below to access our 2022 Gen Z Alcohol Report. It has all the info you need about what the data actually says about Gen Z and alcohol. Cheers!

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