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The festive spirit(s): not everyone will be drinking beer and sparkly this silly season

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), October 2015-September 2016, n=14,489

With the festive season looming, liquor retailers are gearing up for a busy time as consumers stock up on beverages to help them celebrate Christmas and the New Year. But while beer and sparkling wine are the obvious choices, some Australians will inevitably want to get into the, ahem, spirit of things and celebrate with rum, whisky, bourbon, vodka, gin or tequila! In fact, the latest findings from Roy Morgan reveal that more than a quarter of Australian adults consume spirits at least once in an average four weeks. So who are these spirited drinkers? Read on…

Australians’ overall alcohol consumption has been relatively stable in the past few years. Currently, 69.6% of the adult population enjoy at least a tipple in any given four-week period; just as they did in 2012. 

Wine remains the most popular beverage, consumed by 44.5% (or almost 8.3 million people) in an average four weeks, followed by beer (38.5%/ over 7.1 million). Spirits are the third-most popular type of liquor, drunk by 26.2% of Aussies 18+ (or nearly 5 million people).

Alcohol consumption in Australia


Source: Roy Morgan Liquor Currency Report (Australia), October 2015-September 2016, n=14,489

While spirits consumption is nowhere near as male-dominated as beer, men (31.6%) are markedly more likely than women (20.9%) to partake in any given four-week period.

But if we look at each type of spirits individually, it becomes apparent that this male skew is due to the overwhelming popularity of Whisky, Bourbon/American Whiskey and Rum among Aussie men. Vodka and gin, on the other hand, are consumed by more women than men.  

Types of spirits consumed: men vs women


Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), October 2015-September 2016, n=14,489

Spirited attitudes

Obviously, gender is just one factor influencing a person’s decision to consume spirits. Roy Morgan’s Liquor Currency Report for September 2016 shows that age also plays a role, with spirits consumption most widespread among young drinkers aged 18-24 (37.0% of whom partake in an average four weeks), and 25-34 year-olds (29.4%). After that, consumption falls off, bottoming out at 21.4% among the 50-plus age group—although naturally, this varies depending on the spirit.

Certain attitudes also underpin spirits-drinkers’ choices. Not surprisingly, a penchant for strong drinks is common, with four in every 10 saying ‘I like my drinks strong’ (compared with 22.0% of Australian drinkers overall). Among bourbon and vodka drinkers, this figure is much higher, at 51.7% and 49.8% respectively!

While nearly a third of all Australian drinkers (31.5%) ‘don’t like drinking in pubs’, spirits drinkers tend to have fewer objections. For example, only 20.0% of vodka drinkers, and an even lower proportion of tequila drinkers (17.6%), dislike partaking in pubs—although it’s interesting to note that whisky drinkers are the exception to this rule. Almost 35% (34.8%) of them prefer to avoid pubs…possibly preferring to don their smoking jacket and kick back with a cigar in their lounge-room recliner? Given that almost half of Australia’s whisky drinkers are 50+ (a far greater proportion than any other spirit), this may not be such a far-fetched idea…

Norman Morris, Industry Communications Director, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“Alcohol drinkers are a diverse bunch, with a person’s liquor consumption often linked to their age, gender, socio-economic scale, ethnic background, attitudes and even state of residence. Even within a category, such as spirits, there can be considerable variation, as we have seen here.

“Although wine and beer are consumed in much larger volumes by many more Australians, spirits are still an important category in the liquor market. And at special times of year such as the Christmas-New Year period, liquor retailers can expect a surge in sales of these beverages, with customers buying them as gifts (a quick tip: white spirits for the ladies, dark spirits for the blokes!) or for their festive celebrations.

“An invaluable resource for brands looking to expand their share of the market, Roy Morgan’s alcohol data can help identify which consumers are most likely to be receptive to a particular brand and/or category of booze.

“For example, bourbon drinkers are the most likely of all spirits drinkers to ‘prefer pre-mixed spirits to spirits in a glass’ (22.7%), in stark contrast to those who consume gin (5.6%). What’s more, they’re also most likely to believe that ‘pre-mixed spirits are good value for money’ (17.7%)—good news for pre-mix manufacturers (many of which use bourbon and American whiskey in their products)…”

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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%