Alcohol, a widely consumed psychoactive drug, has been consumed across cultures for thousands of years in many forms. Alcohol has been used in ancient civilizations like Egypt, Greece, India, Mesopotamia, and China. Today, alcohol consumption is integral to socialization and culture, especially in Europe. 9 out of 10 countries with the highest alcohol consuming countries are in Europe, with Uganda being the only non-European country among the leaders. These are the top 10 most consumed alcoholic drinks drinks in the world.
The high consumption of alcohol in Europe is attributed to a more liberal, casual attitude towards alcohol compared to other countries like the US and Canada. European parents are more willing to introduce alcohol to their children at a young age, as seen in Germany where a person can drink alcoholic beverages at 16 before driving a car or voting.
This guide presents the top 10 most consumed alcoholic drinks in the world.
Types of Alcoholic Drinks
Alcoholic beverages can be categorized into distilled and undistilled forms. Undistilled drinks are also known as fermented drinks, are made by fermenting sugar into ethanol, like wine and beer.
Distilled alcohols which follows fermentation, converts a fermented substance into one with a higher alcohol concentration. Liquors and spirits are distilled alcoholic beverages, containing more alcohol by volume than undistilled drinks.
Distillation concentrates alcohol by separating it from the water and other components of a fermented substance. Liquors and spirits are distilled alcoholic beverages. They contain more alcohol by volume than undistilled drinks. In general, a distilled alcoholic beverage will have a higher alcohol proof.
Top 10 Most Consumed Alcoholic Drinks in the World
Rum is among the most consumed alcoholic drinks in the world. It is made from fermented sugar cane juice. It’s global market size in 2022 was US$17.4 billion. Rum is produced in sugar-producing regions worldwide, including the Philippines, where Tanduay is the largest producer.
It comes in various grades, with light rums commonly used in cocktails, while “golden” and “dark” rums are now consumed with mixers. Premium rums are made for straight or iced consumption. Rum has historical associations with the Royal Navy, piracy, and has served as a medium of economic exchange.
Tequila’s popularity surged in 2021, surpassing whisky in retail sales. According to reports, factors such as the expansion of the premium spirits sector and the introduction of new flavours are greatly responsible for the growth. Increased social media presence also contributes to the growth of tequila.
The major ingredients in Tequila include the Mexican agave plant, which typically has a 40% ABV alcohol concentration.
As of 2022. the global market size of tequila was US$14.7 billion
Cider, a popular alcoholic drink, has seen a 5.2% growth in UK off-trade value sales over the past year, with 47.8% of households now regularly buying it. Hard ciders, typically 4.5%-7% alcohol by volume, have a higher ABV than dry ciders, as yeast consumes most of the natural sugars. The global market size for cider is US$17.9 billion in 2022.
Cider is ranked as one of the top 10 most consumed alcoholic beverages in the world.
Whisky is among the most consumed alcoholic drinks in the world. In 2022, the global market size for Scotch whisky reached US$64 billion, with exports reaching the highest-ever figure of US$7.5 billion. The rise in millennials’ experimentation with drinks and the rise of ‘cocktail culture’ has increased the use of whisky as a premium ingredient in bars.
Also, in 2022, Whisky exports by volume also rose, with 700ml bottles shipped overseas up by 21% to 1.67 billion. Whisky is a regulated spirit with various classes and types, characterized by fermentation, distillation, and aging in wooden barrels.
Gin’s global market size in 2022 was US$15.3 billion, driven by its taste, versatility, and variety. The UK is the largest exporter, with gin exports reaching $879 million in 2022.
Gin is a spirit made from grain, fermented and distilled, with a predominant juniper berry flavor. In the US, gin is distilled alcohol with a 40% alcohol content and juniper berry flavor.
Gin was invented in England in the 17th century, unlike jenever, a Dutch and Belgian drink.
Vodka is a clear distilled alcoholic beverage, and is the most consumed spirit in the US since 1970, with 28.1 million 9L cases sold globally in 2022. Originating in Poland, Russia, and Sweden, it is mainly made from water and ethanol, sometimes with impurities and flavorings.
The European Union has established a minimum alcohol content of 37.5% for vodka, while the US must have a minimum alcohol content of 40%. Vodka is traditionally drunk “neat” and is often served freezer-chilled in the vodka belt of Belarus, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and Ukraine.
It is also used in cocktails and mixed drinks like the vodka martini, Cosmopolitan, vodka tonic, screwdriver, greyhound, Black or White Russian, Moscow mule, Bloody Mary, and Caesar.
Baijiu is a colorless Chinese liquor and has been a significant part of China’s drinking culture since the Ming Dynasty. It is among the most consumed alcoholic beverages in the world. Baijiu is typically distilled from sorghum and is available in blends with other grains like rice, wheat, corn, and millet.
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In 2022, the global market size for baijiu was US$95.21 billion. Despite consumption of US$91 billion worth in China last year, it remains less well-known outside the country. Each type of baijiu uses its own type of qū for fermentation, creating a distinct flavor profile. Baijiu’s clarity can make it appear similar to other East Asian liquors but often has a higher alcohol content.
Liqueurs are distilled spirits sweetened with sugar or syrup. They are alcoholic beverages with a global market size of US$128.9 billion in 2022, containing fruits, herbs, and oils.
A liqueur is an alcoholic beverage that is bottled with added sugar and flavored, usually from fruits, herbs, and nuts. Liqueurs are different from eau de vie, fruit brandies, and flavored liqueurs with no added sugar. Most liqueurs range in alcohol content from 15% to 55%. Some of the liqueurs include cream liqueurs, coffee liqueurs, berry liqueurs, and crème liqueurs.
In 2022, the global wine market size was estimated at US$441.6 billion, driven by the increasing demand for premium and luxury wines and the rise in wine tourism. Global wine consumption decreased by 1% compared to the previous year, mainly due to China’s decline in consumption.
Despite the decline in consumption, wine remains one of the most consumed alcoholic drinks in the world. Wine is an alcoholic drink made from fermented fruit, with different varieties of grapes and yeast strains influencing different styles.
Wine has been produced for thousands of years, with the earliest evidence dating back to the Caucasus region in Georgia, Persia, Italy, and Armenia. New World wine has connections to indigenous American beverages, while Europe encompasses three of the largest wine-producing regions. Today, the five largest wine-producing regions are Italy, Spain, France, the United States, and China.
Wine has also played a significant role in religion, with ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Israelis all connected to ancient roots. Italy, Spain, France, and the Southwestern United States have heritages in sacramental wine, while the Southwestern United States began with Catholic friars and monks producing wines in New Mexico and California.
Beer is second to none when it comes to the most consumed alcoholic drinks in the world. It is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks and is the third most popular drink globally after water and tea. Beer is produced by brewing and fermenting starches, mainly derived from cereal grains like barley, wheat, maize, rice, and oats. The fermentation process produces ethanol and carbonation in the resulting beer, with modern beer typically brewed with hops for bitterness and other flavors.
Other flavoring agents may be used instead of hops. The brewing industry is a global business, consisting of multinational companies and smaller producers. The strength of modern beer is usually around 4% to 6% alcohol by volume (ABV), with some breweries creating examples of 40% ABV and above. Beer forms part of many nations’ cultures and is associated with social traditions such as beer festivals and pub culture.
The global beer market is expected to grow in the coming years due to the demand for premium and low-calorie beers, the rising popularity of craft beer, and the expansion of distribution networks in emerging countries. In 2022, global beer production increased slightly by 1.3% to 1.89 billion hectolitres.