If you’re headed to a holiday party this month, chances are good that either Tito’s Handmade Vodka or Fireball Cinnamon Whisky will be on the bar.
Unflavored vodka remained Pennsylvanians’ drink of choice during the 2020-21 fiscal year, bringing in $307.6 million and topping the sales list in 53 of the state’s 67 counties, including the three local counties, followed by American whiskey (13 counties) and Canadian whiskey in Greene County in the state’s southwest.
And among vodkas, Tito’s is the king — with its 750-milliliter, 1-liter and 1.75-liter sizes taking three of the top five spots for liquor sales. Mini bottles of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, however, took the No. 1 spot.
That is according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s annual report.
Last fiscal year, the PLCB set a record for net income, bringing in nearly $209 million.
This fiscal year, they beat that mark by more than $60 million, outpacing not only pandemic sales but those from the good ol’ pre-pandemic days as well.
“That was a little more unexpected,” said PLCB spokesman Shawn Kelly. “We knew that sales were going back up after the brief store shutdown, but that was more surprising.”
Alcohol sales in 2020-21 totaled $2.67 billion, nearly $239 million more than 2019-20.
E-commerce took the biggest hit across sales categories, which is of little surprise considering most Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores reopened July 1, 2020.
“We saw a transition back to brick-and-mortar sales,” Kelly said. “But the e-commerce numbers were still up over what they’d been in (pre-pandemic) years.”
The month with the biggest sales spike is traditionally December, and it was no exception in 2020, at $319 million. However, the biggest single sales day was March 16, 2020, as customers anticipating the statewide closure of liquor stores spent $29 million.
And once again, Allegheny County accounted for the most sales volume per county at $347.6 million, 14.4% of statewide sales. Luzerne County ranked 12th with more than $59 million in sales. Schuylkill County was 30th at nearly $14.9 million and Carbon County was 40th at $6.6 million.
Sales growth in all three local counties rose by at least 20%, topped by Carbon County’s 26%.
Among wine drinkers, 26 counties — including Luzerne — preferred California cabernet sauvignon, with box red wine (19 counties including Carbon) and beverage wine (14 counties including Schuylkill) not far behind.
Pennsylvanians also are spending more on tequila, with sales of premium varieties in the $40 to $60 range rising more than 80% in 2020-21. Overall, tequila sales rose by about 52% over the past year.
“It’s interesting to take a look at trends like the increase in ‘premiumization,’ as well as the (91.3%) increase in the ready-to-drink sales category” Kelly said. “It gives you a snapshot of where the industry is heading as a whole.”