Margaritas rank No. 1 in popularity

From a color-changing unicorn version to the classic tequila standby, margaritas come in all flavors, satisfying traditionalists and the terminally trendy alike. Maybe because of this variety, the latest Nielsen CGA study shows that margaritas top the list for males and females when it comes to on-premises drinking occasions such as bars and restaurants.

It’s the second year in a row the drink has topped the list. On average, 51 percent of Americans ranked margaritas No. 1, with 56 percent for females and 44 percent for males.

“We know that one-fourth of on premise visitors don’t know what category they’re going to drink before entering an outlet. With on premise traffic flat or declining, every opportunity counts to maximize revenue and enhance the experience of that individual or group. Cocktails are great for both of these purposes,” Scott Elliott, SVP, Nielsen CGA, said in a statement. “Our large-scale research suggests it would be wise for retailers to specifically name drink brands as cocktail components, to be explicit with liquor bases and especially the flavor profile and to play the daypart and occasion card as much as possible with specific offers.”

Beyond margaritas, the Manhattan was the biggest over-index for male cocktail drinkers, 8 percent more than females (24 percent vs. 16 percent, respectively).

The daiquiri is a big hit, with 41 percent of females calling it their favorite cocktail (only 23 percent among men).

According to the report, more Americans are drinking cocktails out of home (28 percent this year vs. 23 percent last year). When it comes to millennials, that number increases to 40 percent compared to just 17 percent of those over 55 years old.

Taste Profiles

Base liquor is the biggest deciding factor: 44 percent of cocktail drinkers say that the base liquor is an important factor when choosing a cocktail, according to the report. Tequila is still the favorite liquor base for U.S. cocktail drinkers (38 percent), but flavored vodka (34 percent) has risen to second place and non-flavored vodka (30 percent) now joins light rum as the nation’s third favorite cocktail liquor base.

Over the past year, whisky has increased in popularity on average (29 percent). By gender this differs drastically: 43 percent of men vs. just 21 percent of women. This 22-percent difference represented the biggest gender-differential of any spirits category in the survey.

When it comes to flavors, gender is the dividing line. Females lean heavily toward berry (52 percent vs. 30 percent of men) and fruity/sweet (59 percent vs. 38 percent of men). Equally, males over-index on beer cocktails (23 percent vs. 9 percent of women) and smoky flavor profiles (14 percent vs. 5 percent of women).

Hotel Opportunities

What does this mean for hotels? According to Nielsen CGA, the revenue opportunity for bars and restaurants is clearly to encourage customers to trade up from lower priced beers or spirit mixers, to higher priced cocktails. The average cocktail drinker spends $25.61 on cocktails per occasion and this figure increases to $31.74 for millennials.

In addition, the upsell opportunity is significant with the average cocktail drinker willing to pay $9.69 for a standard cocktail with the expectation to pay 15 percent more for a cocktail made with premium spirits ($11.11).