By the numbers: Breaking down Iowa’s best-selling liquors, booziest counties, drinking habits and more

Downtown Iowa City  no doubt played a part in the record-breaking year. -- photo by JoJo Baccam
Iowa City may be home to one of the nation’s “top party schools,” but Johnson County ranks just tenth on Iowa’s list of top ten counties for gallons of alcohol sold per capita. — photo by JoJo Baccam

The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division released its 2014 annual report Tuesday, breaking down the booze-drinking habits of Iowans over the last year, gallon by gallon, county by county.

And, boy, are we drinking a lot these days. Over the past fiscal year (July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014), gross spirits sales in Iowa topped $263.5 million — a three percent increase from 2013, the previous record-holder. That’s a slight increase compared to previous years, the report notes, but still a marked leap from where the industry sat just a few years ago. In 2005, for example, gross spirits sales in Iowa were still shy of the $150 million mark:

Via the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division 2014 Annual Report
Via the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division 2014 Annual Report

Excise taxes on spirits, license fees and civil penalties netted an additional $119 million for the state in 2014, according to the report. These funds are transferred into a general fund and appropriated to state programs as stipulated by the Iowa General Assembly. This year, for instance, the Iowa Department of Public Health will receive about $19 million for the purpose of administering substance abuse programs.

How much are we drinking?

2014 was a record-breaking year for alcohol sales in Iowa, but what does that look like in terms of volume? Tens of millions of gallons of course: Iowans drank nearly 75 million gallons of beer in FY 2014 — a 2.5 percent increase over last year. That’s about 34 gallons of beer for every man and woman in Iowa, age 21 and up. For wine, consumption in Iowa has decreased slightly, down .7 percent from last year (4.38 million gallons consumed).

When it comes to Iowa’s liquor of choice, residents drank far more whiskey and vodka in FY 2014 than any other type of hard alcohol. Rum comes in a distant third, and though Iowa’s thirst for tequila, liqueur and brandy remains relatively small, consumption is higher than it was last year.

Total Alcohol Sold (In Gallons)

Alcohol 2014 2013 +/-
Beer 74,910,545 73,099,412 + 2.5%
Wine 4,382,755 4,415,792 – 0.7%
Vodka 1,484,834 1,441,448 + 3.0%
Whiskey 1,371,960 1,347,723 + 1.8%
Rum 707,649 708,617 – 0.1%
Liqueurs 533,791 499,704 + 6.8%
Schnapps 213,688 237,211 – 9.9%
Cocktails 164,676 182,377 – 9.7%
Tequila 186,216 178,303 + 4.4%
Gin 155,478 155,954 – 0.3%
Brandy 147,505 146,318 + 0.8%
Other Liquor 10,774 26,301 – 59%

Which counties drink the most?

Home to a relatively small population of adults over the drinking age (11,917 according to the 2010 U.S. Census) Dickinson County sold more distilled spirits (per capita) in FY 2014 than any other county in Iowa, likely due to its tourist destinations like West Okoboji Lake. This figure is nearly double that of Cerro Gordo County, which comes in at number two.

Johnson County ranks tenth in Iowa, with 2.94 gallons of distilled spirits sold per capita. A complete listing of Iowa’s 99 counties is available in the full report.

Top 25 Counties: Gallons of distilled spirits sold per capita

Rank County Gallons sold per capita
1 Dickinson 6.39
2 Cerro Gordo 3.50
3 Polk 3.31
4 Iowa 2.83
5 Black Hawk 3.06
6 Kossuth 3.12
7 Carroll 3.07
8 Linn 2.95
9 Scott 2.83
10 Johnson 2.94
11 Hardin 2.91
12 Des Moines 2.22
13 Clay 2.79
14 O’Brien 2.56
15 Pottawattamie 2.61
16 Lee 2.44
17 Buena Vista 2.24
18 Story 2.42
19 Howard 2.49
20 Cass 2.23
21 Dubuque 2.34
22 Woodbury 2.25
23 Webster 2.20
24 Bremer 2.16
25 Crawford 2.16

What are the best-selling brands in Iowa?

Do you drink Black Velvet? Because a lot of Iowans do, apparently.

The Canadian whiskey topped Iowa’s list of best-selling spirits by a margin, with 130,938 cases sold in FY 2014. Hawkeye Vodka, a staple among cash-strapped college students, comes in a distant second with 96,765 cases. Rounding out the top three is Captain Morgan, and the list tapers off quickly from there:

Top 50 best-selling brands in Iowa

Rank Brand Cases Sold
1 Black Velvet 130,938
2 Hawkeye Vodka 96,765
3 Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum 91,208
4 Five O’Clock Vodka 56,170
5 Smirnoff Vodka 40,370
6 Jack Daniel Black Label 38,560
7 Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey 38,337
8 Seagram Crown Royal 34,897
9 McCormick Vodka 34,161
10 Barton Vodka 32,581
11 Phillips Vodka 32,398
12 Bacardi Light Dry Rum 29,007
13 Seagram 7 Crown Whiskey 25,641
14 Admiral Nelson Spiced Rum 25,517
15 Absolut Vodka 23,786
16 Paramount White Rum 23,254
17 Canadian Ltd 22,667
18 Jim Beam Whiskey 19,673
19 GW Five Star Whiskey 19,408
20 Jagermeister 18,262
21 Cuervo Especial Tequila 17,083
22 UV Blue Raspberry Vodka 16,952
23 Southern Comfort 70 Whiskey 16,708
24 UV Vodka 15,274
25 Malibu Natural Rum 15,250
26 Dr. McGillicuddy Cherry 14,193
27 Windsor Canadian 13,750
28 Rum Chata 13,665
29 Grey Goose Vodka 13,368
30 Skol Vodka 13,208
31 Kessler Whiskey 13,138
32 Ten High Whiskey 12,216
33 Juarez Tequila 12,013
34 Cuervo Lime Margarita 11,131
35 Svedka Vodka 10,704
36 Paramount Peppermint Schnapps 10,665
37 Seagram Extra Dry Gin 10,648
38 Nikolai 80 Proof Vodka 10,592
39 E&J Brandy 10,304
40 Bailey’s Original Irish Cream Liquor 10,129
41 Jameson 9,934
42 Popov Vodka 9,628
43 Tito’s Vodka 9,519
44 Hennessy VS Brandy 9,116
45 Pinnacle Vodka 9,023
46 Fleishchmann’s Vodka 9,003
47 Black Velvet Toasted Caramel 8,920
48 Canadian Club 1858 Whiskey 8,821
49 Paramount Gold Rum 8,351

And there you have it. Iowans like to drink, and we’re drinking more than ever. But what does next year have in store? Stay (mostly) lucid and find out! And in the mean time, read the complete Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division 2014 Annual Report.

Data via the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division 2014 Annual Report

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