Teens Prefer Liquor To Beer, Hate Wine

The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report claims that teens prefer bourbon, rum, scotch, whiskey, and vodka to beer. Why should you care? Regulators and policy makers use the statistics to develop beverage-specific measures to combat underage drinking, “including increasing alcohol excise taxes and increasing restrictions on the distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages.” The CDC studied high schoolers in Nebraska, Arkansas, New Mexico, and Wyoming, and found the following:

In all four states, liquor was the most prevalent type of alcoholic beverage usually consumed among students who reported current alcohol use, ranging from 34.1% in Nebraska to 44.7% in Arkansas. The second most prevalent type of alcohol usually consumed was either beer or malt beverages (beer in Nebraska, malt beverages in Arkansas, and beer and malt beverages nearly equally in New Mexico and Wyoming). Wine was the least prevalent type of alcohol usually consumed in all four states, ranging from 1.6% in Arkansas and Wyoming to 3.1% in New Mexico.

The CDC has two common-sense explanations for liquor’s popularity: it gets teens drunk faster, and it can be mixed with “other beverages such as soft drinks.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest disagrees with the CDC’s conclusions and believes liquor’s popularity can be chalked up to clever marketing:

Think of the dull amber, brown, and clear bottles in liquor stores of yesterday and compare that to the bright pinks, neon blues, and girly greens that characterize hard liquor today. Today’s infantilized liquors are flavored with peach, raspberry, mango, cherry, grape and every other kid-friendly flavor under the sun: Hypnotiq. Smirnoff Blueberry. DeKuyper Pineapple Coconut, Sour Apple, or Tropical Mango schnapps. Pink Grapefruit flavored Hiram Walker? Please.

Which argument regulators accept will make the difference between higher sin taxes or tightened restrictions on advertising. What do you think? Are teens after efficiency or pretty colors?

Types of Alcoholic Beverages Usually Consumed by Students in 9th–12th Grades — Four States, 2005 [CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report via the CSPI]
(Photo: jenerally speaking)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Galls says:

    Well ya, with idiot kids the point of their lives is to get drunk. Either because they have nothing better to do, or because they think it is what they should do.

    Forget enjoying a drink, they drink just to get drunk.

  2. snowferret says:

    It’s the flavors not the colors. But yeah the efficiently too. Kids want to get drunk fast and they want it to taste like candy. As for marketing, who do you think that red cherry vodka or whatever is aimed at? You’re mom and dad?

  3. Me. says:

    I always drank hard alcohol when I was underage because:
    – it could be opened and reopened unlike beer (good for storing an old bottle o’ your parents’ that they wouldn’t miss) and wouldn’t get old if there was a long lull between parties
    – It didn’t need to be refrigerated
    – It is much easier to conceal (which is good for hiding it from both the authorities and other under-age kids who couldn’t get their own. There was much less sharing that way…)

    Sidenote: I started early and ended early, so don’t judge me by my sneaky past!

  4. Jesse Pink says:

    I think Me. has it right for the most part. You can’t efficiently get beer into public areas like you can liquor (through use of a flask, small bottle, etc.)
    It’s also probably easier to steal a bottle of liquor to share than steal two cases of beer, which probably has about the same alcohol content. It’s also easier to convince somebody to buy alcohol for you if you only want one bottle– the handoff is much simpler and discrete.

  5. Consumer-X says:

    “The Center for Science in the Public Interest … believes liquor’s popularity can be chalked up to clever marketing…”

    Clever marketing has nothing to do with why teens drink hard liquor more than other types of alcohol. They drink hard liquor because:
    A.They are new drinkers and are just developing a taste for alcohol.Hard liquor mixed with fruit punch is much more palatable.
    B.It is easier to transport concealed from parents and police.
    C.A little bit goes a long way.
    D.It is harder for parents to miss a half pint of vodka taken from a bigger bottle in the family home by their teenage child. Parents are more likely to notice missing beers or bottles of wine from the family home.

  6. Falconfire says:

    @Me. and @Consumer-X: You both hit the nail on the head right there.

    If anything I think the bright colors are flavors are in response to the fact that kids are MUCH more likely to drink the stuff for all the reasons described.

    I know I for one did, and my friends did too. We where not stupid, liquor could be hidden better (sprite + vodka = one fun marching band trip) and could be made to taste sweet which teens like more than the much more refined taste beer and wine is IMHO. Both cant really be made to mix well to taste better (wine you COULD make into sangria but its still wine) and both need to be drank in a short amount of time before they go “bad”

  7. huginn says:

    @Consumer-X: You nailed it right there. My family didn’t know their pint of vodka was missing from Christmas from my little 16 year old thieving brother til I showed them. Easy to hide, easy to forget, and the price/drunkeness ratio is clearly in favor when you have liquor (this has been used in business classes to get point across)

    But is this marketing to teens or just appealing to a market with changing tastes? I’d have to go with the latter

  8. Covert7 says:

    Marketing???? That’s quite a stretch. I’m afraid plain ol’ “zero to drunk” in 5 shots wins here.

  9. cryrevolution says:

    Heh…ahhh high school years. Parties with jello shots and that special punch. Yeah, when I was a teen it was all about the price and how fast you could get drunk. As a teen most of the time you don’t have a lot of money to buy cases and cases of beer, so you get that cheap gallon vodka or tequila and just add some fruit punch. Voila, instant party. Beer is just too expensive and doesn’t have that kick.

  10. Shadowfire says:

    The thought that adults won’t drink something that is fruit flavored, or “Prettified,” is assinine. And the thought that a tax hike on alcohol will lower drinking among minors is equally stupid… tobacco tax is proof enough of that.

    These people blow my mind.

  11. Scuba Steve says:

    Vodka is my drink of choice, but only to get drunk. I enjoy either Sam Adams or Guiness when I’m eating, and sipping whiskey when I’m exhausted and it’s quiet.

    I imagine that this “legislation” is only designed to put more money in the government’s pockets, and “Think of the Children” is a good enough excuse as any.

  12. missdona says:

    Ahh, the good ole days.

    I remember a friend of mine doubled over a balcony railing puking vodka at the ripe age of 18.

  13. judahb says:

    im a teen and my fave drink has been wine for a couple years now although vodka used to be my favorite when i started..i used to drink straight vdka bottles without mixing them with anything ever cause it made me puke whenever i mixed all those sugar mixes.

  14. synergy says:

    I agree with “Me”, Consumer-X, and definitely I did the Sprite+vodka thing. I kept vodka in a Sprite bottle in the refridgerator because my mother was diabetic and I knew she’d never drink it and she’d never been much of a soda drinker before that anyway. Never got busted. And yes liquor definitely has the “1 tequila, 2 tequila, floor” advantage to drinking a 6 or 12 of beer if the goal is to get drunk, not just drinking for the sake of drinking.

  15. Televiper says:

    I agree… Hard liquor is simply easier to manage than beer. The closer you could keep it to fruit punch, coke, or ginger-ale the better. Your pour rum into the watermelon, not beer when you go to the beach.

  16. covaro says:

    Pretty much anyone with half a brain pretty much knows what has been said numerous times above in the comments…

    Kids drink alcohol to get drunk, and drunk quick, and to spend as little alcohol as possible. There are reasons that most teens drink things like Wolfschmidts. I know, I was a member of that group, though thankfully we had a friend that was a box boy at a liquor store so we got lots of nice booze for free most of the time.

    But watch as people mature, and really evolve drinking from getting drunk to drinking to enjoy the flavors as they consume the beverages. I’ve graduated from the young drink yourself stupid class, to a person that enjoys quality beers (no Bud, Coors, or Miller for this boy) and high quality bottles of wine.

    It’s taken ten years since I first started drinking, but a good night out to dinner for some fine dining and a very nice bottle of wine top just about any drink to get drunk experience I can think of.

    As far as those fruity style drinks, they are definitely marketed to the younger crowd, and by younger I’m thinking mid-twenties. My wife is also a good target for their products, old enough to drink, but not a big drinker in general, so if she does drink something besides some nice wine with dinner, it’s usually a Smirnoff Ice or some fruity mixed drink concoction.

    To shorten my rambling:

    Kids drink to get messed up as quickly as possible for as little as possible. Liquor tends to be the cheapest and easiest to acquire… hence teens drink more liquor. BUT… if only beer or wine is available, they will drink that because it will net them the same end result.

  17. G-Dog says:

    It just so happens that I’m drunk right now. I’m 28, and I love rum. I don’t drink because I like the taste, I drink to get drunk. Rum and coke masks the taste of rum, so it does the job.

  18. G-Dog says:


  19. Galls says:

    God some of you people are, for lack of a better word, complete tools.

    Sure your definition of living a compelling life may be seeing how asinine you can be, but that does not exactly lend itself to a rewarding, long and enlightened life style.

  20. acambras says:

    As they say…

    Wine is fine,
    But liquor is quicker.

  21. Moosehawk says:

    As a teen, I confirm this statement. I (as well as all my friends) hate beer and will only drink liquor. Most vodka, schnapps, and rum can be mixed with almost any kind of pop. Also, it makes for a lot funner parties because you get drunk faster and you can do shots and bombs.

  22. karmaghost says:

    @Galls: Unless your definition of “rewarding” is “getting totally smashed,” in which case I would imagine their lives would be very rewarding!

    Having flavored booze probably doesn’t help the underage drinking problem, but I wouldn’t call the marketing and pretty bottles the reason kids drink or even a “conspiracy” of the companies creating the booze. Packaging is a good way to get your product noticed and placed in a shopping cart, but when you’re not the one buying the booze or going into the store at all, then I can’t imagine it matters much. “Hey, could you get that rum you got me last time? The bottle was totally cool.”

  23. aeolus says:

    Alright, where to start?
    First of all, let me state that I am a seventeen year-old drinker. And I must say, I absolutely hate beer with all of my heart. I can just as easily chug the same amount of tequila as beer, despite the 35% difference in alcohol content. Wine is alright chilled, but you often can’t get it chilled because access to a refrigerator is limited. The same can be said about beer. The difference with liquor, however, is that you want to get it down as fast as possible, so it is actually better served room temperature.

    So far as reasons teens prefer liquor in general can definitely not be attributed to flavor or bottle. I know that when I drink, I want to get intoxicated with the greatest haste, and that if there are leftovers, they can safely be stored (and there always are). Flavor always takes a back seat to the alcohol content in deciding what to buy. Price has never really mattered to me, all I have to do is pay for my own gas and food with my paycheck, as with a lot of teens. So long as you have a job, you can afford just about anything. A side note: I once had a Smirnoff party pack in my trunk for a month before I got caught with it. So unless you live in an apartment with parents, hiding it from parents isn’t a problem.

    Too long; didn’t read?
    Teens are out to have a good time, preferably in a drunken stupor, and damn, are teens today impatient.

  24. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @Galls: And if I don’t feel like being enlightened in this lifetime, that’s nobody’s business but my own.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a prayer meeting scheduled with the Three Wise Men.

  25. Sudonum says:

    Bacardi 151…. most bang for your buck when I was in High School

  26. FromThisSoil says:

    You’ll never get any company that produces product meant for adults, to admit that they advertise their products to teens and tweens.

    Kids turn 18 and 21 every day, and what do they looks forward to? Being able to buy cigarettes, and in this case, alcohol.

    When these kids turn 21, companies want their products already to be in their heads, hopefully producing a life-long customer. Of course they deliberately make their drinks cool colors, with fancy bottles and crazy names – that’s what attracts younger people.

    Kids are the future customers of these companies.

  27. Uriel says:

    Yes, they love their cheap shit don’t they.

  28. AaronM says:

    Do the people making our laws realize that male drinkers (the vast majority of teens) are definitely not going to be seduced by pink mango raspberry flavoured liquors? Please. It’s because the amount of beverage needed to get blitzed is smaller, because large amounts of alcohol are hard to get for teens. This is so obvious.

  29. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @AaronM: No, but their girlfriends are.

  30. veronykah says:

    I think most of the posts here have nailed it, and from my standpoint growing up, TOTALLY nailed it. Whatever liquor got you drunk the fastest and tasted the “best” i.e. not like ALCOHOL was the choice.
    Coming from a state where all the liquor was sold in a liquor store, there would be no need to market to teens with flashy bottles or pink, silver or mango…you CAN’T see the marketing machine if you aren’t in the store…and I certainly don’t remember thinking about all the great cocktails I could make with Hot 100…
    It was 100 proof, and tasted like Big Red gum. At 15, nuff said.

  31. blizzardkmb4 says:

    Drunk off wine and reading my RSS. Efficiency first, pretty colors if you have enough money.

  32. Between the ages of 14 and 17, I drank enough Milwaukees Best to fill a swimming pool. Amongst my group of friends, it was always Beast … we’d have cases of that shit to drink. We never really drank liquor. We also never really needed to. My friends and I always had a private place to party and relax. None of us we’re drinking at home. We didn’t need to hide anything but the results of our drunkeness from our parents.

    Oh, and we also smoked a lot of pot. Sometimes we did that instead of beer. Always far more fun and way less dangerous.

  33. I’m 25 and I STILL think beer and wine taste gross, and yes I’ve been given the “good stuff”. It all tastes like butt. Beer makes me feel full and icky, and wine makes me feel sleepy and sloppy. Alcohol (gin, tequila, rum), in its proper amounts, makes me feel warm and happily buzzed.

    I don’t GET beer and wine, and apparently I’m not the only one. Wine, especially, has been an issue in my life, because all of my mother’s very cosmopolitan friends insist they just COULDN’T turn down a glass of…whateverthehellwine they drink. One of her friends made me drink a glass of wine before my wedding. I managed to get away with only drinking a portion of it, but I still felt dull and horrible through the whole ceremony.

  34. shades_of_blue says:

    My friends partied with the Beast too, price is very important when you’re a poor student. We’d always have a couple bottles of Jose Cuervo, Vadka or something else on hand, but it was always just a couple bottles, at best. As I said, price is everything.

    Kids hate the taste of beer, they needed a study to spell out the obvious? Who are they kidding, this sounds more like an excuse to raise taxes. Everyone hates the taste of beer, at first. It’s an aquired taste, but I guess these ‘concerned’ government officials weren’t aware of that… yeah, right

  35. Melov says:

    My grandma could out drink any of you.

  36. chili_dog says:

    Want to curb underage drinking? upon a 1st offense, revoke their drivers license. Word will spread quickly that if you get caught with alcohol you LOSE your license till 21.

  37. Jesse in Japan says:

    To be fair, if you lived in one of those states, what else is there to do but be drunk off your ass 24-7?

  38. rdldr1 says:

    Kids will drink no matter what laws are out there. When I was a drunken underage teen, I preferred liquor because you can mix it with sweeter drinks. Wine was nasty and had connotations with taking it at church. I never liked beer until I became older and more experienced with alcohol.

    BTW in the rest of the world – alcohol isnt as much of a big deal, not as overtaxed, and its younger drinkers are generally more responsible.

  39. wring says:

    no wonder i dont get carded when i order wine.

  40. rdldr1 says:


    How old are you? You sound like a disgruntled old fart. You know you are an ADULT at 18? You are young enough to die for your country in war but not a full enough citizen to drink alcohol. BTW they reduced the age restriction during the Vietnam War because of this reasoning. Well Id be disgruntled too if I had liver spots on my hands.

  41. Trai_Dep says:

    Let the kids drink. They’ll outgrow the drink-til-puke thing, like we all did.

    Do ANY of these legislators remember being a teen? Or are they merely hypocrits? Oops, forgot: “the alcohol back in their day was much different than the alcohol kids drink today.”

  42. etinterrapax says:

    This has been educational. I never had to sneak alcohol. We’re French, and by the time I wanted it, I was allowed to have it. But the association with family gatherings and Sunday dinners is so strong that it never occurred to me to drink to rebel. Had sex instead.

  43. Karunamon says:

    Or, alternatively, they could remove this magical drinking age number (Something suddenly happens to you when you turn 21? orly?), let the parents do their job (i.e. PARENT!), and only bring to cops into it when others could get hurt (i.e. DUI, doing something else stupid while drunk)

    When i was that age, (22 now, ‘natch), i was more worried about what my parents would do if i got caught drunk than i was about the cops…

    If i’m a teen, and drinking at a friend’s house, no harm, no foul. But may your world screech to a halt if you get behind the wheel of a car.

  44. maevro says:

    Kids will get whatever they can get their hands on.

    I am a substance abuse therapist and deal with adolescents all the time. The colors don’t have much to do with their decisions, it is the taste and what actually works. There are plenty of 13 year old females who only drink wine because thats what their parents keep in their house.

    Statistics like there are a joke because you are always going to get a flawed result due to lack of honestly. Spend an hour in one of my caseload groups and you will hear some insane facts about adolescent drinking.

  45. nardo218 says:

    I know plenty of over-21s who like the candy liquor — hard alcohol isn’t about bourbon on the rocks like it was 30 years ago. Young people are into party drinks like appletinis. While previously, old men drank hard liquor and it was scandalous if women did, now young people approach mixology like a skill and part of the entertainment.

    As for kids, yes, of course they’re drinking to get drunk. They want the most alcohol for the least amount of money. Plus, beer is an acquired taste and most kids would rather not bother. It’s more expensive to get a six pack than a bottle of 40 proof rotgut. Plus, they feel more sophisticated to mix above mentioned appletinis and such.

  46. MrEvil says:

    I think rather than raising the taxes (that will do nothing, these kids will get their hooch at any price.) the government needs to go after the merchants that aren’t properly checking ID. And even so much as going after parents for not exercising due-dilligence in keeping their kids out of the liquor cabinet. (I’d give up drinking alltogether before I’d EVER let a child of mine drink underage).

    All through highschool, discussions on Monday were about how smashed everyone got over the weekend. It got old and frankly I STILL don’t understand why everyone thinks its so awesome to drink so much alcohol you can’t remember having any fun.

    And to you kids who drink to get drunk…I can’t help but pity you if you feel that you have to poison yourselves to enjoy life. I drink too, but life’s enjoyable enough without having to pump myself full of C2H5OH.

  47. nardo218 says:

    (we need an edit button)

    Also: beer is fattening. The college girl who’s skinny with a mom pouch hanging over her jeans is one dumb bunny who should switch to shots.

  48. The Walking Eye says:

    @Mr3vil: Give me a break. My parents did a fabulous job raising me and my siblings, and we all decided to drink a little in HS and more so in college. It was the kids who were raised by totalitarian assholes that would always take it just a little too far in my circle of friends rather than just occasionally. I don’t nor ever needed alcohol to enjoy life, but I’ve had some damn fun times while doing it.

  49. LuvJones says:

    Isn’t drinking liquor a quicker drunk? Less trips to the bathroom, more time for making out/dry humping/sex?

    Sounds like good teenager logic to me.

  50. bohemian says:

    There are plenty of 30-50 somethings that drink the candy sweet crap in drinks or the fruit flavored wines. I can’t stand the stuff but there are plenty of skinny chain smoking over mary-kay’ed, women rich and poor that drink this kind of crap. To each his own. I think most of that is keyed at the virginia slims set than to teens.

    Teen drinking is out of control in these boring rural areas because there is nothing else to do.

  51. mac-phisto says:

    first drink at the age of 14 – a pint of scotch. i drank the whole damn bottle & then spent the rest of the nite heaving. as others have stated, it was efficient, cheap (<$5) & easy to hide.

    i don’t think it’s wise to totally dispel the impact of marketing, though. i doubt the alluring colors of hypnotiq & the like have a very large impact, but spend a few hours in front of prime time tv & you’re bound to see a load of hip advertising from liquor manufacturers. they all feature young, attractive kids having loads of fun b/c of the captain, smirnoff, stoli – as i write this, i’m watching the fifth tangueray rangpur commercial i’ve seen tonite.

    drinking is cool. no legislation is going to change that.

  52. savvy9999 says:

    Went back to my university for homecoming last year. Stopped in at my favorite old bar, to see my old friend Frank, the owner/bartender. Ordered a pitcher of lager. “Can’t have one, don’t sell it anymore,” he said. Flabbergasted, I was. It was my mother’s milk in college. “Kids don’t drink beer any more. They drink liquor, to get f***ed up quick, and not get fat. Causes a lot of problems since they usually can’t handle it. But I gotta do what I gotta do to stay in business.”

    So it goes.

  53. TCameron says:

    I always preferred G&T’s, they pair nicely with a tweed jacket. Cheers, mates!


  54. theblackdog says:

    Clearly the teens they surveyed are teens who are getting money from mommy and daddy. If they talked to college students, espcially those who had to pay their own way, they would favor beer.

    Also, the teens are probably just looking to get drunk, hence why they hit the hard stuff rather than the beer.

  55. erica.blog says:

    The Center for Science in the Public Interest isn’t being very scientific. Does it matter what the marketing is and what the liquor store shelves look like? The majority of teens don’t get their alcohol in liquor stores.

    I had underage interns bugging me to buy them booze (and being very disappointed to learn I was only 20 myself), they wanted wine (cheap, boxed) and liquor, and they wanted it because they would be very drunk very quickly. That was a pretty dull summer, watching them get plotzed every night…