America's 15 Hardest Drinking Cities

Ah, Consumer Behavior. Forbes took a look at the CDC’s 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey (BRFSS) and ranked 33 cities based on their resident’s answers to three survey questions:

whether they had at least one drink of alcohol within the past 30 days; whether men had more than two drinks per day or women one drink per day; and whether they had five or more drinks on one occasion. In each case, higher-ranking cities reported larger percentages of their population answering in the affirmative.

Of course, as Forbes notes, a better “hard drinkin'” rank doesn’t mean your city is a “den of debauchery,” and “just downing a few cold ones doesn’t make a person irresponsible.” Well, like, duh…

Forbes’ 15 Hardest Drinking Cities

  • 1. Austin, TX

  • 2. Milwaukee, WI
  • 3. San Francisco, CA
  • 4. Providence, R.I.
  • 5. Chicago, IL
  • 8. (tie) Seattle, WA, Cleveland, OH, St. Louis, MO
  • 9. Boston, MA
  • 10. Cincinnati, OH
  • 11. Pittsburgh,PA
  • 12. Virginia Beach, VA
  • 13. Portland, OR
  • 14. Jacksonville, FL
  • 15. Detroit, MI

America’s Hard-Drinking Cities [Forbes]
(Photo: Paxton Holley )


Edit Your Comment

  1. Chairman-Meow says:

    Booya! I live between #4 and #9. Let the party begin!

  2. Uptowngirl says:


    New Orleans is number 1, and proud of it. :)

  3. Snarkysnake says:

    No matter WHAT is in that pan on the stove (illustration above) , it probably tastes better than Schlitz…

  4. shoelace414 says:


  5. EllaMcWho says:

    We’re number 1! We’re number 1! And I grew up in Number 12! Woot!

    This has been reported ad nauseum in the Austin media – and every channel has thoughtfully provided accompanying stories re: the evils of college kids’ binge drinking at 6th Street bars. I have lived in Austin 9 years and been there (6th st) only once – which was more than enough.

  6. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    How the hell did New York and Vegas miss the list?

  7. EllaMcWho says:

    @shoelace414: I shoulda used all caps, too!

  8. EllaMcWho says:

    @Wormfather is Wormfather: @Uptowngirl: I think they surveyed residents and discounted the travelers/tourists. My opinion only…

  9. Anonymous says:

    @Wormfather is Wormfather: Zimas and wine spritzers don’t count.

  10. wiggatron says:

    Of course us Clevelanders drink ourselves silly, our economy sucks and it snows 7 months out of the year. What else are we gonna do? LOL

  11. pgh9fan says:

    Born and raised in Pittsburgh. Spent several years in Virginia Beach. Now back in Pittsburgh. Hic.

  12. thrashanddestroy says:

    How can Michigan only be #15? We live in Michigan for god sakes, that alone should be our motivation to slosh it up to first place.

    I’m not mad, Michigan…just disappointed.

  13. Triborough says:

    All of those places seem to be places where being drunk would lessen the pain of being there.

  14. Detroit would be ranked higher if more people here could afford to drink. Damn recession is killing everybody’s buzz.

  15. Henrythoreau says:

    And in San Francisco our alcohol is organic and locally brewed. I guess we would be loco-alkies.

    No Madison, Wisconsin?

  16. ptkdude says:

    I think they need to run the survey again. I drank so much this past weekend that Atlanta should be in the top 5 now.

  17. thesuperpet says:

    Boston is 9th???
    Must drink more.

  18. I’m more than a little surprised not to see Washington D.C. in the top 15.

  19. TWinter says:

    Hmmmmm. Not sure that I like their methodology. It might have helped to include some information on alcohol sales in the areas.

  20. michaelangelo1969 says:

    glad to see Portland made the list. Thanks to all those strip clubs probably

  21. MrWashy says:

    Look! Cleveland finally beat Pittsburgh at something!

  22. Mistrez_Mish says:

    @Wormfather is Wormfather: I’m surprised by NYC and Vegas not being on the list either, but eh…. My old hometown, coming in at 4th = happy medium

  23. humphrmi says:

    I grew up in three of those cities (#3, 5, and 8) and live in one of them now (#3). I go on vacation near one every year (#2) and will be stopping over in #1 during my vacation in a couple of weeks.


  24. humphrmi says:

    @humphrmi: Whoops, I live in #5, not #3 now.

  25. Midwest_Product says:

    Last year Minneapolis was #2. Now we aren’t even in the top 15? How the mighty have fallen…

  26. JoeWoah says:

    How is DC not on this list? I grew up in #4 and I can assure you it can’t hold a candle to DC, where I live now.

  27. iMike says:

    Chicago beats SF fo’ shizzle.

  28. oneliketadow says:

    I’d drink if I had to live in Houston, TX. I wonder why it never made the list?

  29. iMe2 says:

    Ah America, where the quantity of alcohol consumption is a source of pride.

  30. loserflame says:

    Ok, seriously, really? No New Orleans? The land of the Go Cup? No open container laws and drive-through daquiri shops? I am offended. This city finds any excuse it can to celebrate, and celebrate it does.
    I am saddened. I need a drink to mourn our tragic loss.

  31. JosephFinn says:

    We got beat by Providence? WTF?

  32. Uptowngirl says:


    I’m including the residents. I haven’t seen a town drink as hard as New Orleanians. I even talked with a mixologist from London who said Bombay Sapphire recognized New Orleans as the hardest drinking city in North America, and was on par with Western Europe.

  33. Kos says:

    @Wormfather is Wormfather: Seriously. Our bars are open to 4AM. Austin closes at like 1:30.

  34. darkrose says:

    I’m shocked Philadelphia didn’t make the list. There’s a bar on every street corner it seems.

    (I live in Jax, #14. Go us!)

  35. eekfuh says:

    Thanks for the list of the –17– most hardest drinking cities.

  36. mac-phisto says:

    these questions are too confusing – especially for your above-average imbiber. for example, more than 2 drinks/day? is that calendar day or 24-hr period? some would consider four drinks before midnite & four after as one day while others would consider it two. 5 drinks/occasion? what exactly is an “occasion”? i mean, is a week-long bender one occasion? if i start with a few hair of the dog rounds as part of my morning routine, but take a break for lunch & then get back to business, is that the same occasion or is that 2 separate occasions?

  37. Alex Chasick says:

    @Uptowngirl: Agreed. There is something seriously wrong with this survey’s methodology if New Orleans isn’t first on the list.

  38. levarien says:

    Austin and S.F. in the top 3; I guess hippies don’t have any hang ups about alcohol.

  39. stre says:

    well, they obviously didn’t stop by madison wisconsin, where about 1/5th of the population is between 18 and 24 and survives the weekends by downing as many glass boots full of spaten optimator and as many of wando’s fishbowls full of god knows what as they can. ha, i heard someone from boston recently bragging about drinking 40 shots of beer in 40 minutes. puhlease, if you haven’t joined the century club (100 in 100) you’re not a drinker. i won’t even mention the 5 beers in 5 minutes challenge, though i guess i just did. (all hail kanderson for doing all five in less than 90 seconds!)

  40. hellinmyeyes says:


    Yeah, I’m surprised Madison isn’t on there, too. A lot of “college towns” I expected are absent. Oh well! Time to heat it up and have a cold one or twelve!

  41. redhelix says:

    Rant: Boston is up there on the list, thanks to the swarms of retarded out-of-state college kids who stumble their way into our town and trash it as best they can before going home.

  42. radiochief says:

    Well, I was born in #4 and live in the subs of #9. Woohoo!

  43. Colleen says:

    @Snarkysnake: oh now that’s just crazy talk. Schlitz tall boys in Providence for life.

  44. battra92 says:

    Drunks in Boston? I’ve never heard of such a thing. Why if ever there was a teetotaling city it would be Boston.

    Ending the sarcasm here, I’m not surprised. Massachusetts in general seems to be a bit of a drinking state. If you don’t drink you are pretty much stigmatized and ostracized from social settings around here.

    I’m a non-drinking Republican Yankee fan in Massachusetts. It’s a wonder I’m not dead yet. ;)

    @redhelix: Don’t you mean rehtahded?

  45. MrEvil says:

    It doesn’t surprise me that Austin is #1 on the list. 6th street in downtown Austin is nothing but bar after bar after bar. There’s probably 20 bars inside a 100 yard stretch of the street on both sides. On the weekends they close off 6th street to traffic at night (cross streets remain open) so none of the drunks get hit by motorists. I don’t think Austin has ever heard of a dry precinct.

  46. merekat says:

    Finally something about Da Nati I can be proud of! Bring on the cornhole!

  47. GirlCat says:

    Where is the love for Dallas? Those people drink like freaking fish. And I’m not talking about college students, which I think skews any city’s results. I think this survey should have been limited to the over-25 employed mortgage-holding crowd to really be accurate.

  48. @eekfuh: I was thinking the same.

  49. ekasbury says:

    Oh lucky #13! Sweet.

  50. secondgreatdepression says:

    It’d be worth seeing the breakdown of which alcohols are consumed in these cities. SF is #3 because of the enormous amount of wine consumed there – SF has some great local beers and its share of residents who drink them but if you look at the questions asked, it would tend to favor cities with lots of wine consumption.

    Portland and Seattle are likely more mixed between wine and beer, whereas Austin seemed like a beer town to me when I was there last month.

  51. @Uptowngirl: @Alex Chasick: I think they took us off so we wouldn’t throw off the bell curve.

  52. oxidative says:

    I’m disappointed in you Portland, OR! We can do better next year.

  53. kolacek says:

    “San Francisco” is spot on.

    Beer for breakfast, whiskey for lunch and cocaine for dinner. Antidepressants and Plan-B optional.

    It’s a big secret. Don’t tell anyone.

  54. Alex Chasick says:

    @defeatism: Aha! From the article:

    To determine the cities with the highest alcohol consumption, we started by making a list of the 40 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S. . . .

    That eliminates us. When asked about Austin’s status as number 1, a bartender there responded: “Sixth Street in Austin is like a tiny version of Bourbon Street.”

  55. thrashanddestroy says:

    @Michael Bauser: Oh come now, our legions of homeless are usually three sheets to the wind. If they can afford it, so can our middle class working men.

  56. TheKeg says:

    Wow, I was sure to see Baton Rouge or AT LEAST New Orleans on there.

  57. synergy says:

    Austin is a den of debauchery, though. It’s called the University of Texas main campus! :D

  58. synergy says:

    @Kos: Yeah, but sipping a beer until 4AM isn’t the same as downing Jack Daniels shots every 10 minutes. Why stay open until 4 when everyone’s already passed out by 130?? :D

  59. banmojo says:

    I really love those old print ads! That’s awesome.

  60. lefonceobscure says:

    @oneliketadow: Because we were too drunk to take the survey

  61. Asvetic says:

    I don’t know how a Pennsylvania city made it on this list… with the outrageous liquor laws in PA, it’s hard enough getting a drink, let alone drunk.

    Stupid PA liquor laws!!!

  62. katiat325 says:

    #3, the home of bars, breweries, and liquor stores! Just last night I bought a bottle of champagne and a handle of rum…the good times. Surprised I’m at work. But that also reminds me that there’s this one bar I haven’t been to in 2 weeks, should go for happy hour today.

  63. girly says:

    Why top 15? If it’s out of 33, if you rank in the mid-teens, aren’t you really just…average?

  64. royaume de coeur says:

    @battra92: I agree. I’ve lived in Massachusetts my entire life and can honestly say, of the thousands of people I know here, I maybe know three or four people who entirely abstain from alcohol. I don’t think half of my social relationships would exist without booze. I don’t know how you do it.

  65. russell_s says:

    @allofyourbadinstincts = I agree…and think Boston Should be AHEAD of Providence…Me Thinks the Forbes reviewers got a “happy ending” in Providence.

    Dont ask me how I know

  66. weakdome says:

    @royaumedecoeur: I bet My Boston friends drink more than YOUR Boston friends…

  67. ranchgal says:

    Besides the plethora of alcohol establishments that happily keep serving up those drinks, DWI conviction is also big business here as well. Austin Police Department/Travis County makes a tidy sum off the $1000-plus “surcharge” it receives for 3 years on top of the all the other fines it rakes in for convicted drink drivers. Beware all you beverage consumers who have put our fair city at the top of the list!

  68. fjordtjie says:

    @Henrythoreau: a href=”#c7156144″>stre: “To determine the cities with the highest alcohol consumption, we started by making a list of the 40 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S.–geographic entities defined by the U.S.” that’s why! at 250,000 madison is a tiny city, so per capita we may be have more drunks, but it’s too small to be considered. but isn’t that what makes madison so good?–just big enough to have all the good things a city can give, but drive 10 minutes out and you’re in the country! oh well.

  69. breny says:


    Amen sister. There is no way New Orleans should be left off that list.

  70. TheRealAbsurdist says:

    @Snarkysnake: Tried Schlitz recently? They’ve gone back to their 60s recipe since shortly after the beginning of this year, and for a mass-produced American beer, it’s not too bad.

    And where is Denver on this list? Sorry, but any list that leaves out the home town of Modern Drunkard Magazine is immediately suspect.

  71. varro says:

    Lived in #5 and #11 and live in #13 now.

    I’m not surprised at any of them – Austin especially – they have the highest percentage of people 25-34 of any city in the country, AND one of the largest universities in the country.

    Chicago and Pittsburgh are home of corner bars and drinking marathons during the Bears or Steelers games. Portland has more breweries than Milwaukee, Munich, Cologne, or Plzen, and is a hub of microdistilleries (including absinthe) and near wine country in Yamhill County.

  72. East_Coast_Midwesterner says:

    Born in #2 and live in #9.

    Honestly, I have found Boston to be way uptight with booze in comparison to the MKE.

    Never been to Austin. I think I need to go.

  73. East_Coast_Midwesterner says:


    I agree. Nuts.

  74. battra92 says:

    @royaumedecoeur: I’m not sure. Granted I’m not a hugely social person in general but it’s not like I have any shortage of dates or friends or anything.

    But yeah, it seems to be what everyone does in MA. People talk about going to the bar or club or out for happy hour. I actually went for a job interview once and the woman interviewing her said “Oh, we go out for happy hour, are you into that?” which I responded with “I don’t drink.” Strangely I didn’t get the job. ;)

    I also remember at work a woman was bragging how she threw a drinking party for her daughter (who was 16 at the time) and she didn’t understand why I was horrified at the idea.

    Oh well, such is the world.

  75. citybuddha says:

    Cleveland drinks ..Cleveland drinks
    as sung by Ian Hunter..
    I’d clap but I have a beer in each hand

  76. Ubik2501 says:

    We’re number five! We’re number fBLEEAGHGHGGLHGLGHGLHGGHKHGK

    …In all seriousness, Chicago’s placing doesn’t surprise me, but there’s actually a lot to do here besides get wasted. If you count Northwest Indiana as part of Chicago, though, I’m surprised we’re not #1, since there really is nothing else to do there.

  77. Bryan Price says:

    Wow, current hometown Jax makes the list, but old hometown Columbus with #3 party school OSU doesn’t make the list (neither does Gainesville).

    @Ubik2501: My brother lives in NW IN, and I can attest to that fact that there’s not much else to do.

  78. louveciennes says:


  79. Midwest_Product says:

    @eekfuh: Thanks for the list of the –17– most hardest drinking cities.

    17? “Most hardest”? Have we been drinking hard already today?

  80. mythago says:

    @thrashanddestroy: the worst part is that you lost to WISCONSIN. Oh, the humanity.

    I doubt this will even make the paper in San Francisco. Like, duh, we know.

  81. veronykah says:

    @EllaMcWho: I could see the travelers playing a factor in Vegas but NYC? Not so much. I lived there for 5 years and recently went home for a visit. I spent everyday I was there for a week drinking for 8-14 hours, this was with LOCALS. I couldn’t even hang with most of my NYC friends, these girls were still drinking wild turkey shots at 7am. Not saying NYC should be #1, I lived in MN which is something like WI, but still NY’ers know how to drink and do it A LOT.
    And SF? Really? Never noticed it was a drinking town…guess its time for a visit.

  82. Chrome says:

    I find it hard to believe Morgantown, WV is not on that list.

    I call foul.


  83. gzusrox says:

    I think every town in wisconsin should be on that list, thats all they do for fun there. drink, fish, and watch football.

  84. Sinflux says:

    I’m doing my part to get Los Angeles on that list.

  85. DH405 says:

    I just got back from Vegas. Forbes must have skipped it. Didn’t want the obvious answer.

  86. azntg says:

    I think we can take this survey with a grain of salt, as always.

    Seriously, I can understand New York City not landing in the top 15. But the conspicuous absence of New Orleans? The same city where people parade in the Krewe de Vieux drunk and where ID is never checked (except at touristy places)

  87. welsey says:


    We had a Schlitz-themed party in May, and it was not pretty. We actually got a keg of Old Style to supplement the Schlitz due to the latter’s grossness. I really like their scary cougar mountain man advertisements and really wanted to like the beer, but it tasted like old socks and canned green beans.

    Maybe we got the new formula though, rather than the re-introduced old one.

  88. Pipes says:

    @MrWashy: Bwahaha. You, sir, are my hero.

    Grew up in Pittsburgh…currently live in Cleveland. I need to drink a lot more to be able to live here.

  89. GhandeezWarPath says:

    @shoelace414: They should have done Brookfield but asked the high schoolers

  90. Brazell says:

    Aside from Detroit and one or two others, this list would probably mirror “number of colleges per capita.”

  91. Avrithor says:

    @Alex Chasick: Figures. If they’d expanded their criteria I would be shocked if Anchorage wasn’t #1. You can’t turn around here without spotting a Brown Jug. The amount of collective alcohol consumption that must be taking place to keep them all in business is simply staggering.

    But when you’re talking about a city mostly surrounded by wilderness, whose 260,000 people are half the entire population of a state that’s two-and-a-half times bigger than Texas, well…there’s not a lot else to do, except go fishing, which obviously coincides with drinking anyway.

  92. lightwaver says:

    I would have to agree with a few of the other posts… Seriously Forbes? Las Vegas the city where every casino offers continuous FREE drinking. Vegas cocktail waitress: “I see you’re playing nickel slots, Thank you and here’s your complementary Long Island Iced Tea, sir!”
    I guess when they decided to make the movie “Leaving Las Vegas”, with Nicholas Cage drinking his self to death in Las Vegas, they should have requested the list from Forbes first.

  93. SantawanaAstyoche says:

    Now now now, I grew up in New Orelands but I now live in Cleveland….and the Indians suck the Browns suck and the Cavs are going to let us down. The home market is steadily on the decline and I cant get out…..CLEVELAND KNOWS HOW TO DRINK!!!! CLEVELAND ROCKS!!