On-premise sales of whiskey and other spirits that were hurt during the early days of the pandemic have recently started to recover.
While take-out and to-go alcohol sales remained strong for restaurants, it was unclear what would happen for establishments once COVID-19 lockdowns were lifted.
In 2021, on-premise alcohol sales rose 53% from the prior year (during which the pandemic began), Reuters reports. While this may have been a hopeful sign for business owners, total sales were still down by 14% from pre-pandemic levels.
One change from pre-pandemic shopping habits, however, has been a rise in the demand for super-premium whiskey brands. Sales of these high-quality (and high-cost) brands rose by 15.6% in bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye segments.
Chris Swonger, president and CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, said, "Consumers savoring spirits at home and trading up to higher-end brands, combined with the gradual reopening of bars and restaurants, resulted in record sales for the spirits sector."
While on-premise sales rose last year, off-premise sales remained relatively flat. During the first year of the pandemic, sales of alcohol for home use rose dramatically, but it seems that the trend hit its peak. While off-premise sales are still strong, many restaurants have adapted by offering more to-go options.
One restaurant owner spoke with the Associated Press about how he began offering more premium, single barrel options for take-home options. While the coming year still presents a lot of uncertainty, many in the industry have shown optimism that people will continue to buy whiskey, regardless of where they have to drink it.