America’s Drunkest Cities: San Franciscans Spend The Most Money On Booze, Atlanta-ers The Least

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Some American cities spend more money on booze than others – something that should come as no surprise if you’ve spent time in conservative Salt Lake City or freewheeling New Orleans. New research from Delphi Health Group, a chain of addiction treatment facilities, looked at the data to find out just which American cities spend the most, per capita and in terms of raw dollars, on booze.

It’s no secret that Americans love their hooch. Prohibition was, after all, 80 years ago and it did little to dry up our collective thirst for the Demon Rum. We spend $37 billion annually on beer alone, for example – and what’s more, we’re paying more per beer than we did a generation ago. That’s at least partly because we’ve developed a taste for expensive craft beer over mass-produced swill (although we still enjoy our swill, too). In 1996, for example, the average beer cost $2.61 per serving; now it’s $3.99.

But as for which cities spend the most on booze, the answer isn’t as cut-and-dry as you’d expect. You may think that anything-goes New Orleans or home-of-a-brewery St. Louis would be the biggest spenders, while Mormon strongholds like Salt Lake City or Baptist strongholds like Birmingham would be the teetotaling-est. You’d be wrong.

san francisco is america's drunkest city
Featured image credit: Bureau of Labor Statistics

It bears noting that the list above includes only cities that the Bureau of Labor Statistics included in its study of alcohol spending. So it’s theoretically possible that the denizens of, say, Salt Lake City, spend quite a bit more per capita on booze than any of these cities. But don’t count on it.

As you can see, in terms of dollars spent on alcohol, San Francisco is America’s drunkest city. There may be several reasons for that, including the proximity to California’s Wine Country (and pricey bottles therein); or it could be the astoundingly high cost of living in the Bay Area in general.

Another American city with an exorbitant cost of living, however – New York City – spends almost half as much on its booze. This despite The Big Apple’s ample opportunities for tying one off.

Meanwhile, it should come as no surprise that St. Louis made the list – after all, it’s the spiritual home of America’s favorite beer brand. However, another brewing city, Milwaukee, didn’t make the list at all. Neither did New Orleans, which is one of the few cities where it’s legal to walk down the street with an open container.

Some of America’s Southern cities, like Tampa, Atlanta, and Dallas, also came in as surprisingly sober. It could be due to conservative drinking habits, or it could be due to fondness for, and availability of, cheaper booze.

The numbers also reveal regional trends. The Northeast and Midwest, in general, tend to spend freely on liquor, while the South tends to close up its wallets.

Of course, the research doesn’t reveal exactly why those cities, and areas, spend such vastly different amounts of money on booze. Cultural and economic factors may come into play, of course, but there are also regional price variants.

One thing is clear, however: over the past generation or so, we’ve increased the amount of money we spend on beer, wine, and liquor. The adult beverage industry is sure to be pleased.