By LILY STARBUCK
New York, NY – Marissa Raskin, 21-year-old senior at New York University, will be reaching for a glass of wine this Thursday night in the comfort of her shared apartment. Her drink of choice? “Charles Shaw Pinot Grigio. $3 a bottle baby,” she says with pride. She’ll probably enjoy it over communal dinner with her roommates: tacos are a favorite. Then maybe out to a party or a club, if she’s up for it.
Drinking habits and preferences start in college, where most twenty somethings drink to get drunk. But what happens to these new adults when they leave college? It has been the case that as college graduates age into adulthood, they have less of a palate for guzzling beer after beer and shot after shot. Adults above 35 prefer wine to beer and liquor. Wine is in among the older crowd, but most millennials still under 30 are not quite there yet.
At least that’s what the latest wine marketing research from Texas Tech University is showing. 18 – 34 year-olds, today’s millennials, have a greater preference for beer and liquor than wine. 50 percent of the age group prefers beer compared to 24% and 20% for liquor and wine, respectively. Which means while Raskin is uncorking her Pinot, most people her age will be cracking open a can of beer.
Millennials are consuming more wine than previous generations did when they turned twenty-one. Wine is gaining popularity among recent legal drinkers, and wine marketers are taking note. Millennials in their early twenties make up about 30% of the wine market according to Fox Business. And since they are young and still discovering their tastes, they are prime targets for beverage marketers.
According to 2013 Unruly data, beer companies occupy the greatest ad shares in the alcohol beverage industry, ranging from 75.1% to 95% in the past two years. Liquor comes in next with around 24.6%. Wine companies come last, occupying only 0.3% of the ad shares.
There are several factors that determine what millennials drink. Millennials have high unemployment rates and poor job security. Those right out of college are looking for a cheap option. They want a big bang for their buck.
Trader Joe’s, a popular grocery for millennials, offers bottles of their branded Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Raskin’s Pinot Grigio starting at $3 a bottle. If you get 4 glasses of wine from the bottle, each costs $0.75 [at a restaurant or bar, a glass of wine could upwards of $15]. A price like that can make wine desirable, even more so than beer: a higher proof for your dollar.
Price may be the most important factor for millennials, but calories factor in too. Beer is heavy. It packs on the pounds: don’t we all have that uncle with a beer gut? Spirits, like vodka, gin and tequila, are also caloric – especially when mixed with sugary fruit juices and syrups. On average, 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof liquor (vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, tequila) contains 97 calories, yet a mixed drink can be upwards of 1,000. The average piña colada, at 9 fluid ounces, has 490 calories. Keep in mind at restaurants drinks are usually larger than the standard serving. Red wine, as opposed to beer and liquor, can be good for the heart and have high levels of antioxidants. One 5-oz glass contains about 123 calories.
Drinking wine signifies a kind of maturity. Four beers screams college frat guy. Three shots of hard liquor screams alcoholic. But, two glasses of wine says, “I’m an adult.” But this might change.
More millennials than older adults think they are “sophisticated” according to new research. Artisan beers and fancy craft cocktails – like those old fashions we see Don Draper ordering on Mad Men – are riding this wave of sophisitication. A recent article in the New York Times pointed to the rise of craft cocktails in places one might not expect, like Manhattan’s first Denny’s.
At Astor Wine and Spirits, young clientele either tend toward cheap, accessible wines or crazy aperitifs if they are “hipster, bartender kids,” says 23-year-old salesman David. He sees his crowd of millennials jumping on this cocktail trend. “We get a lot of thirty somethings, who have recently had money to have fancy drinking habits and then there are some early thirties and late twenties people who are getting into the craft cocktail deal,” he said, “which is a trend that I’m really excited to see grow.”
There is not doubt that millennials are consuming more alcohol than past generations, coining the term “Shaken and Stirred Millennials.” When there is money to spend, cocktails are popular. But only the oldest millenials are showing a liking for them. Probably because it takes them until their thirties to find financial stability. Cocktails are the new sophisticated, yet trendy, beverage that wine was for baby boomers. But that doesn’t mean all millennials are asking for their beverage shaken or stirred.
Young twenty somethings, like Marissa, haven’t made the jump to cocktails yet. Most stick with brand name beers. And as more buy wine, they’re only looking for the cheap stuff.