Hail Queen Margarita!

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Margarita, the once and future queen.


At least that’s one of the results of the 2017 edition of Nielsen CGA’s OPUS (On Premise User Survey). The second annual OPUS found that 56% of women and 44% of men rated the drink as their favorite. For male drinkers, the Manhattan came in second place, with 24% placing it number one. Just 16% of women rank the Manhattan as their favorite cocktail. Forty-one percent of women called the Daiquiri their favorite drink, compared with 23% of men.

Said Scott Elliott, senior vice president of Nielsen CGA, "We know that one-fourth of on-premise visitors don't know what category they're going to drink before entering an outlet… Our large-scale research suggests it would be wise for retailers to specifically name drink brands as cocktail components, to be explicit with liquor bases and especially the flavor profile, and to play the daypart and occasion card as much as possible with specific offers."

And it turns out that old habits die hard: the base spirit is the most important factor in how customers decide what to drink, say 44% of cocktail drinkers, with tequila again the favorite spirit base (38 percent). Despite cocktail culture’s shunning of the two, flavored vodka (34%) is second and non-flavored vodka (30%) joins light rum as the nation's third favorite cocktail liquor base. Over the last year, whisky has increased in popularity by 29%, but there is still the serious gender gap (22%) producers have long tried to change.

Compared to the previous survey, Nielsen said more Americans are drinking cocktails out of home (28% this year versus 23% last year). For Millennials, this number increases to 40%, compared to just 17% for those older than 55.

Some long-held assumptions were confirmed by the survey: women lean more heavily towards berry flavors and fruity/sweet drinks when compared to men, while males over-index on beer cocktails and smoky flavor profiles.

Drinkers continue to say the most important factor when choosing a cocktail is the taste (72%) and not the price (47 percent). The average cocktail drinker, according to the report, spends $25.61 on cocktails per occasion, and this figure increases to $31.74 for Millennials each session.

The upsell opportunity is significant, Nielsen noted, with the average cocktail drinker willing to pay $9.69 for a standard cocktail, with the expectation to pay 15% more ($11.11) for a cocktail made with premium spirits.

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