Survey Reveals What College Students Want to Drink

Barefoot wine pong, anyone? Image: Oleksandra Naumenko / Shutterstock

College students are gearing up to head home or travel with friends for winter break, which begs the question: What do they want to drink?

A college student-focused website and service, OneClass, sought the answer to that question recently.

The tech-based education service surveyed 580 students at 49 colleges and universities across the United States and Canada to discover their alcohol drink preferences, including favorite brands.

As operators prepare for an influx of legal-drinking age college students during holiday and winter breaks, ensuring their preferred drinks and brands are on hand is a smart way to boost profits.

Those who immediately think of pong or Beirut when thinking about what college students (made up mostly of Gen Z by this point) want to drink likely assume the top preference is beer. OneClass discovered otherwise.

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Just 13 percent of respondents named beer as their preference. And even with its meteoric rise—particularly this past summer—hard seltzer barely edged out beer: just 16 percent of college students said it’s their top choice.

OneClass has revealed that college students overwhelmingly prefer spirits to hard seltzer, beer or wine. Speaking of wine, just 10 percent of those surveyed claimed it as their favored drink. Not surprisingly, the top wine brands aren’t pricey: Barefoot and Black Star Farms top the list.

The top spirit brands, in ascending order, are all major mainstream brands: Smirnoff, Tito’s, Svedka, Malibu, New Amsterdam, Jack Daniel’s, Bacardí, Grey Goose, Absolut, and Hennessy. OneClass notes that the top three brands were selected by the most respondents, indicating that college students prefer vodka. Cîroc, Captain Morgan and Jose Cuervo were among other major brands voted for by college students.

Survey results regarding the second most popular drink category, hard seltzer, will likely come as no surprise. White Claw, Mike’s Hard, Natural Light, Smirnoff, and Truly are the most popular brands, in ascending order.

White Claw dominated the Summer of Seltzer, at one point generating news stories claiming the brand’s stocks were running dangerously low.

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College students who identify as female, according to the OneClass survey, are more than twice as likely to select hard seltzer (and wine) over spirits and beer. In fact, just four percent of females selected beer as their preference. Conversely, 35 percent of males named beer as their preference over spirits, hard seltzer and wine.

Respondents who identified beer as their preferred category of beverage alcohol eschewed craft beer in favor of Big Beer brands. In ascending order, Corona, Bud Light, Coors, Busch, Natural Light, Michelob, Miller, Budweiser, Hamm’s, and Keystone are the top ten brands among college students, with Dos Equis, Stella Artois and Guinness also claiming some votes.

The results of the OneClass survey show that operators needn’t to go out of their way meet the needs of LDA college students. Their preferences, should the survey prove to accurately represent most college students throughout North America, are for mainstream brands in each major beverage alcohol category.

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Highlighting and promoting the brands they favor—and having enough inventory—paired with vigilant ID-checking practices will help operators finish 2019 and start 2020 on the right foot.


Je, Daniel. “What is the Most Popular Alcoholic Drink for Students?” OneClass. November 19, 2019.


The "What is the Most Popular Alcoholic Drink for Students?" study by OneClass is based on survey data collected from 580 college students in the United States and Canada across 49 schools. 180 males, 398 females, and 2 who preferred not to identify their gender participated in the survey. Students were engaged on social platforms. This survey was conducted from October 24th, 2019 to November 18th, 2019. The legal drinking age in Alberta, Manitoba, and Québec is 18, while it’s 19 for the rest of Canada. As such, some college students surveyed were younger than the legal drinking age of the United States.

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