The Margarita Remains the Top Spot as America's Favorite Cocktail

According to the latest Nielsen CGA survey, Margaritas continue to top the list for both legal-aged males and females in on premise drinking occasions.

June 29, 2017
Nielsen CGA On Premise User Survey Data (May 2017)
One year after launching Nielsen CGA's OPUS (On Premise User Survey) in May 2016, margaritas remained America's favorite cocktail (for the second year in a row) among legal aged drinkers in on premise channels.
Scott Elliott, SVP, Nielsen CGA, commented: "We know that one-fourth of on premise visitors don't know what category they're going to drink before entering an outlet. With on premise traffic flat or declining, every opportunity counts to maximize revenue and enhance the experience of that individual or group. Cocktails are great for both of these purposes. 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."
Margaritas Are #1 Overall, But Men & Women Divided on Broader Spirit/Cocktail Preferences
More Americans drinking cocktails out-of-home, especially Millennials.
.         Compared to last year, more Americans are drinking cocktails out of home (28% this year vs. 23% last year).
.         For Millennials, arguably the most valuable demographic for the on premise, this number increases to 40% compared to just 17% of those over 55 years old.
Margaritas still important for men and women, but what other cocktails make the list?
.         On average, 51% of Americans ranked margaritas #1 -- with 56% for females and 44% for males.
.         Beyond margaritas, the Manhattan was the biggest over-index for male cocktail drinkers, 8% more than females (24% vs. 16%, respectively).
.         The Daiquiri is a big hit with 41% of females calling it their favorite cocktail (only 23% among men).
Base liquor is the biggest deciding factor.
.         44% of cocktail drinkers say that the base liquor is an important factor when choosing a cocktail:
o        Tequila is still the favorite liquor base for U.S. cocktail drinkers (38%).  
o        Flavored vodka (34%) has raisen to second place and non-flavored vodka (30%) now joins light rum as the nation's third favorite cocktail liquor base.
o        Over the last year, whisky has increased in popularity on average (29%).
?        By gender this differs drastically: 43% of men vs just 21% of women. This 22% difference represents the biggest gender-differential of any spirits category. 
With cocktails, flavors are divided by gender.
Females indexes heavily towards berry (52% vs 30% of men) and fruity/sweet (59% vs 38% of men). Equally, males over-index on beer cocktails (23% vs 9% of women) and smoky flavor profiles (14% vs 5% of women). 
Understanding these skews, and focusing on the flavor profile in menus and cocktail descriptions can only pay dividends given that drinkers report the most important factor when choosing which cocktail is the taste (72%) and not price (47%).
The revenue opportunity for bars and restaurants is clearly to encourage customers to trade up from lower priced beers or spirit mixers, to higher priced cocktails. The average cocktail drinker spends $25.61 on cocktails per occasion and this figure increases to $31.74 for Millennials.each session! 
Elliot continued, "The obvious challenge for retailers is in giving any one category enough attention to really achieve it's potential. Given retailers have to focus on so many different elements of the business, it is essential that they work with the experts - the brand owners and the good distributors committed to adding value - to refine the finer elements of their drinks offer."
In addition, the upsell opportunity is significant with the average cocktail drinker willing to pay $9.69 for a standard cocktail with the expectation to pay 15% more for a cocktail made with premium spirits ($11.11). 
The days of cocktails only playing a role in narrow slices of the day or week are long gone. especially for the younger on premise users.