New Year’s Eve is upon us. It’s a night when many drinkers will make poor decisions. A Quartz data analysis suggests a lot of that bad judgment will involve tequila.
Quartz obtained the records of all sales from one of San Francisco’s most popular dive bars from April to October of 2017 (the bar’s owners asked to remain anonymous). We found beer makes up 70% of its sales overall, but, late in the evening, demand for liquor-based drinks, like shots and vodka sodas, surges. While the share of liquor drinks is around 20% from noon to 12 AM, they make up over 32% of sales from midnight till closing at 2 AM. (The other purchases are mostly made up of wine and liqueurs—such as San Francisco favorite Fernet-Branca.)
But not all liquors rise equally. Late nights truly belong to whiskey and tequila, with those two drinks making up almost 80% of all late night liquor drinking.
Whiskey’s after-midnight prominence is not surprising. It’s the most popular liquor at this bar throughout most of the day, and it vies with vodka for the US’s most consumed liquor generally.
The thirst for tequila at the end of the night is more remarkable. The drink is more popular at this bar than it is in the US in general, likely because Californians love their tequila—they drink twice as much per capita as New Yorkers. Still, tequila truly makes its presence known in the very late hours in this establishment. Even from 11 PM ti midnight, tequila orders make up only about 25% of liquor drink. But from 1 AM to 2 AM, the last hour before the bar closes, they account for nearly 40% of all liquor drinks. Vodka is the big late night loser.
Why the late night popularity for tequila? Probably because the drink, which can only officially be made from agave plants grown in Southeastern Mexico (pdf), has become a symbol of revelry in the US. While high-end sipping tequila is becoming more popular, it’s still primarily associated with the bacchanalia of spring break, and the YOLO lifestyle of Jimmy Buffet. When partiers are already liquored up and thinking of taking shots, tequila is a go-to.
Many people regret the choice. A recent survey from addictions.com found Americans think tequila gives them the worst hangovers. Our analysis suggests it might be a situation of reverse causality. They were probably already headed for a bad morning when they made that tequila order.