We all know America loves to drink. But in all our time spent writing about drinking, actually drinking, and occasionally doing both at the same time, a question emerged amongst Thrillist's editorial staff: which state loves to drink more than any other? Naturally, we had to find out, and just like that: the search for the booziest state in the USA was born.
To help keep this study fair & balanced, we turned off Fox News, put our closely-held editorial opinions on the shelf, and turned to the data. Well, actually, we tapped Chris Kolmar, who is Movoto.com's "Chief Armchair Economist" (and, by way of disclosure/coincidence, also a buddy of mine from high school). He turned to the data, churning out spreadsheet after boozy spreadsheet to tabulate 10 alco-criteria -- from per-capita craft breweries to last-call hours -- on which all states in the Land of the Free would be measured.
The result is a statistically infallible, 50th-to-1st ranking of the United States of drinking. We laid it out in a map (below) to tell the story of this country's wettest & driest states; catch the top-line stats, plus anomalies Chris discovered while pulling the numbers together. Next, there's the full 50-to-1 ranking itself -- scroll down to see which state can rightfully claim the title of the USA's Booziest State. Finally, take a look at our methodology via a brief interview with Chris about finding & manipulating the data.
The United States of Alcohol: a state-by-state comparison
1. West coast: wine coast
Obviously, Cali leads the league/country in grape juice facilities -- it's got more wineries (1,756) than all 49 other states combined. Less obvious, though: Washington comes in second, and Oregon third. Basically, if you're standing in a state that boasts Pacific Ocean views, you should order some vino.
2. The cradle of American booze
Seven of the 10 booziest states in the country are located in the hot corner that extends from Alaska down to the Southeastern corner of Colorado. Holding the entire region back: Utah, whose weird liquor laws put it on the opposite end of the sousing spectrum.
3. A tale of two drinkers
The Lower 48 have their own battles to fight, but the head-to-head match-up between America's non-contiguous states is barely a match-up at all. Hawaii, you're great at many things, but drinking is not one of them.
4. Triple threat: The Great Lakes
The land of funny accents & tubed meats is usually thought of as a brewers' paradise... and it is. But that's not all: it also boasts a top-10 finisher in wineries (Michigan!), the third-most bars per capita (Wisconsin!), and this ranking's strongest overperformer in Iowa, which came in 12th overall.
5. The gateway to the West's booze
Thirteen of the top 20 sit West of the Mississippi River, and you have only to turn your gaze Southward from St. Louis to find this country's most sobering stretches. Basically, the Gateway to the West is also the alcoholic epicenter of this nation. So that's what that arch is for!
6. Don't mess with Texas
See that big yellow smudge o' sober across the Southeast? Yeah, the Lone Star State puts a pretty swift stop to all that propriety with strong overall numbers, headlined by its 46 wineries. That's more than 43 other states.
7. Bible Belt = boring
Despite a storied history of bootlegging & moonshining, the South finished dead-last as a region in this race. Look at the bottom 10 states: seven of 'em fall beneath the Northern border of Tennessee! Whether it's because of pesky blue laws, averse climates for production, low economic impact, or a combination of all those things, this was a sorry showing from the country's lower-righthand corner.
8. A clear divide
When we put this map together, it became painfully clear just how huge a split there was between the drinking habits of the North & South. North of the Mason-Dixon line, the boozing gets stronger, while South of Virginia, it fades away.
9. Small states, high tolerance
It was really cool to see Vermont & Maine punch their tickets to the top 10 on the backs of their craft beer scenes. New Hampshire, on the other hand, earned its very respectable slot by drinking almost twice the national average of alcohol per capita. Slow clap.
Standout stat: 1.81 gallons of alcohol consumed per capita
The Natural State didn't clock any worst-in-category numbers, but when you're tied for second-lowest per-capita gallons consumed (1.81) and sell sauce six days a week... well, that dog just won't hunt.
Standout stat: 0.2 craft breweries per 100,000 residents 21+
Two-tenths of a craft brewery per 100,000 people?! That's the lowest ratio in the country. Turns out the Delta blues are just what every boozehound feels when visiting this forsaken place.
Standout stat: 2 distilleries
Wait, does every Southern state just hate booze?
Standout stat: 1.37 gallons of alcohol consumed per capita
There we go! Look at those tee-totaling Mormons getting in on the bottom 10! Must be all those liquor laws!
Standout stat: 1 bar per 21,812 residents
And... welcome back to the Southeast. The home state of Tip "T.I." Harris and frat bros who wear fishing clothes as real clothes actually boasts a not-terrible number of craft distilleries (ten!). Unfortunately, it's also tied for third-last in craft breweries and only drinks more gallons o' hooch than eight other states.
Standout stat: Liquor stores only open six days a week
The Vols have been terrible for, like, ever at this point, but even consistent institutional failure hasn't driven enough Tennesseans to drink.
Standout stat: 1 bar per 10,136 residents
Gone are the glory days when Natty Boh was actually brewed in Baltimore (long, long gone). With a row of pedestrian numbers, the Old Bay State got dinged hard on its low underage-exception laws.
43. South Carolina
Standout stat: .6 craft breweries per 100,000 residents
And no sales on Sundays?! Charleston, consider seceding -- but just from the state this time.
Standout stat: 1.94 gallons of alcohol consumed per capita
Okhlahomans actually drink more alcohol per capita than a few other states, which, frankly, is better than we expected.
Standout stat: One underage exemption
Save Cigar City and a few others, Florida's got a dreadful craft brewery scene for a big state -- just 0.5 per 100,000 Floridians. Sure, Miami's got bottle-popping pool parties, but the rest of the Sunshine State is hardly on the same page. Just one more reason to skip it on your next vacation.
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