Holiday Cheer

The world's most bibulous countries

By Nathan Littlefield

Each year the holidays promise friends, family, food—and often a rigorous drinking regimen. But although Americans may be geared toward heavy consumption, our counterparts abroad appear to be doing more sodden celebrating. According to World Drink Trends 2004, published by Britain's World Advertising Research Center, the United States ranks just twenty-sixth among forty-five countries in per capita alcohol consumption. Here slow and steady wins the race: big beer- and wine-drinking countries generally imbibe more alcohol per capita than countries that favor liquor. Russians drink more spirits than any other nationality—the equivalent of one 80-proof shot a day for every citizen. But Russia ranks only fifteenth in overall drinking. Americans on average throw back twenty-two gallons of beer a year, but the United States lags in wine and liquor consumption. Here's how you'd have to pace yourself to keep up with the world's heaviest drinkers.

RankCountryAnnual intake
of pure alcohol
per person
Drinks per week, roughly*
1Luxembourg3.14 gallons
2Hungary2.93 gallons
3Czech Republic2.85 gallons
4Ireland2.85 gallons
5Germany2.75 gallons
6France2.72 gallons
7Portugal2.56 gallons
8Spain2.54 gallons
9Great Britain2.54 gallons
10Denmark2.51 gallons

= 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof alcohol
= pint of beer
= 4-ounce glass of wine

* Alcohol content of beer and wine varies from country to country

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2004/12/holiday-cheer/303628/