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How the Pandemic Transformed Drinking Culture

From a massive increase in online liquor sales to virtual happy hours and pub quizzes

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Once upon a time, in a distant land far, far away, the alcohol industry faced a branding crisis and pivoted towards more “wellness” and “self care” messaging. Canned cocktails with 5% alcohol, CBD-infused beers, and alcoholic seltzer flooded the market and “mocktails” started appearing on bar menus. And then, the novel coronavirus became a global pandemic and ALL of that went out the window. Before we knew it, self-care became less about cutting alcohol intake and more about looking forward to that evening glass of wine on the couch. Consumers across the world had no more bars and restaurants to go to, and stocked up on wine, beer, and liquor. Before we knew it, ‘drinking culture’ meant something completely different.

More people under quarantine are required to order alcohol online, and as a result, the alcohol industry faces its own new “new normal,” with more liquor stores signing up to delivery sites like Minibar and Drizly, and wineries and independent producers that once relied on tasting rooms trying to figure out new marketing strategies. As quarantine continues in many parts of the world, the shift in drinking culture has become a necessary one — a way for people to stay in touch with friends and family through ‘happy hour,’ to break up the monotony of the day, and a way to support local businesses.

For those that need more than just a glass of red on the sofa, drinking games and pub quizzes have also gone digital, showing everyone that so long as you have a strong internet connection, you can probably have a strong social connection with people all around the world. All fun aside, as drinking culture gets more global and virtual, American distilleries —like the NY Distilling Company in Brooklyn — have made their own helpful pivot to using their resources and facilities to create hand sanitizing solution.

We talked to liquor and sake experts, a pub owner, and a wine critic (to name a few!) to get their perspective on how drinking culture has changed, if there’s anything we’ll keep doing once the pandemic is over, and if we’ll ever get back to the old ways.

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