Young people expect to pay far more for drinks

Americans aren’t exactly sure what they should be paying for a mojito or white Russian at their local bars and restaurants.

If you ask someone born in the last few decades, that drink should cost over $9, while older people are willing to pay a dollar or two less, according to new survey data from Nielsen CGA.

The data also show stark differences between regions: New Yorkers are willing to pay about $4 more for a cocktail than someone in Ohio or Kentucky.

Nielsen measured alcohol consumption patterns of 15,000 Americans who have visited a restaurant or bar in the last three months.

“Wealthy people and younger people are generally willing to pay more for a cocktail than the rest of us,” said Scott Elliott, senior vice president at Nielsen CGA, a joint venture between the two metrics companies.

About a fourth of the U.S. population has drunk a cocktail outside their home in the last three months, according to the survey. The most popular liquors for use in cocktails are tequila, followed by rum, vodka and whiskey.

Sixty percent said that margaritas are their favorite cocktail, followed by daiquiris, pina coladas, Long Island ice teas and mojitos. Nationally, Americans said they expect to pay $8.72 for a standard cocktail, but are willing to pay 25 percent more for a cocktail made with premium spirits.

Suprisingly, while young people said they expect to pay more for a cocktail, they also listed the price as a more important measure of the value of their purchase than did older drinkers.

“Millennials are about frugal luxury,” said Elliott. “They’re frugal about the price point of things, but they’re happy to spend on what they perceive as luxury items, be that a quality cocktail or an iPad.”

This is the first time that the survey has been conducted in the U.S., so it’s hard to say how preferences and price points have changed over time. The price of alcoholic drinks outside the home has been increasing faster than inflation or drinks at home, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Another BLS data set, the consumer expenditure survey, shows that ages 25 to 64 spend about the same amount each year on drinks inside and outside the home.

Young people may be willing to pay more per cocktail, but the youngest age group measured by the BLS spends the least overall — even less than their grandparents.

So while young people may be willing to spend more on high-end mixed drinks at bars and restaurants, their parents are apparently making up the difference with cheaper beer or $10 bottles of vodka at home.

The large data set allows Nielsen CGA to look at how specific consumers (like Buffalo Wild Wings customers) respond to different cocktail options (they want a Tequila Sunrise).

With more information about our drink preferences, it’s possible that bars and restaurants may be able to entice a few more of those drinkers to sit down with an old fashioned, fuzzy navel or Tom Collins at their local watering hole.

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