Great article in Visual Capitalist by Omri Wallach describes the phenomenon of world-wide alcohol consumption. Alcohol might be one of the oldest and most frequently used recreational substances in the world, but examining countries by alcohol consumption shows that usage is not equal.
Consumption levels, and types of alcohol consumed, vary widely based on location. Furthermore, the availability of fruits and grains used in alcohol production impacts which drinks are more commonly consumed, as does the predominant culture. Some cultures see alcohol consumption as a pleasurable experience, while others see intoxication as a sin.
There’s also the question of economics and availability. It’s strange, but in some regions of the world, industrially mass-produced alcohol can flood markets and become cheaper than other beverages, including water.
When we map alcohol consumption by capita, and by different types of alcohol, these local and cultural stories come to light. The above maps use recorded consumption data from WHO for 2019, in liters of pure alcohol.
EUROPE LEADS IN PER CAPITA ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
The top 10 countries by alcohol consumption highlight the prominence of alcoholic beverages in European culture.
Eight of the 10 countries with the top alcohol consumption per capita were in Europe. Primarily, they were Eastern and Central European countries, including #2 Latvia, #3 Czech Republic, #4 Lithuania, and #5 Austria.
But the crown of alcohol consumption per capita goes to the Cook Islands, which leads the world with an annual per capita consumption of 13L (3.4 gallons) of alcohol.
Per capita consumption of alcohol also highlights clear regional preferences in amount and type, or a lack of interest.
The biggest consumers of alcohol are countries in Central Europe, the South Pacific, and parts of the Caribbean. In Europe, beer and wine are kings, with most of the top consumers also being top producers such as France and Germany.
Spirits like rum, meanwhile, are dominant in the Cook Islands and much of the Caribbean, which has four of the 12 top spirit consumers. The others are mainly in Eastern Europe and Russia, which get most of their alcohol consumption from vodka.