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‘Vodka is THE Category’ as Spirits Sales Soar

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The rising popularity of cocktails is reflected by the increased sales of liquor in Ohio.

Sales of hard liquor broke records the past two years, the Ohio Division of Liquor Control reports, surpassing $1 billion in 2015 and totaling $1.14 billion in 2016.

“The trend right now is swinging back to distilled spirits,” says Bill D’Amico, co-owner with John Potter of Chalet Premier in North Lima. Sales of distilled spirits in his store are “growing every day,” D’Amico says.

Hennessey cognac, the best-selling brand of hard liquor in the state, is often used as the base in such cocktails as the vieux carré, sidecar, sazerac and mint julep. All recipes are posted at Hennessey.com under cocktails.

Several vodkas are among the top-selling liquors, something D’Amico sees in his store as well.

“Vodka is THE category right now,” he says.

The popularity of vodka-based cocktails such as the Moscow mule is driving that trend, D’Amico says. Other popular vodka-based cocktails are the vodka martini, cosmopolitan and the bloody mary.

Bourbon is increasingly popular, but its popularity is in a rebounding phase. “Bourbons are very hot,” D’Amico says, “but it’s a lot easier to show a big increase percentage-wise on small base, which is pretty much what bourbon has done.”

The top-10 selling brands in Ohio last year based on dollars spent, according to the state Division of Liquor Control, are:

  1. Hennessy V.S Cognac – $51,603,607.
  2. Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey – $48,357,286.
  3. Tito’s Handmade Vodka – $39,575,789.
  4. Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey – $37,712,057.
  5. Patron Silver Tequila – $30,967,960.
  6. Absolut Vodka – $26,985,120.
  7. Grey Goose Vodka – $26,885,742.
  8. Crown Royal Apple – $26,314,733.
  9. Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey – $25,648,206.
  10. Jameson Irish Whiskey – $24,782,322.

A spokesman for the Department of Commerce could not provide a list of top brands based on volume sold.

Ohio defines a spirituous, or hard, liquor as one that is more than 21% alcohol by volume.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.