According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), 39 states now allow liquor sales on Sundays -- up from 23 in 2002. In their annual report, the group adds that up to 44 states allow in-store alcohol tasting (as of 2013) and that South Carolina is now the only state to restrict the sale of alcohol on Election Day. As DISCUS CEO Peter H. Cressy explains, "The last vestiges of Prohibition are going away." And underage drinking is down, to boot.
According to DISCUS, laxer liquor laws paired with an expansion of the American whiskey market to make this a boom year for alcohol enthusiasts. Per the organization's press release:
In the important U.S. home market, the Council reported steady supplier sales growth in 2013 of 4.4% to $22.2 billion, paced by whiskeys of all varieties; total U.S. volume growth was up 1.9% to approximately 206 million cases. The Council estimated overall retail sales of distilled spirits in the U.S. market at upwards of $66 billion. In addition, the group estimated overall market share versus beer grew for the fourth straight year, rising by four-tenths of a point for a total of 34.7% share of the beverage alcohol market.
The group suggests that our collective whiskey snobbery has spiked in recent years, citing "consumer fascination with premiumization, heritage and cocktail culture" as a factor in whiskey growth. Also, new international trade deals didn't hurt.
U.S. liquor laws are a bizarre result of protectionist and puritanical tendencies, and in some cases remain hard to shake. Some states have run into resistance to updating the laws. In Kentucky, a court maintained a ban on selling wine and liquor in grocery stores -- despite a local 2013 poll which found that 62 percent of respondents were in favor of the repeal, and denying the reasonable argument made by the Food with Wine Coalition's lawyer that "in today's business environment, there is very little difference between so-called grocery stores, which are not able to sell wine, and so-called drug stores, which are." And in Utah the Mormon Church, which bans alcohol among its practicing members, has issued a passionate defense of the state's notoriously strict liquor laws.
But don't fret for too long, thirsty Utahans. We have faith that we will soon live in an America where friendly brewers can send your drone-borne beers. Maybe not today, but one day.