When it comes to alcohol, many people calls themselves “social drinkers,” and liquor is often seen as an icebreaker during get-togethers.

Well, we weren’t socializing a whole lot during the pandemic, but that certainly didn’t mean we stopped drinking.

New market-research data shows that a higher percentage of adults in the Seattle metro area consumed some types of alcohol — in particular, liquor and wine — once the pandemic hit.

According to market-research giant Nielsen, almost one-quarter of Seattle-area adults — 783,000 people — said they consumed liquor in the past week during the pandemic. That represents an increase of about 120,000 people.

Wine consumption also spiked during the pandemic. About 743,000 in our metro (which includes King, Pierce and Snohomish counties) said they’d consumed the beverage in the past week, up by about 67,000.

That’s probably not a huge surprise because in addition to being a social lubricant, alcohol is also something people sometimes use to cope with anxiety — and it’s hard to imagine a more stressful, uncertain time than the past year.


But, for whatever reason, beer and hard cider didn’t gain in popularity during the pandemic in the Seattle area. And it may be unrelated, but both liquor and wine typically have a higher alcohol content than beer or hard cider.

Even so, beer remained Seattle’s most popular alcoholic beverage, but the number who said they drank it in the past week barely changed, at 819,000. The number who drank liquor increased so much that it’s now a close second to beer.

Only hard cider took a tumble, with only 147,000 Seattle-area adults saying they enjoyed the beverage during the February 2020 to February 2021 period. That’s down 32% from the same period one year earlier.

The places folks purchased their alcoholic beverages changed during the pandemic, and, as you’d expect, sales dried up at places where people traditionally socialize.

Pre-pandemic, when asked where they purchased alcohol in the past 30 days, 31% said they bought it from a restaurant, bar or nightclub, or at a stadium event. Once things started to shut down, that number dropped to 14%.

But during the pandemic, 1.75 million bought their alcohol from a grocery story or club store (like Costco), an increase of 215,000 from before COVID-19.

Nearly 3,000 adults responded to the Nielsen surveys both in the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 periods.