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Pennsylvania’s top 10 drinks in 2022, according to the state liquor board

Fireball topped the Pennsylvania liquor control board's spirit sales list, while La Marca prosecco was the state's top-selling wine.

La Marca prosecco was the top-selling wine bottle in Pennsylvania in 2021-22, according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
La Marca prosecco was the top-selling wine bottle in Pennsylvania in 2021-22, according to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.Read moreMichael Klein / Staff

Pennsylvanians like their vodka, especially Tito’s, and their spritzes. They’re also shying away from Barefoot wines.

But most of all, they have a powerful thirst for those tiny bottles of booze, especially cinnamon-flavored whiskey, Long Island iced tea, pink lemonade vodka, peach liqueur, and apple brandy.

In the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s 2021-22 report, released this week and covering July 2021 through June 2022, miniature bottles are five of the 10 best-selling spirit items, and 13 of the list’s top 25.

Fireball, a cinnamon whiskey that goes down like molten Red Hots candy, was Pennsylvania’s top-selling spirit bottle last year, as more than 4.6 million of the shots headed out the door of Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores at 99 cents a piece. New Amsterdam’s 50ml bottle of plain vodka nearly doubled its previous year’s sales (to 1.6 million units) for second place. Following were three regular sizes of Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

When you exclude perennial favorites such as Crown Russe vodka and Jack Daniel’s whiskey, the rest of the top 10 is packed with 50ml bottles: New Amsterdam’s Pink Whitney Pink Lemonade vodka, 99 Long Island Iced Tea liqueur, and 99 Peaches liqueur. These little bottles pack a punch; the “99″ stands for 99 proof. The top 25 also includes E&J apple brandy, 99 bananas liqueur, 99 apples liqueur, Yukon Jack liqueur, New Amsterdam peach vodka, a 50ml version of Tito’s, and New Amsterdam apple vodka and pineapple vodka.

Why the appeal of these 50ml bottles? “They are great for gifting, travel, and early mornings on the golf course,” said Michelle Curtis, an on-premises adviser for Diageo Hospitality Partnership in Philadelphia. Her product line includes Bailey’s, not among the top 25.

In the case of Fireball, buying the 50ml size can be more economical than buying a larger bottle. The 375ml Fireball retails for $18.99, while 15 of the 50ml bottles is $14.85.

The small bottles are also popular additions to soft drinks. They find their way into the stands of sporting events, as the empties rolling around under the seats attest.

On the state’s wine list, the top seller again was La Marca prosecco, which reflects the national craving for lower-alcohol bubbly mixers that find their way into spritzes. Second was the 1.5-liter bottle of Cavit pinot grigio, an easy drinking wine; the 750ml size was seventh on the state’s sales list. Third last year was Kendall-Jackson’s Vintner’s Reserve chardonnay, a $14 bottle that shows up at picnics everywhere.

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One surprise on this year’s list was the softening of sales of all Barefoot wines, though the brand is still a national player in the $4-to-$8 price range. Barefoot’s pinot grigio lost 18% year over year, and its pink moscato was off 22%. Krista Noonan, a spokesperson for E&J Gallo, cited recent national figures compiled by the analytics firm IRI that showed Barefoot beating the $4-to-$8 market by 1%.

“Customers’ tastes change,” said Shawn Kelly, a PLCB spokesperson. “Marketing campaigns can play a role, new products and new trends might displace old favorites, and the COVID-19 pandemic changed buying habits. For example, during the pandemic, customers seemed to gravitate toward brand names they knew. As the pandemic eased, customers might have felt more free to experiment and try new brands and new products.”

The PLCB generated about $3.02 billion in sales and taxes from Fine Wine & Good Spirits retail stores, direct deliveries to licensees, and from its e-commerce website. That was a 3.8% increase over the previous year. Total retail wine and spirits sales last year were $2.12 billion, a decrease of 3.4% over the last year.

The report also noted:

  1. California cabernet sauvignon was the top wine category in 34 counties (including Philadelphia, Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery), California chardonnay led sales in six counties (including Chester), while box red wine was the top category in 24 counties, and beverage wine followed in three.

  2. The top three counties — Allegheny, Philadelphia, and Montgomery — accounted for 35% of statewide sales.