Tito's vodka is still top dog for NC liquor sales, but premium tequila emerges as big seller
Tito's Handmade Vodka got its start in the mid-1990s, when founder Tito Beveridge launched the first distillery in Texas. Today, the brand continues to dominate the North Carolina liquor market, with both the 750 milliliters and 1.75 liter options outselling every other bottle of liquor in the state.
But while Tito's domination continues, top shelf tequila brands have become increasingly popular in the state, as brands such as Patron Silver climbed into the top 10 ranking of bottles sold in 2022, according to monthly data from the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission
"We've seen explosive growth in the super premium and ultra premium tequila categories," ABC Commission spokesman Jeff Strickland said. "Those are products that have really been popular, especially over the past year."
Statewide, spirituous liquor sales continued strong growth, though most of that increase this past year was due to a rebound in mixed beverage sales, the term used by the ABC Commission that refers to sales to bars and restaurants.
These sales saw declines in 2020 and 2021 largely due to lockdown measures to protect against the spread of COVID-19. That changed this past year as mixed beverage sales increased by more than 50% over the year prior to nearly $330 million.
Sales to individual customers at ABC stores, saw only a 1.5% increase from the prior year. Across North Carolina, liquor sales have increased sharply in the past decade. Total sales have doubled statewide since 2014.
The ABC Commission distributes revenue back to the state and local governments, and to alcohol educational programs. Last year, it distributed more than $670 million.
"It's part of the system of control," says Strickland. "Alcohol is sold. We want it to be sold and consumed responsibly. And at the same time, make sure that any potential alcohol related harms, we're preventing against."
Bourbon sales are also on the rise in Wake County, says county ABC general manager Bryan Hicks.
"There is a growing interest in the bourbon spirits and Wake County ABC was able to receive more supply," he says. "Our supply may not be what we would like to keep all bourbon connoisseurs happy but it is on a positive trend."