With bars and restaurants closed or operating under tight restrictions in cities across America, making cocktails at home has become a major pandemic consumer trend. Along with boosting overall sales for the liquor category, the at-home cocktail craze has also led to impressive growth for liqueurs, cordials, and schnapps. With another round of mandates restricting visits to bars and restaurants this winter, this small but mighty category is poised to continue driving sales well into 2021.

Boosted by At-Home Cocktail Making

According to Nielsen scan data for the 52 weeks ending Nov. 14, 2020, total off-premise dollar sales for the cordials category — which includes liqueurs and schnapps — increased 24 percent year-over-year. Cognac blends saw the greatest subcategory gain at 29.4 percent, while coffee liqueurs and creams grew 23.7 percent and 22.8 percent, respectively. Schnapps sales were close behind with 21 percent growth.

Online sales for the liqueurs/cordials/schnapps category have also followed an upward trend. Year-to-date (YTD) in 2020, the category holds 6.7 percent of liquor sales share on Drizly, up nearly two percentage points from 2019 sales share.

“The Covid-19 pandemic played a significant role in the category’s growth,” notes Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. “With on-premise consumption essentially halted during the initial months of the pandemic, the at-home cocktail trend really took hold this spring.”

The liqueurs/cordials/schnapps category peaked in May at an 8.2 percent share of Drizly’s liquor sales. Though share growth slowed when states loosened pandemic restrictions over the summer, the category was still up year-over-year. 

“Starting in June, we have more consistent, month-over-month share of the liquor category as more on-premise locations have welcomed customers back,” notes Paquette. “That potentially drove people to shift from making cocktails at home to returning to their favorite restaurants and bars.” 

However, as winter sets in, bringing with it new sets of lockdowns, consumers will likely turn back to at-home shaking and stirring — and stocking up on the ingredients necessary for their favorite home cocktails. 

Which Products are Selling?

The top two SKUs in the liqueurs/cordials/schnapps category have been firmly cemented in recent years; in both 2019 and 2020, Baileys Irish Cream topped Drizly’s best-sellers list, while Aperol commanded the No. 2 spot. 

“The rise of Aperol, largely driven by the popularity of the Aperol Spritz cocktail, has been a key trend in the category over the past five years,” says Paquette. “In 2016, it was the No. 8 top-selling liqueur on Drizly and began to gain share, moving to the No. 3 position in 2017.” In 2018, it secured the No. 2 spot, where it has remained ever since. 

The big winner among top-sellers this year was Cointreau, which made sales gains from the No. 7 spot in 2019 to the No. 3 spot in 2020. A main ingredient in classic cocktails such as the sidecar and cosmopolitan, it is a fixture in margaritas alongside tequila — a category that also saw significant share gains in 2020. Many of 2020’s best-selling liqueurs are used to make classic, winter-friendly cocktails, including the negroni (Campari), boulevardier (Campari), and mudslide (Baileys and Kahlua).  

Drizly’s Top-Selling Liqueurs, Cordials, and Schnapps SKUs, 2020

  1. Baileys Irish Cream Original
  2. Aperol
  3. Cointreau
  4. Campari
  5. Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
  6. Kahlua
  7. Jägermeister
  8. St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
  9. Disaronno Originale Amaretto
  10. RumChata

In addition to carrying the category’s best-selling liqueur, cordial, and schnapps brands, Paquette says, retailers should keep an eye on products that are showing strong year-over-year sales growth. Orange-flavored liqueurs (including Cointreau) account for six of Drizly’s top 10 fastest-growing liqueur products for 2020, indicating that consumers may be experimenting with their classic cocktail brands.

Drizly’s Fastest-Growing Liqueurs, Cordials, and Schnapps SKUs, 2020

  1. Gran Gala Orange Liqueur 
  2. Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur 
  3. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao 
  4. Five Farms Irish Cream Liqueur 
  5. Llord’s Triple Sec 
  6. Cointreau 
  7. Suze Saveur d’Autrefois 
  8. Kamora Coffee Liqueur 
  9. Dekuyper Triple Sec Liqueur 
  10. Rothman & Winter Creme de Violette

Who Is Buying Liqueurs, Cordials, and Schnapps?

Because the category includes a variety of products used to make a wide range of cocktails that appeal to consumers across many age groups, buyers’ age demographics align closely with those of Drizly’s total purchases across all categories. Adults aged 28 to 34 comprise the largest age group at 27 percent, followed by the 35 to 41 age group (24.7 percent). 

Two Drizly markets skewed more heavily toward the liqueurs/cordials/schnapps category in 2020: Washington, D.C., which is the No. 4 market for the category’s sales, compared to No. 7 for overall sales; and Seattle, which is the No. 11 market for the liqueurs/cordials/schnapps category, compared to No. 16 in overall sales.

Holiday and Q1 Resurgence 

For the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021, Drizly expects to see an uptick in sales for the liqueurs/cordials/schnapps category. 

“Historically, the category has seen share gains in Q4, particularly in December, as at-home hosting occurs around holiday celebrations,” says Paquette. Despite the uncertainty of holiday celebrations in 2020, sales are likely to be strong due to fewer consumers traveling and more people celebrating at home.

As temperatures drop in many parts of the country and pandemic restrictions persist, consumers will likely spend more time at home this winter than in previous years. “This may lead to another resurgence of at-home cocktail-making,” says Paquette, “similar to what we saw during the early months of the pandemic.”