Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, and consumer buying patterns over this weekend are signs of the seasonal trends ahead. This year, Americans are reaching for ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails like never before, proving this category is not only here to stay, but that it’s likely to take share from other classic summertime beverages in the coming months. 

Drizly sales were strong over Memorial Day weekend, peaking on Sunday, May 30, when sales were 32 percent above the average Sunday in May. “The first long weekend of the season should be a signal to retailers of what will drive sales for the summer weekends ahead,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. 

Success for Single-Serve RTDs

For the first time, this Memorial Day weekend, RTD cocktails landed in the No. 4 spot in liquor subcategory on Drizly after whiskey, vodka, and tequila, accounting for six percent of share within the liquor category. This was up significantly from Memorial Day weekend 2020, when RTDs held the No. 8 spot.

”RTDs were a clear winner on Memorial Day, but this was not a big surprise since we have been tracking the rise of ready-to-drink options, which has been accelerating all year,” says Paquette. “As we’ve seen the growth of ready-to-drink products and distribution, we predicted 2021 would be the summer of RTDs, especially single-serve RTDs.”

Individual RTD brands reflected this success too; for the first time, an RTD brand — High Noon — broke into the top 10 best-selling liquor brands on Drizly, and was the best-selling RTD brand over Memorial Day weekend. Other single-serve RTDs like Cutwater Spirits, Buzzballz, and The Long Drink Company also made gains on the top 10 RTD brands list. 

Both Five Drinks Co. and Two Chicks were among the fastest-growing liquor brands year-over-year. These new entrants and the growth of established RTD brands suggest the market is not yet saturated, and drinkers are increasingly interested in the category’s flavor diversity. 

Drizly’s Best-Selling RTD Brands, Memorial Day Weekend 2021

  1. High Noon
  2. Cutwater Spirits
  3. On The Rocks 
  4. Jose Cuervo 
  5. 1800 Tequila
  6. Skinnygirl 
  7. Fisher’s Island 
  8. Bacardi
  9. Buzzballz 
  10. The Long Drink Company 

Hard Seltzer Drives Beer Sales

While the beer category experienced the largest share gains on Memorial Day weekend compared to May 2021 overall (growing from 17 percent to 19 percent of share), overall, category share was down year-over-year from 22 percent. 

“Overall, we have begun to see a decline in beer share year-over-year,” says Paquette.”We expect this will continue through the summer months, particularly as other single-serve alternatives gain steam.”

Within the category, it was hard seltzer that drove growth compared to the month overall, with share increasing from 25 percent of share to 28 percent of share. Memorial Day weekend also reflected year-over-year share growth; over Memorial Day weekend 2020, hard seltzer held just 21 percent of category share.

Brand-specific shifts further emphasized hard seltzer’s prominence within the beer category; White Claw remained the No. 1 brand this year, while Truly Hard Seltzer eclipsed both Bud Light and Corona to hold the No. 2 spot. Coors and Michelob also saw growth year-over-year driven by the introduction of their hard seltzer SKUs.  

“Hard seltzer was the only beer subcategory that saw gains over Memorial Day weekend versus the month of May overall,” says Paquette, citing increased diversity in the category as a potential driver behind the subcategory’s continued growth. Light lager share, in comparison, remained flat at 20 percent of category share, while IPAs were down to 8 percent of share from 10 percent of share over Memorial Day weekend 2020.

Drizly’s Best-Selling Beer Brands, Memorial Day Weekend 2021 

  1. White Claw
  2. Truly Hard Seltzer 
  3. Bud Light
  4. Corona
  5. Coors 
  6. Michelob
  7. Miller Brewing Co.
  8. Modelo 
  9. Stella Artois
  10. Heineken

Vodka and Tequila Remain Strong, While Cognac Rises

Across the liquor category, tequila, rum, and brandy each experienced share gains of one percentage point over the holiday weekend compared to May overall, while vodka share remained consistent (though it was up slightly year-over-year) and whiskey share declined. However, flavored vodka share within the vodka category increased from 16 percent in May overall to 17 percent over Memorial Day weekend, indicating consumers’ seasonal shift to flavored spirits will likely extend through the summer season.

While Tito’s and Casamigos held their respective No. 1 and No. 2 spots within the top 10 liquor brands, bigger shakeups took place further down the list. In addition to High Noon entering the top 10 list at No. 7, Hennessy rose from the No. 8 spot over Memorial Day weekend 2020 to the No. 3 spot this year, suggesting that consumers may increasingly reach for Cognac and brandy this summer. 

Drizly’s Best-Selling Liquor Brands, Memorial Day Weekend 2021

  1. Tito’s
  2. Casamigos 
  3. Hennessy
  4. Don Julio 
  5. Jameson 
  6. Jack Daniel’s
  7. High Noon 
  8. Patrón 
  9. Smirnoff 
  10. Espolòn 

Sparkling and Rosé Hold Steady

Overall, total wine share shrank to 34 percent over Memorial Day weekend from 36 percent during the month of May. Champagne and sparkling wine remained consistent compared to May overall at 25 percent of category share, but it’s up from Memorial Day weekend 2020, when it held 20 percent of share. Rosé wine saw a one percentage point share increase over the long weekend, holding 11 percent of share.