At least liquor stores are deemed essential in this time of crisis—and people have been stocking up big time. Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, like other shops, saw sales double mid-March as stay-home warnings heightened. Meanwhile, alcohol delivery apps are also experiencing a swell. Drizly, for example, saw a 300-percent surge and its biggest sales day ever a few weeks ago.
Perhaps not surprisingly, everyone is buying in bulk. “I don’t see anyone buying a bottle right now. If somebody bought one, they’re buying two or three,” says Shravan Dilawri, co-owner of Mount Vernon Square’s Modern Liquors, which initially saw deliveries triple. “Especially in wine, I feel like we’re selling a lot of cases. There’s a guy who every other day would order a six-pack and a pint or something. He ordered two cases of beer and a couple handles.”
So what’s popular? For delivery apps, it’s still White Claw—a drink you might associate more with partying with your bros than partaking with your Netflix. GoPuff and Drizly both say the hard seltzer is their number one seller nationally. (To be fair, though, it was also one of the most popular products before the coronavirus crisis.) Meanwhile, delivery service Minibar leans more toward wine but says White Claw tops its beer category… never mind that it’s not a beer.
At Schneider’s, however, the clientele prefers a nice pinot. Specifically, Row Eleven Russian River Pinot Noir with its hints of Bing cherry, cola, and holiday spice. The shop sold 50 cases between March 7 and 27. Whiskey is another go-to. VP Elyse Genderson says customers have been gobbling up Elijah Craig small-batch bourbon—”excellent quality for the price ratio.” At the same time, she’s noticed an uptick in more high-end bottles “just to have something to look forward to, a special bottle to enjoy with their family.”
At Modern Liquors, mid-to-lower tier whiskeys in $18 to $30 range, like Jim Bean and Jack Daniels, have seen a little uptick. But overall, vodka and tequila are most popular.
“Definitely vodka has a coronavirus bump to it,” Dilawri says. “Our store was generally more brown spirits focused—a lot of bourbons and whiskies. Tito’s is by far the number one, and then Smirnoff would be a distant second.”
Tito’s is also one of the most in-demand products from Drizly, Minibar, and GoPuff. Dilwari says the Tito’s bump followed reports that the vodka could be used as hand-sanitizer—even though Tito’s has actively discouraged that because its products aren’t high proof enough.
Depending on who you ask, Corona is both up and down. A Drizly spokesperson says Corona’s share within the Mexican beers category nearly doubled in mid-March. It’s also among the top three beers for Minibar. At Modern Liquors, however, Dilwari noticed the opposite: “I order Corona every other week, and I didn’t have to order last week.”
One thing that’s popular across the board: Everclear and, well, any super high-proof spirit that can actually be used for making hand sanitizer. Both Schneider’s and Modern Liquor say they sold out weeks ago.
“Everything that was clear and 100-proof, like grain alcohol, it all sold out in a few hours,” Dilwari says. “I usually don’t carry Everclear. Who buys Everclear these days? And then the next day I tried to order it and they were all sold out. You still can’t even get it.”