While it’s often overshadowed by its northeastern counterpart, the nation’s Second City is by no means overshadowed when it comes to its beer and liquor offerings.
While Prohibition fundamentally shaped the city, its contemporary cocktail culture flourishes while throwing off Hollywood’s clichéd romanticization of the era. Meanwhile, the contemporary state of Illinois is home to a multitude of breweries, making it another hotspot in the American craft beer revolution.
The greater Chicago area is home not just to one of the most unique bar cultures in the country, but one of the biggest communities of BevSpot users—some of which we’ve covered before. We decided to take a look at their favorite beer and liquor brands.
We’ve broken down our bar order data to find the most popular beer, whiskey, vodka, tequila, rum and gin brands for Chicago-based BevSpot users. Here’s what we found.
The following material aggregates 2016 order data from BevSpot users in the Chicago metropolitan area, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. All figures represent percentages of orders in dollar terms.
From neighboring Wisconsin comes Miller, which takes the throne as the beer king of Chicago. At 8.2% of BevSpot user beer orders in dollar terms, it has almost double the market share of runner-up Coors (though since they’re both owned by MillerCoors, this only means an extended lead for their parent company).
The rest of the top seven beers are also well-known mass market brands, with one exception: Revolution Brewing, which was very recently founded in 2010 in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, but has quickly picked up accolades both locally and nationally. It’s the only microbrewery to make the top seven beer brands.
While whiskey has a similar market position among Chicago BevSpot liquor orders to the one it has nationally, the same can't be said for most other spirit types. Rum accounts for about 6% of our users’ spirit orders nationally, but, in Chicago, it is the third most-popular spirit at 14%.
Vodka is also more popular among Chicago BevSpot users than it is nationally—though at 25% of local orders compared to 23% of national ones, the difference is not as stark. In contrast, tequila, cordials & liqueurs, and gin are all less popular among BevSpot users in Chicago than they are nationally.
While Jameson had a healthy lead on Jack Daniel’s in our national data (14% vs 10% of whiskey orders), among our Chicago users they’re neck-and neck. Jack narrowly outpaces Jameson here, but neither should be disappointed—their 20% shares of orders are well beyond their national ones.
Third-placed Crown Royal has a similar order share to its national order share here, about 10% of whiskey order dollars. But, while Maker’s Mark remains in the top five here, Bulleit does not. Its spot is taken by Suntory, which doesn’t even make the top ten whiskeys nationally.
In our national data, Tito’s held a commanding share of the vodka market, with 25% of vodka orders. Not so much here: its share of vodka orders is just a percentage point over that of Absolut, the second runner-up. Absolut, which is the fourth-ranked vodka in our national data at 8% of overall orders, clocks in at over 17% in Chicago; it’s the only vodka brand shown to be significantly stronger in Chicago compared to nationally.
Grey Goose and Deep Eddy each possess three percentage points more of Chicago vodka orders than they do of overall ones. In contrast, the nationally fifth-ranked Stolichnaya doesn’t make the top five here.
Appleton Estate doesn’t even make the top ten rums among BevSpot users nationally. Yet it’s the preferred brand of many of our Chicago-based bar managers, accounting for 17% of rum order dollars among these users. This and fifth-placed Wray & Nephew emerge from the shadows to make the top five rums among our Chicago users.
The rest of the top five, though, is populated by well-recognized rum brands—Captain Morgan, Malibu, and Bacardi. Gosling’s, though, doesn’t rank here.
Among Chicago-area BevSpot users, Patrón is by far the favored tequila brand. Though that’s already the case among all U.S. BevSpot users (14% of tequila order dollars nationally were for the brand), it is more stark in this region. At 40% of orders, it has more than triple the market share of runner-up Don Julio.
Among BevSpot users overall, Hendrick’s is the preferred gin brand at 22% of gin order dollars, though Tanqueray isn’t drastically far behind at 18%. In Chicago, Tanqueray has a comfortable lead at a third of total orders, with Hendrick’s 12 percentage points behind.
As with the rest of the country, Bombay and Beefeater round out the top four gins, though Damrak peculiarly emerges from obscurity to take fifth place regionally.
There are definitely some interesting high-level takeaways from our Chicago data analysis. Some of these observations fall in line with common expectations such as the prevalence of MillerCoors in Chicago. However, others were a bit surprising. For example, Chicago BevSpot accounts really seem to like their rum. Specifically Appleton Estate rum. It's also interesting to see a large preference towards Tanqueray in the Windy City vs. the national preference towards Hendrick's. In future data trends, we'll have to see whether Chi-Town continues to exhibit unique traits in the future or will fall more in line with national trends.