(COLUMBUS BUSINESS FIRST)– Vodka and American whiskey accounted for more than half the spirits sold in Ohio in 2021.

Vodka continues to be tops in the state with the 5.57 million gallons sold last year, representing nearly one-third of spirits sales. That’s up 4.9% from the pre-pandemic sales in 2019, according to data provided by the Ohio Division of Liquor Control.

American whiskey racked up 3.27 million gallons last year and is up 19% versus 2019, an increase driven by the surge in retail sales to consumers.

Columbus Business First last month reported on total sales for the year, which increased 3.48% to 17.3 million gallons in 2021 and 9.7% by dollar to $1.72 billion.

The hold on the market by vodka and American whiskey is comparable to the pre-Covid results in 2019 — roughly half of sales by gallon. Gallonage is the best apples-to-apples comparison since it removes price differences and fluctuations.

By the dollars measure, American whiskey now is the state’s top seller, with $393 million in sales last year, or 22.8% of the total state sales. The category finally overtook vodka, which tallied $374 million in sales, or 21.7% of total state sales.

Despite vodka’s gallon advantage, American whiskey sells for more per bottle.

Though American whiskey has been a big gainer during the pandemic, it’s not the category that has seen the largest increases in sales.

Tequila sales are up 46% since 2019 to 2.23 million gallons. That’s the biggest increase for any category in that period. The spirit is the third-biggest seller in the state and it had the largest two-year gains in both retail sales, which are direct to customers, and wholesale, which is to restaurants and bars.

Tequila retail gallons are up 88% compared with 2019 while wholesale rose 28% in that period.

It was one of just three categories to grow wholesale receipts from 2019 as restaurants and bars have struggled to get back to full hours and service in the past two years. (Perhaps the neverending expansion of taco eateries has helped.)

The cordial and Irish whiskey categories both had marginal gains versus 2019 in wholesale as well. Though it’s only ranked ninth in total gallons sold, Irish whiskey was the other big gainer alongside tequila with total sales rising 20% in the past two years largely driven by a 45% increase in retail sales.

Beyond vodka, American whiskey and tequila, four other categories surpassed 1 million gallons sold last year: Canadian whiskey, rum, brandy and cordials.

Ohio’s spirituous liquor business is managed by the Ohio Division of Liquor Control. The inventory is owned by the JobsOhio Beverage System, a nonprofit entity that funds economic development group JobsOhio through its exclusive franchise agreement with the state.

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