SALT LAKE CITY — Cheap liquor, wine and beer have long been best-sellers among Utah alcohol drinkers, but new numbers from Utah’s tightly-controlled liquor system show local craft brews, trendy box wines and flavored whiskies are also popular choices in a largely teetotaler state.
Utah, one of 11 states that control retail sales of liquor, requires residents to purchase products with more than 4 percent alcohol by volume at one of 44 state-run stores or more than 100 privately-run outlets at places like ski-resorts with government contracts.
Even though a large portion of Utah’s residents and lawmakers are members of the Mormon church, which teaches its members to avoid alcohol, liquor is big business for the state and generates about $400 million in annual sales.
For those who do drink, tastes run from low-cost beers and sparkling wines to flavored whiskeys and eco-friendly boxed wines, according to data from Utah’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
A look at the most popular choices from July 2015 through June 2016:
Cheaper vodka and whiskies that taste like cinnamon or apple were top choices for Utah drinkers. Flavored vodkas, such as those that taste like cookies and cream or whipped cream, had been favorites in years past but are now among the worst sellers.
Barton Vodka was the top selling spirit. Three different sizes of the product, costing about $12 or less, made the state’s top 10 list. A combined 583,881 bottles were sold for about $4.3 million.
Fireball Cinnamon whiskey also a top seller in terms of bottles sold and dollars earned — with 118,199 bottles purchased. That’s about $1.9 million in sales.
Rob Southworth, a program specialist with the beverage control agency, said flavored whiskeys are trendy around the country and Fireball was one of the earliest versions. It’s been popular enough to be mentioned in several country songs.
Other top dollar earners were Jack Daniels Black Label whiskey, Smirnoff vodka, and Patron Silver tequila, each selling $1.9 million or more.
The wine Utah purchased more than any other was Cooks Brut Sparkling Wine, a cheap champagne alternative that costs about $8. About 67,000 bottles were sold.
The top dollar-earning wine was Kendall Jackson Chardonnay, which sold just over 56,000 bottles for about $927,000. That averages about $15 a bottle.
It was followed by Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label, a $56 bottle of champagne.
A number of other top sellers in terms of dollars and bottles sold were boxed wines — both red and white — ranging from under $5 to about $20 for a small box.
Southworth said boxed wines have always been top sellers because of the relatively low cost, but they’re becoming trendy and new, higher-end versions are selling well.
Utah bought more Icehouse beer, brewed by MillerCoors, than any other kind of beer or cider, with about 1.1 million units sold.
But the second most popular choice was a local craft brew, the Hop Rising Double IPA from Salt Lake City-based brewery Squatters. About 882,000 bottles were sold. It was also the top-dollar earning beer. The canned version was another popular choice.
Two other Utah breweries, Wasatch and Red Rock, made the top 10 lists.
“Local is pretty hot right now in all markets, especially craft beers,” Southworth said.
Southworth said another top seller, Angry Orchard’s Crisp Apple hard cider, is not only another example of a popular-apple flavored alcohol, but it’s a favorite choice among people who are trying to find a gluten-free alcoholic beverage.