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Consumption of Spirits On the Rise, 70 Years After the Repeal of Prohibition; The Year of the Martini
By Inger Sandal, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News 

Jan. 2, 2003 - A nationwide martini revival is driving vodka sales up, even in Arizona, where regional favorite tequila ranks just fifth. 

And overall, the consumption of spirits is on the rise, 70 years after the repeal of Prohibition. 

"It's been the year of martini," said Joey Valenzuela, who works at Table Talk, 2936 E. Broadway, where martini sets and decorative glasses flew off the shelves this holiday season. Margarita glasses and champagne flutes were also popular. National retailers have reported similar success. 

Nationwide, the consumption of spirits such as vodka and rum increased 2 percent in 2002 over the previous year. 

Arizonans consumed about 9.2 bottles per adult over age 21 that year, slightly above the national average of 8.8 bottles of 750-milliliter size beverages. New Hampshire consumed the most and West Virginia the least. Industry figures for 2003 won't be compiled until February. 

The strongest growth has been in high-end products and the ever-increasing choices of flavored rums and vodkas that have also inspired "people to be more creative when they mix drinks," said Monica Bell, communications manager for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a trade group based in Washington, D.C. 

"The cocktail culture has definitely made a comeback," she said. "They're staying home more, and they're entertaining at home more." 

Sgt. Ed Slechta of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, who heads a task force against drunken driving, endorses the trend of entertaining at home. "People who stay home generally don't drink as heavily as people who go out," said Slechta, whose task force saw fewer drunken driving arrests this holiday season. 

The 26-year-old Valenzuela, who also got a martini set this holiday, planned to have a dinner and then spend the rest of his New Year's Eve at home. 

"Shows like 'Sex and the City' have made all these froufrou drinks very popular," Valenzuela said. 

Bell agreed, crediting the HBO hit for turning several vodka drinks into national sensations. 

Although McMahon's Prime Steakhouse, 2959 N. Swan Road, won an award of excellence from the Wine Spectator magazine this year, with a selection of more than 2,000 wines, it also offers an extensive martini list, an array of single-malt scotches and at least 10 different vodkas and high-end tequilas. 

The restaurant serves nonalcoholic sparkling cider at no cost to designated drivers. 

Over the holidays, patrons have sipped $200 glasses of cognac and ordered bottles of champagne that range upward of $600, general manager Maria Small said. 

That fits the national trend in the popularity of superpremium and ultrapremium products. "People want the best, and they are asking for the best," Bell said. 

Despite Arizona's proximity to Mexico, the birthplace of tequila, vodka is by far the most popular spirit sold in the Grand Canyon State, and it cornered nearly 26 percent of the national market in 2002. Last year 877,000 cases of vodka were sold in Arizona, followed by rum at 378,000 cases. 

"Arizona is consistent with the national trend, which is the vodka boom," Bell said. "It's the martini craze." 

Tequila came in fifth at 226,000 cases, behind cordials and liqueurs -- which are used in a lot of mixed drinks. But tequila has surged in popularity over the past decade, with sales increasing nearly 63 percent nationally between 1990 and 2002. 

-----To see more of The Arizona Daily Star, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to 

(c) 2004, The Arizona Daily Star. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. 


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