Survey: 39% of Brits Drank Less During the Pandemic, While 5% Quit Drinking Altogether

April 28, 2021
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engage - UK drinking habits before & after pandemic


  • Nearly 50% of Brits like to drink several times a week;
  • While 39% of Brits drank less during the pandemic, 30% started drinking more;
  • For 26% of respondents, the pandemic didn’t alter their drinking habits at all;
  • 47% of respondents enjoyed ‘virtual drinks’ over Zoom, Skype, or Facetime;
  • 5% of Brits stated that they quit drinking altogether.

There’s no doubt it’s been a tumultuous year for the U.K. From Brexit to that Oprah interview, to a raging coronavirus pandemic, to the death of Prince Phillip, Brits have been having a rough time. To make matters worse, the country went through multiple lockdowns, with shops, bars, pubs and everything else closed for weeks or months at a time. 

Now, people in the U.K. can breathe a collective sigh of (partial) relief as the most recent lockdown has been lifted. Hope is in the air as vaccination efforts are ongoing, spring is finally settling in, and Brits can finally return to their favorite shops and bars, meet up with family and friends, and start socializing again. The results are already showing: supermarket sales are up 5.7%, while sales of sparkling wines rose 48% in April, according to The Drinks Business

In light of these circumstances, the engage™ team was curious to see whether people’s drinking habits were affected by the pandemic and the three national lockdowns that were enforced in the U.K. So, we ran a comprehensive nationwide survey, where we asked them about their drinking habits pre- and during-pandemic, their favorite drinks, and more.

Check out the main findings from our research in the infographic below, and keep reading to find our more about drinking habits in the U.K.

engage - UK drinking habits 2021 - Infographic

Nearly 50% of Brits like to drink several times a week

We kicked our survey off by asking respondents how often they usually enjoy alcoholic drinks, to get a feel of their preferences and habits in this respect. 24% of respondents said they enjoy drinking 2 to 3 times a week, while 23% said they liked to drink 4 to 6 times a week. A little over 15% of respondents said they only drank once a week, while 9.8% said they enjoy drinking daily. Interestingly enough, 10% of respondents said they don’t drink alcohol at all, and we have to say, we’re quite impressed. 

Beer, Wine, and Gin are the three most popular drinks among UK respondents 

We asked our U.K.-based respondents about their favorite drinks, and surprise surprise, Beer was the beverage of choice for over 33% of respondents. Wine came in a close second, selected by 21% of respondents, followed by Gin, with 13%. Next on the list of preferences were Vodka (9.4%), Cider (7%), Whisky (5.8%), and Rum (5%). Close to 3% of respondents said their preferred Alcopops, which, in case you’re not familiar with the term, include flavored beverages with low alcohol content. Tequila and Brandy also made the list, albeit with just under 1% of respondents.

Brits like to spice things up with creative cocktails and crafted beverages 

Sure, wine, beer and gin are classic choices when it comes to unwinding after a long day of working from home. But our respondents also enjoy switching things up every now and then. Over 34% of respondents said they enjoyed crafted beverages such as craft beer or small-batch gin very much, while 51% said they tend to pick such beverages only now and then. More than 15% of respondents said they’ve never tried crafted beverages, and we think they’re really missing out. 

We also asked our thirsty respondents if they liked cocktails, and to our surprise, 50% gave us a positive response. Close to 38% said they enjoyed a cocktail every now and then, while 12% said they don’t drink cocktails at all. 

64% of Brits are loyal to their preferred brands, while 29% don’t really have a preference

We know that people can be very picky when it comes to their favorite beverages, so we wanted to see if brand loyalty is important to our respondents. So, we asked people whether they tend to stick to one or more favorite brands when buying their beverages, or if they’re more flexible in this regard. 64% of respondents said they tend to stick to their preferred brands, while 29% said they don’t have preferences, and 8% said they stick to just one favorite brand. 

Naturally, we were curious to know more, so we asked respondents about their favorite brands. The most popular choice was, surprisingly, not a beer brand, but an iconic vodka brand, namely Smirnoff. The second-most popular choice was Stella Artois, followed by Carling beer, Gordon’s gin, and Heineken. Other popular beverages chosen by our respondents were Bacardi, Jack Daniels, Bud Light, Barefoot, and Foster’s. Brew Dog’s Lock Down Lager and Corona were also mentioned, which doesn’t surprise us at all, given the circumstances. 

When it comes to favorite cocktails, Brits like to get down and dirty, so to speak. The most popular cocktails chosen by our respondents were Sex on the Beach, Mojitos, Pornstar Martinis, and Scredriwers. Other favorites include Margaritas, Pina Coladas, Long Island Iced Teas, Bloody Marys, and the classic Gin and Tonic. One respondent told us they liked Espresso Martinis for taste, and Long Island Iced Teas for getting drunk. Planning ahead is key here, we think.

74% of Brits enjoy drinking with friends or family, while 16% like drinking alone

Next, we were curious about people’s drinking habits, and whether they enjoyed that drink after work by themselves or with others. Close to 74% of respondents said they enjoyed drinking with friends or family, and we feel for them, those three lockdowns could not have been too fun. However, 16% of respondents said they enjoyed drinking alone, so we think they probably had an easier time during this pandemic. 

39% of respondents drank less during the pandemic, while 30% started drinking more than before

With all bars, pubs, restaurants and event venues closed in the U.K. for a good part of 2020 and 2021, people in the U.K. have had to adapt. Some managed the pandemic better than others: 39% of respondents told us they drink less now than they did pre-pandemic, while 4.6% even stopped drinking altogether. On the other hand, 30% of respondents said they tend to drink more now to cope with the pandemic - and can we blame them? For 26% of respondents, the pandemic didn’t alter their drinking habits at all. 

The pandemic effect: 47% of respondents enjoyed ‘virtual drinks’ over Zoom, Skype, or Facetime

Lockdowns affect us all in different ways; some of us become destabilized and start drinking more, eating more, or exercising less, which obviously makes it even harder to cope with the global circumstances. On the other hand, some people learned to adapt quickly and even thrive during the pandemic, picking up new hobbies and kicking old, unhealthy habits. 

We asked respondents how they enjoyed their favorite drinks during lockdowns, and unsurprisingly, 49% said they drank alone. Technology came to the rescue, though, as 47% said they enjoyed ‘virtual’ drinks with friends and family via Zoom, Skype, Facetime, and so on. Some Brits even found new hobbies during lockdown: 26% said they started making or mixing their own drinks. 

We also asked respondents whether they stuck to their favorite brand(s) during lockdown or if they went out of their comfort zone to try something new. Over 42% said they stuck to their favorite brands and drinks, while 39% tried out new things. Some respondents discovered Brewdog varieties, mail-order Portugese red wine, Laphroaig Whisky, and Baby Guinnesses. 

Some respondents feel that ‘Brexit ruined getting wine delivered from abroad,’ while others realized that they’re really good at home brewing. One respondent was particularly lucky, as his housemate became a mixologist during the first lockdown, so he had lots of new drinks and recipes to try out. Word of advice from another respondent: ‘Dutch beer gives the strongest hangovers. It’s a lot easier than you think to use power tools while drinking.’ So, avoid Dutch beer if you can, and if you can’t, make sure you stay away from any power tools for the evening. 

Final note from engage™

The Wines & Spirits industry has been heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, but it's encouraging to see that consumers have not given up on their favorite brands and have been open to try new things, such as crafted beverages and local producers. At engage™, we know how important brand loyalty is to a business' success, especially during times of crisis, and winning the trust of consumers can make or break companies in the competitive wines & spirits industry.


Our survey ran across U.K. mainland on Pollfish and Google Forms. We used Flourish to create visual representations of the data.

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