Alcohol is a near-ubiquitous social lubricant that takes many forms across different cultures. The consumption of alcohol began thousands of years ago (maybe even tens of thousands), and it is currently the world's most widely used psychoactive drug (ahead of nicotine and caffeine). According to data from the World Health Organization, these are the top ten alcohol-consuming countries in the world (measured in equivalent liters of pure alcohol per capita in people over fifteen years of age).
The consumption of alcohol is a practice that is almost as old as human civilization itself. Historical records indicate that alcohol was made and consumed in many of the world’s great civilizations, including ancient Egypt, Greece, India, Mesopotamia, and China. Today, the consumption of alcoholic beverages is integral to socialization and culture in many countries, especially in Europe.
In fact, 9 out of 10 countries with the highest per capita consumption of alcohol are in Europe. Uganda, located in Africa, is the only non-European country that counts itself among the leaders of per capita alcohol consumption.
Top 10 Alcohol Consuming Countries
|Rank||Country||Liters of pure alcohol consumed per capita per year|
High Consumption Of Alcohol In Europe
The people in European countries with high levels of alcohol consumption tend to view the substance with particular importance. For instance, in Czechia, which leads the world in per capita alcohol consumption, the consumption of alcohol, particularly beer, is viewed as good for the body. Indeed, there is a Czech proverb that says, “Beer makes beautiful bodies.” It is no wonder, then, that the beer industry is considered part of the Czechs’ national heritage. The Czechs also drink a lot of alcohol for historical reasons. When the Czechs lived under communist rule, drinking beer was one of the only social activities that was legal.
People in other European countries that are high on the list when it comes to per capita alcohol consumption also view the substance with high regard. In Germany, for example, beer is synonymous with German culture. In fact, the Germans have a holiday entirely dedicated to the consumption of beer: Oktoberfest. The Irish, who are fifth on the list of countries with the most alcohol consumption per capita, also view alcohol with the same fervor as the Germans. The Irish pub is a cultural institution, as is the now world-famous beer brewed in Ireland known as Guinness.
There are other factors that are not related to socio-cultural practices in Europe that account for the high consumption of alcohol on the continent compared to other parts of the world. One factor is that many Europeans generally tend to view alcohol with a more liberal, casual attitude than people in other countries such as the United States and Canada. For example, whereas Canadian and American parents tend to want to keep alcohol out of the hands of their young children, European parents are not hesitant to introduce alcohol to their children at a young age. In Germany, for instance, a person can drink alcoholic beverages at the age of 16, before that person can drive a car or vote.
In many parts of Europe, alcohol is simply part of the daily routine, and not meant to be consumed to excess. Some countries in Europe, however, do have a high incidence of binge drinking, or drinking for the purpose of becoming intoxicated. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), binge drinking is particularly common among the adult populations of Germany, Czechia, Luxembourg, and the Baltic States, all of which are on the list of ten countries that consume the most alcohol per capita.
Still, a country does not have to have a high incidence of binge drinking to be ranked among the ten countries that consume the most alcohol per capita. In Spain, for example, people drink alcohol in large quantities often because it is a staple during meals. In fact, it is customary in several European countries to enjoy an alcoholic beverage with certain types of foods that are consumed as part of a country’s culture. In Czechia, for instance, beer routinely goes with a traditional Czech meal that includes roasted pork, cabbage and Czech dumplings.
1. Czech Republic - 14.26 Liters/per capita
The Czech Republic, also known as Czechia, is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The national beverage of choice is the iconic crisp pilsner. This beer was first brewed in 1842 in the city of Plzeň (Pilsen), which is less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) Southwest of the capital, Prague. Golden brews of all sorts make up a large percentage of this country's annual intake.
2. Latvia - 13.19 Liters/per capita
This Northeastern European country is also one of the three Baltic states, sandwiched between Estonia (to the North) and Lithuania (to the South). The Republic of Latvia, or Latvia, also shares a border with Russia (to the East), Belarus (to the Southeast), and the Baltic Sea (to the West). The three main beverages of choice are the traditional riga black balsam (generally considered the national drink), vodka (which perfectly suits the large percentage of Russian immigrants), and beer.
3. Moldova - 12.85 Liters/per capita
The Republic of Moldova, or simply Moldova, is a small, landlocked nation in Eastern Europe (the Balkans), situated between Romania (to the West) and Ukraine (to the North, South, and East). Moldova has a long history of wine-making, which is still thoroughly enjoyed today. Moldovans also partake in some unique libations, including Țuică (made from cereal grain and fruits), Vișinată (a traditional Romanian drink made of either fermented cherries, raspberries, or gooseberries), and mead (made from honey and water).
4. Germany - 12.79 Liters/per capita
The Federal Republic of Germany, Germany, or Deutschland, is one of Europe's largest countries and is second-most populous after Russia. The nation's Southeastern state of Bavaria is particularly synonymous with good beer. The world-famous Oktoberfest is held annually in Munich, bringing jovial connoisseurs from all over. But no matter the time of year, those hefty steins of foamy beer can be seen across the land.
5. Lithuania - 12.78 Liters/per capita
Latvia's neighbor to the South, and the largest of the Baltic states, the Republic of Lithuania, or simply Lithuania, also shares a strong drinking culture. Although, this spirited nation has some differing preferences compared to Latvians. Lithuanians do share a liking for beer (a common thread across this entire list), but also local blends of mead known as midus and Stakliškės, and some rye-based liquors such as kvass, samanė and starka.
6. Ireland - 12.75 Liters/per capita
Ireland, or Irish Éire, is a small island nation in Western Europe. Drinking is a well-known and celebrated pastime in these parts. On those cool and rainy days (which frequently stop by), locals can be found in traditional pubs (some of the oldest on the continent), sipping some Irish coffee, sniffing a finely-aged whisky, or waiting for the perfect pour of Guinness to settle. All the while, folk tales and Celtic music are sure to reverberate in the background.
7. Spain - 12.67 Liters/per capita
Those midday siestas help boost Spain's per capita consumption. This Southwestern European nation is the continent's third-biggest producer of wine (vino) (behind France and Italy) and also the largest exporter. Though the fermented grapes are a popular choice (seemingly at all hours), do not forget sangria, a refreshing signature Spanish blend of fruits and spices, and those slender glasses of cerveza (beer) that are a favorite sunny afternoon top-up.
8. Uganda - 12.48 Liters/per capita
The Republic of Uganda, or Uganda, a landlocked country in East-Central Africa, is the only nation outside of Europe to crack the top ten. Malwa, which is brewed out of millet and maize, is a classic drink that has been appreciated in the country's Northern rural areas. Bushera is another traditional local drink, this time made of sorghum, and is popular in Western Uganda and the capital city of Kampala. And finally, banana-based drinks, such as tonto and mwenge bigere (banana beer), are solid staples on many drink menus.
9. Bulgaria - 12.46 Liters/per capita
This Southeastern European country sits on the Eastern portion of the Balkan peninsula and has a long Eastern shore with the Black Sea. The Republic of Bulgaria, or just Bulgaria, gravitates to rakija, a collective term for fruit brandies, which are popular all throughout the Balkans. Bulgarians also enjoy an eclectic mix of fine wines and copious amounts of light (and cheap) beer.
10. Luxembourg - 12.45 Liters/per capita
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, or Luxembourg, is a tiny, landlocked country in Western Europe, engulfed by Belgium to the East and North, Germany to the East, and France to the South. Even though it is one of the smallest countries in the world, Luxembourg has a big heart and a strong liver. This nation shares a love for wine and a propensity for beer with its French and German neighbors, respectively. Plum, honey, and nut-based Eaux-de-vies are also local favorites.
If you visit one of these ten countries, there will be plenty of opportunities to indulge in popular and sometimes exotic libations. Raising a glass to good company can make for memorable evenings and even serve to bridge the gap between cultures. But be aware of the double-edged sword that alcohol presents. Living in the moment has its perks, but your future self might also appreciate a bit of moderation. So Cheers! ¡Salud! Sláinte! Prost! Noroc!, etc.
Countries With The Highest Alcohol Consumption per Capita
|46||Antigua and Barbuda||9.4|