Portland sure does like to drink.

Between the 234 (and counting) breweries, 600-some wineries and nearly 70 distilleries across the state, we never thought Oregon was a hub for teetotalers. But after mining through more than a million rows of liquor sales data from Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties over the 2013-2014 fiscal year, we found that Portland Metro area residents really do love their booze.

Using records provided by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, we’ve taken all that data and created a heat map (with blue and red representing the ends of the purchasing popularity spectrum).

Flip through the map to see the city’s liquor preferences at a comprehensive glance. For a deeper dive, here are 12 things that we learned about drinking in the Portland area from the data:

The basics

There are 68 liquor stores in the Portland metro area — 37 in Multnomah County, 14 in Washington and 17 in Clackamas. In our map, we tracked eight different liquor categories — vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila, Scotch, rum, brandy and cordials — by store, rank, liters purchased over the year and price per liter.  

Big budget

During the 2013-2014 fiscal year, residents in the three counties spent $264 million on booze, just about $3 million short of what Multnomah County spent on the Police and Fire bureaus, combined, the same fiscal year.

Case by case

The three counties bought more than 15 million bottles of liquor, which includes everything from mini travel bottles (50mL) to handles (1.75mL), for a total volume of nearly 13 million liters.

Swimming pools (drank)

How much is that, really? Well, you could fill five Olympic-size swimming pools with that much liquid, with enough leftover to refill after your cannonballs. Better start practicing your backstroke.

High rollers

The most expensive bottle of liquor purchased was Hennessy’s Richard Cognac, “a unique assemblage of more than 100 of the most exceptional eaux-de-vie, matured to the fullest,” according to Hennessy’s website. The bottle in question was a 750 mL decanter, made of hand-blown Baccarat crystal, purchased for $3,804 in October of 2013 at Macadam Liquor in Southwest Portland.

High rollers Vol. II

Speaking of expensive liquor, there’s a big cognac contingent in Southwest Portland. Seven of the 15 bottles of Remy Martin Louis XIII Cognac — a blend of 1200 Grande Champagne eaux-de-vie aged anywhere from 40 – 100 years and packaged in a Baccarat decanter –sold were at either the Hillsdale Liquor Store in the Hillsdale Center or Barbur Liquor on Barbur Boulevard. The price: a mere $3097.95 a bottle.

Go big or go home

As expected, Portland metro residents enjoyed themselves a little more over the holiday season. We spent and purchased the most, volume-wise, in November and December (party time) and the least in January and February (resolutions!). About 11 percent of all money spent on liquor in the three counties came in December.

Where’s the Red Bull?

Portland drinks TONS of vodka, literally. Roughly 4.5 million liters, or 4,698 tons — equivalent to the weight of 22 blue whales — of the clear spirit were purchased. About 42 percent (!!) of West Linn North Liquor in West Linn’s sales (by volume) were vodka, the most in the metro area. Murray Scholls Liquor in Beaverton and West Slope Beverage in Southwest Portland rounded out the top three, both selling roughly 41 percent vodka.

Brown, bitter and blurred

The second most popular spirit was whiskey, trailing vodka by more than a million liters. Whiskey’s popularity was highest at 11th Avenue Liquor in Southeast Portland, where it comprised one-third of sales. Whiskey was also a top seller at the Hawthorne Liquor Store and Portland Beaumont Liquor Store. (For our purposes, we combined Canadian, Irish, Domestic and “other imported” whiskies together. After much deliberation, we left Scotch as its own category.)

Yearly ration

Broken down over a year, the average metro resident drinks around seven liters of alcohol. (This is an imperfect number. Liquor purchases by bars are also included in our totals and we have no way to distinguish between professional and personal sales. But over the course of a year, between drinking at home or at bars, the true number may not be too far off.)

Top-shelf taste

The liquor store that sold the most by dollar amount was Pearl Specialty Market in Portland’s Pearl District. By volume, Stateline Liquor in Jantzen Beach was king, suggesting that Washingtonians might be jumping the Columbia River to stock their liquor cabinets with some of the cheap stuff.

Some like it hot

Cordials — more commonly known as liqueurs — are most popular at the Govy General Store in Government Camp, Beaverton Liquor Store in Beaverton Town Square and Molalla Agency Store in Molalla. When we were first started gathering info, I was ready to put money on the best-selling cordial being some producer of peppermint schnapps (apres-ski mint hot chocolate, anyone?), but I was very wrong. At almost every liquor store, Fireball — the cinnamon, whiskey-based liqueur — was the most popular brand by a longshot, though Hiram Walker (H W) and DeKuyper bested the slow burner at the Hyland Hills Liquor Store on Allen Boulevard in Beaverton and Lake Oswego Liquor Store in downtown Lake Oswego, respectively. And you thought people stopped drinking that kind of thing after college. 

— Samantha Bakall

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