It’s that time of year again: the weather is getting cooler, Pumpkin Spice lattes are back at Starbucks and somewhere, someone is queuing up “All I Want for Christmas is You.” For marketers, too – and particularly those in the food and drinks space – the holiday season is becoming top of mind.

Christmas (and Thanksgiving for Americans) is all about eating and drinking, but can we identify any moments and trends within the festivities? Understanding these occasions provides insight into consumer behavior that can shape marketing and communications activity. Using Christmas 2021 as a focal point, we examined online drinks conversations across the US, Canada, the UK, and Ireland to learn more.

The night before Christmas

December 25th may be the key calendar date, but its Christmas Eve that narrowly attracts most drinking conversation. This is a time when consumers wind down after finishing their seasonal to-do lists, prepping the next day’s dinner, and putting children to bed.

Peaking between the hours 8pm and 10pm, people relax and pour themselves a glass of wine – the most popular tipple by some margin, making up 28% of conversations in the US, and 22% in the UK and Ireland. Looking at the tone of these conversations, we see that some consumers are in a reflective mood, taking stock of the year and remembering loved ones who have passed.

However, among others there’s a sense of carefree abandon: 10% of US wine discussion during these hours see consumers drinking an “entire” or “whole bottle of wine” by themselves.

Christmas Day cocktails

Cocktails take a backseat to single serve drinks and mixers at Christmas: wine, beer, whiskey, champagne, and vodka all attract more conversation on social media, but this doesn’t mean they’re off the menu.

Search data from Google Trends reveals that while broad Google searches for “Christmas cocktails” are down 21% year-over-year in the US, there is growing interest in “easy Christmas cocktails” (+29%). This is underlined in social conversation by the popularity of mimosas, which appeared in 13% of all cocktail mentions during Christmas. Most Americans consumed these on Christmas morning as gifts were unwrapped, or as an after-dinner drink. One tired mum took to social media to talk about enjoying a moment of peace with a mimosa while her daughter opened presents.

Diving further into search data, we get a sense of consumers’ top cocktails under consideration. Grinch Punch – a mix of lime sherbet, pineapple juice, and lemon soda – has seen 29% more search interest, likely driven by its novelty appeal for children, and that it can be made with or without alcohol. Similarly, Jingle Juice (orange, cherry, cranberry juice, and vodka) attracted 83% more searches, while the boozier Poinsettia (triple sec, prosecco, and cranberry juice) is up 22%.

Treats for Santa

Prompted by their kids, parents often leave a glass of milk for Santa on Christmas Eve. Sometimes, however, Santa requests something a little stronger. Wine is a favorite choice, followed by whiskey or bourbon.

This tradition was more popular in the UK and Ireland, representing 56% of all discussion where a country could be identified. Consumers left treats out at around 11pm, but there were spikes in conversation on December 23rd as many planned ahead.

A handful of smaller artisan drink brands capitalized on this, using the tradition to drive last minute sales via social content.

Interested in learning more about how you can track seasonal conversations and evolving consumer behaviors? Request a demo with our team.