Food & Beverage

Countries That Consume the Most Alcohol

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More than 250 billion liters of alcoholic drinks were consumed around the world in 2012, higher than the previous year, according to market research firm Euromonitor. This shows that a global economic slowdown hasn't had much impact on this resilient market as people continue to turn to alcohol in good times and bad.

We have compiled a list of the top 10 countries in the world with the highest average per capita alcohol consumption last year, based on data from Euromonitor. The data takes into account all alcoholic drinks consumed by legal age drinkers including pre-mixes, wine, beer and spirits.

The list includes some mature markets, countries known for their drinking culture, but also some surprising new entrants. It tells you who are the beer guzzlers and where wine is the preferred poison.

Click ahead for more fascinating details.

By Rajeshni Naidu-Ghelani
(Updated May 8, 2013)

10. United States

Photo: Chris Clinton | Lifesize | Getty Images

Per capita alcohol consumption: 129.3 liters

United States, the world's biggest economy, is the only country in North and South America to rank in the top 10.

The mature U.S. alcohol market saw growth of only 0.5 percent last year from 2011, with beer accounting for more than 81 percent of all drinks consumed. Wine accounted for over 10 percent of alcohol consumption, while spirits made up 6 percent. A government study in February showed that too many Americans still "drink too much," with 18 percent of men and 11 percent of women drinking more alcohol than federal guidelines recommend, Reuters reported. The advised limit is two drinks a day for men and one for women.

Drinking has also been linked to high levels of obesity in the U.S. with Americans eating more calories and fat on days they also have alcoholic drinks, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In January, meanwhile, a U.S. federal health agency survey showed that one in every eight women and one in five high school girls binge drink, that is consume four or more drinks over a short period.

9. South Africa

Photo: Juergen Stumpe | Getty Images

Per capita alcohol consumption: 140.3 liters

South Africa, the only African nation to make the top 10 list of the biggest alcohol consumers, has seen its per person alcohol consumption rise to the highest level in 2012 over the past six years.

Beer dominates the alcohol market in the country, accounting for 79 percent of all alcohol drinks consumed, followed by wine, a far second at 8 percent. Cider and perry are third in line, making up more than 5 percent of all alcohol consumed. The surge in beer consumption in South Africa is reflective of a trend seen in the rest of the continent as economic and population growth lead to a surge in sales. London headquartered brewer SABMiller, which owns more than 200 beer brands, reported in April that lager sales volumes in Africa grew 6 percent in 2012. The company plans to boost beer sales in Africa by 7-9 percent a year by luring drinkers with cheaper beer, using local grains and cheaper packaging.

The continent also has the highest proportion of binge drinkers in the world, at over 25 percent of all legal age drinkers, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). South Africa is working on a new bill to restrict alcohol advertising, raise the minimum drinking age to 21 from 18 and implement tougher laws on drink and driving.

Pictured: Waterfront Bar and Restaurant in Cape Town, South Africa.

8. Lithuania

Photo: Bruce Yuanyue Bi | Lonely Planet | Getty Image

Per capita alcohol consumption: 141.5 liters

Alcohol consumption has actually fallen in Lithuania in 2012 from previous years, but the country is still placed 8th in the globally drinking sweepstakes.

Lithuanians used to drink as much as 166.9 liters of alcohol per person per year in 2007, which fell by over 15 percent in 2012 to 141.5 liters. Beer accounts for the majority of all alcoholic drinks consumed at 78 percent, while wine makes up over 9 percent. Spirits are third at 7 percent, but used to account for over 10 percent of consumption in 2007.

Lithuania has been trying to reduce alcohol consumption by a ban on the sale of drinks with high alcohol content after 8 p.m. during the week and after 6 p.m. on the weekends.

Pictured: Art Centre Cafe in Vilnius, Lithuania

7. Belgium

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Per capita alcohol consumption: 144.6 liters

Belgium takes the No. 7 spot on the list of the heaviest alcohol drinkers despite consumption gradually falling over the past six years.

Alcohol consumption was as high as 153.1 liters per person in 2007 and has fallen almost 6 percent to 144.6 liters in 2012. Home to a rich beer history and famous brews like Hoegaarden, beer is the drink of choice, accounting for over 73 percent of all alcohol drinks consumed, while wine takes up a sizeable 23 percent. Spirits like whiskey and vodka make up just 3 percent.

Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev, which is the world's largest brewer, owns renowned beer brands like Budweiser, Stella and Beck's. It dominates the beer market in the country, accounting for more than half of all sales. The legal drinking age in Belgium is 16, but liquor with alcohol content over 22 percent requires the buyer to be over 18 years of age - in line with the norm across most of Europe.

Pictured: Belgian beers at a beer shop in Brussels, Belgium.

6. Finland

Street cafe in Helsinki, Finland.
Photo: Roger Norum | Getty Images

Per capita alcohol consumption: 145.5 liters

Finland is the only Nordic country to make the list of the 10 biggest alcohol consumers.

Beer accounts for over 70 percent of all alcoholic drinks consumed in the country, while wine makes up more than 10 percent. Ready to drink or high-strength alcoholic premixes are also very popular in Finland, accounting for over 7 percent of all drinks consumed - the second highest percentage among all the countries on the list.

A Finnish study in November last year showed that living near a bar encourages some people to overindulge. The odds of someone becoming a heavy drinker - having more than 10 ounces of distilled alcohol, like whiskey, a week for men - rose to 17 percent when a person moved within one kilometer (0.6 miles) of a bar. In 2011, researchers had also recommended that beer and other drinks with more than 3.5 percent alcohol content be banned from grocery stores to curb alcohol-related deaths, which was reported to be about 3,000 people a year.

Pictured: Street cafe in Helsinki, Finland.

5. Austria

Photo: Manfred Schmid | Getty Images

Per capita alcohol consumption: 169 liters

Often cited as one of the world's best places to live, Austria also has some of the highest alcohol consumers in the world.

Alcohol consumption in the country has fallen almost 4 percent since 2007 and beer remains the top drink of choice, accounting for over 70 percent of all drinks consumed. Wine is second at more than 22 percent, while ready to drink or high-strength alcohol premixes make up almost 5 percent.

Heavy alcohol consumption is becoming a major problem in the country. In April, government data showed that over 90,000 Austrians had their driving licenses withdrawn last year with alcohol abuse being one of the major reasons for confiscation. Another survey in March showed that one in five Austrians ski after having consumed alcohol.

Pictured: Staff with beer during the opening of Schweizerhaus Wien in Vienna, Austria.

4. Germany

Photo: Sabine Lubenow | Getty Images

Per capita alcohol consumption: 170.2 liters

Germany is one of eight European countries in the top 10 list of the world's biggest alcohol consumers - highlighting the drinking culture in the region.

Home to beer gardens where beer and other drinks are served together with local food, Germany also boasts of famous brewers. No wonder then that beer accounted for almost 73 percent of all alcohol consumed in 2012. Wine came in second, making about 18 percent of all alcoholic drinks consumed. The country hosts the world's largest beer festival - Oktoberfest, which is a big draw for tourists. There are also other smaller beer festivals held in Germany throughout the year.

Despite its reputation as a beer-loving nation, beer consumption in Germany has fallen in all but two of the 10 years to 2012 as young people turn to non-alcoholic drinks, according to government figures. However, the World Cup soccer tournament, which takes place every four years, usually leads to a spike in beer consumption in Germany, according to government statistics.

- Pictured: Beer garden in old town, Cologne, Germany.

3. Estonia

Photo: Jutta Klee | Getty Images

Per capita alcohol consumption: 185.5 liters

Estonia is one of two eastern European countries to rank among the top five biggest alcohol consuming countries in the world.

Alcohol consumption picked up over 10 percent from 2010 to last year after seeing a dip from 2007 to 2009. Beer makes up the majority of all alcoholic drinks consumed at over 68 percent, while ready to drink or high-strength alcoholic premixes make up 9.2 percent, spirits 9.1 percent and wine 8.6 percent.

Tourists from Finland, where it is more expensive to buy alcohol given the higher taxes, come to drink in neighboring Estonia pushing up sales there. In April, Finnish alcohol maker Altia said it would relocate production of alcoholic drinks from its Latvian distillery to Estonia to save on costs.

2. Ireland

Photo: Neil Setchfield | Lonely Planet | Getty Images

Per capita alcohol consumption: 195.6 liters

Renowned for its drinking culture and pubs, Ireland is the world's second biggest consumer of alcohol per capita.

Alcohol consumption grew a modest 0.4 percent in 2012 over the previous year with beer accounting for over 72 percent of all alcoholic drinks consumed. Wine is second at 13 percent, while perry and cider take up a sizeable 10 percent, more than in any country in the top 10 list. Ireland is home to the number two cider maker in the world - C&C - makers of Magners.

High taxes on alcohol of up to 41 percent has led to a fall in alcohol sales in Ireland with the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland saying in a April report that the volume of pub sales has dropped by nearly one third in the past five years. The average consumption per adult is also reported to have decreased by 19 percent since 2001.

Pictured: Pub in Galway, Ireland.

1. Czech Republic

Photo: Libor Plihal-isifa | VLP | Getty Images

Per capita alcohol consumption: 210.4 liters

The Czech Republic is home to the world's biggest consumers of alcohol, outpacing its closest competitor Ireland by around 15 liters more per person. The gap between the Czech Republic and the No. 10 country - the U.S. - is more than 80 liters per capita.

Home of famous lager Pilsner, beer accounts for the majority of drinks consumed in the Czech Republic at 83 percent, while wine makes up more than 10 percent. Spirits come in at over 3 percent, while ready to drink or high-strength alcohol premixes is at a close fourth. Even with alcohol consumption falling in the past six years by more than 8 percent, the country still takes the top spot for the biggest boozers. The Czech Republic's capital Prague is a popular destination for bachelor and bachelorette parties from abroad, because of its beer halls and drinking culture.

The country made headlines in September last year when the government imposed a ban on all exports of hard liquor to the European Union after 23 people died from alcohol poisoning. The move followed a ban a week earlier on the sale of hard liquor in shops and pubs after the deaths were believed to have come from bootleg vodka and rum, Reuters reported.

Pictured: Village pub in Nove Veseli, Czech Republic.