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How Much Do Americans Drink on the Fourth of July
Drinking Habits

How Much Do Americans Drink on the Fourth of July?

June 29, 2024
16 min read
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June 29, 2024
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Reframe Content Team
June 29, 2024
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How Much Do Americans Drink on the Fourth of July?

  • It’s not clear just how many people celebrate American independence with alcohol, but Americans spend $3.7 billion on alcohol for the holiday — that’s about $14 for each American adult.

  • You can sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” booze-free by enjoying community events, spending time with family and friends, focusing on food, and digging deeper into the history of the celebration!

  • Reframe offers tips, alternative ideas, and encouragement to enjoy a spirited and safe holiday!

Many Americans have fond memories of Independence Day celebrations. It’s a day to celebrate all things America — grilling burgers and hot dogs in the backyard, eating barbecue, playing baseball, tossing a frisbee, and enjoying the colorful glow of fireworks after sundown.

For many Americans, the July 4th is a midsummer highlight and a time to mindfully appreciate the place they live. It’s also well known as a “drinking holiday.” Gathering with family and friends to celebrate often involves alcohol, and Independence Day is no different. Beyond the typical association between alcohol and celebrations, what are the reasons many Americans associate Independence Day with alcohol? Let’s examine the history, and take a look at whether or not the Fourth of July really is a “drinking holiday.”

Red, White, and Booze: American Alcohol Traditions

How Much Do Americans Drink on the Fourth of July

The relationship between alcohol and Independence Day has historical roots that intertwine with the nation's founding. Let’s take a look and gain some insights into how the Fourth of July became synonymous with celebratory drinking.

Alcohol in the Colonies

American settlers from Europe were already heavy drinkers before they arrived. Of course, alcohol was generally popular in Europe at the time, but it was considered a necessity in England. Given the sanitary conditions of the time, alcoholic beverages were considered safer to drink than water, which meant alcohol was consumed throughout the day and often used for basic hydration.

By the late colonial days, pubs had become political as well as social centers. Many revolutionary thinkers were also revolutionary drinkers — political meetings often happened in pubs and taverns, where people would go to vent their anger and frustration over English rule. In fact, one of the most famous events of the American Revolution was hatched in a pub. The Boston Tea Party was planned by a group of drinking buddies and activists called the Sons of Liberty who met regularly at a small Boston tavern to discuss politics.

Fuel for the Revolution

During the Revolutionary War, troops were often given rum or whiskey as part of their daily provisions. Taverns and public houses were also critical meeting points where political and military strategies were discussed and planned. Revolutionaries could count on them for food, drink, and a warm place to recover from the rigors of war.

Even the signing of the Declaration of Independence is rumored to have been accompanied by toasts and drinking. While specific details might have been embellished over time, it’s certainly true that alcohol is often associated with celebratory moments — and for the first American citizens, this was certainly one of those times. John Adams — a “Founding Father” and the young nation’s second president — wrote to his wife that he hoped for a future when Independence Day was celebrated with parades, parties, and spectacles.

Old Customs, New Traditions

John Adams’ vision for the future of patriotic celebrations certainly came true. The tradition of toasting to freedom is still upheld at many Fourth of July celebrations. Americans typically celebrate by gathering with friends and family, enjoying the natural beauty of their homeland, and hosting cookouts featuring traditional colonial foods or other fdishes related to their unique heritage.

Alcohol Sales and the Fourth of July

While statistics on alcohol use on the July 4th can be hard to pin down, we can look at the hard data about alcohol sales. In 2022, Americans spent $4 billion on alcohol for their patriotic celebrations. Beer sales statistics are particularly eye-popping, with 68% of consumers purchasing beer for the holiday. Binge drinking is also common on this holiday.

Independence Day is one of several government holidays that is almost universally observed by businesses in one way or another. Many liquor stores are only open for brief periods on the 4th, giving their employees the opportunity to celebrate the holiday. It’s estimated that 97% of businesses close or operate under reduced hours on July 4th — on par with Thanksgiving and more than Christmas Day or New Year’s Day!

Liquor stores and bars often open their doors for at least a few hours on the 4th. Especially for liquor stores, July 4th is a high-volume sales day. In fact, alcohol companies often release special patriotic editions of their products to take advantage of increased American spirit surrounding the holiday. But can you buy alcohol on the Fourth of July? That depends on where you live! Many states have laws restricting the hours of alcohol sales or limiting the type or volume of alcohol you can purchase. The state of Utah is the only place where all state-run liquor stores are closed on Independence Day.

The Reasons Behind Alcohol Restrictions

The Reasons Behind Alcohol Restrictions

Restrictive laws around alcohol were enacted to encourage moderation on a day when so many are inspired to drink. The laws also are intended to mitigate safety issues associated with excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a major cause of death or injury on the 4th and plays a role in many of the most common emergency room visits. Let’s look at the top causes and how alcohol might play a part.

  • Burns. The top cause of injury on the Fourth of July? You guessed it! Lighting off fireworks on the 4th is a long-standing American tradition. Alcohol impairs our judgment and reduces our coordination, making us more likely to use fireworks improperly, injuring or burning ourselves or others.
  • Motor vehicle collisions. This includes cars, boats, and off-road vehicles like dirt bikes and ATVs. Independence Day is one of the holidays most associated with arrests related to drinking and driving (or drinking and boating!).
  • Near-drownings. Different studies have shown that alcohol is involved in anywhere from 30% to 70% of drowning and near-drowning cases. Boating and swimming are popular activities on Independence Day, and drowning is a leading cause of death on this holiday.
  • Heat stroke. By July, the temperature is way up there. Between standing over a hot grill, baking in the sun, and getting a nasty sunburn, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are a common but serious reason to visit the ER. Alcohol reduces our ability to regulate essential bodily functions and impairs our self-awareness — we might not even realize we’re too hot until we’re WAY too hot!

So how can you stay safe during Fourth of July celebrations and still get into the spirit? Let’s take a look at a few tips!

Tips for an Alcohol-Free Fourth of July

Just as the Founding Fathers dumped chests of tea overboard at the Boston Tea Party, we can metaphorically dump booze overboard from our lives. Let’s explore some ways to stay sober on the Fourth of July!

  • Plan non-alcoholic beverages. Get creative with mocktails, fruit-infused waters, and other non-alcoholic beverages for your Fourth of July event. Consider creating a festive “signature mocktail” or making it a mocktail potluck!
  • Focus on food. Just as much as Independence Day is a “drinking holiday,” it’s also an “eating holiday.” Make the food the star of your celebration by planning a menu with a range of tasty dishes, BBQ favorites, and patriotic treats that take center stage.
  • Organize engaging activities. Plan activities that engage guests and create a patriotic atmosphere. Games, sports, a pool party, or a craft corner for kids can be great options.
  • Emphasize the meaning of the holiday. Just because the Founding Fathers were voracious drinkers doesn’t mean we have to be. Use the opportunity to reflect on the historical significance of Independence Day through storytelling, watching historical documentaries, or getting out into nature and taking in the beauty of America — from sea to shining sea!
  • Explore community events. While community events often offer alcohol, most are family friendly and many are alcohol-free. Community events like parades, concerts, and fairs tend to have a variety of food and beverage options beyond booze, and offer a way to engage in the community spirit of the holiday.
  • Embrace mindful moderation. If you do decide to drink on the Fourth of July, be careful about your intake. Develop a plan to limit yourself so you can still enjoy the holiday. Incorporate other tips here to help you cut back, and use an app like Reframe for encouragement to celebrate the holiday mindfully.
  • Try “Dry July.” What else happens in July besides Independence Day? Well, there’s also Dry July! This challenge was started by the Dry July Foundation and encourages people to stay booze-free for the whole month of July in order to raise money for people affected by cancer. Give it a try, and you’ll be giving back to both your liver and your community!

Summing Up

Alcohol has deep roots in American culture, a tradition still upheld today when toasting the revolutionary spirit of the Founding Fathers. But there are many other American traditions that allow us to get into the spirit of the holiday without drinking. Celebrating an alcohol-free Fourth of July can be just as enjoyable and meaningful. By focusing on alternative beverages, food, activities, and the true spirit of the holiday, we can create a memorable celebration for all. 

Summary FAQs

1. Can you buy alcohol on July 4th? 

It depends on where you live. The laws often change, so it’s important to check your local statutes.

2. How many people drink on the 4th? 

It’s not clear exactly how many people partake on the holiday, but economists estimate that Americans spend $3.7 billion on alcohol sales. That’s approximately $14 for every adult in the country.

3. Why do so many people drink on Independence Day? 

Drinking is common in celebratory situations and social gatherings — and the Fourth of July is both of those things. Alcohol also has deep roots in American culture and the American Revolution, specifically.

4. What are some alcohol-free ways to celebrate the Fourth of July? 

Remind yourself of the reason for the holiday and engage with American history. Museums will be closed, but dive into a documentary or plan a visit to a monument. Nearly every city or town has some sort of family-friendly community event with festive activities and food. It’s also a great day for getting outdoors and enjoying America’s natural beauty. And there’s always the option of making your regular celebratory get-together a sober experience!

Gain Independence From Alcohol With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

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And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app today!

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