Justice

How Alcohol Ads Influence What Women Are Expected to Drink

When it comes to alcohol commercials and marketing, gender stereotypes are the norm. There is no exact data that suggests any particular gender prefers one liquor over another, yet advertisers still often emphasize the male consumer in commercials and sponsored ads.

The cliche—that women drink clear liquor whereas men drink dark booze—is generally reflected in alcohol advertising. Vodka brand Skyy became the "official vodka for the 'Sex and the City movies." Others have launched similar marketing campaigns in recent years.

Sex and the City

Men dominate beer advertising, of course—a point that is taken up almost every year following the Super Bowl—and they are also disproportionately represented in whiskey marketing. Roughly 80 percent of the volume of beer consumed in the U.S. is by men, with beers such as Coors or PBR, are more consumed by white men. To be sure, you can find male-oriented ads for just about any type of advertised alcohol, but beverage-based gender stereotypes have become an observable norm in the U.S.

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Men drink approximately 11 percent more alcohol than women, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That does not necessarily account for the gendered advertising of brands. But there is no report or evidence—beyond the anecdotal, perpetuated through marketing—supporting the idea that women drink clear drinks and wine while men drink dark drinks and beer.

Mad Men

In comparison, women seen or portrayed as drinking straight whiskey are supposed to be thought of as masculine and tough.

Nevertheless, magazines such as Cosmopolitan promote the stereotype, too. In a recent article, "Girly Drinks We're Not Ashamed To Love," the lifestyle magazine compiled a list of 13 alcohol brands that it suggests are exclusively popular among women; about half of those are vodka brands, and the other half is made up of "girly" wines such as Cupcake Vineyards wine.

Girly drinks

Common male stereotypes

The stereotypes that these liquor brands embody are about as straightforward as those marketed for men. Budweiser and Coors, some of the most heavily advertised beer brands in America, are regularly criticized for promoting sexist ads that show scantily clad women entertaining (or, alternatively, being ignored by) men as they enjoy their cold pints.


"The identities portrayed for young men in some of the more recent advertisements were that of 'losers,' the 'everyday guy,' or the 'loveable larrikin' who engaged in 'laddish' behaviors that involved consuming excess alcohol, watching televised sports and doing loutish things," researchers wrote in a 2011 study on the subject. "Women remained peripheral or in subservient roles in these advertisements, or in opposition to men. Research with young people suggests that 'laddish.'" Although brand marketing campaigns have explained that they have toned down the sexist language of their booze ads, the double standard remains a prominent fixture of the alcohol industry, affecting perceptions about what drinks are socially acceptable for what gender.