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Nov 7, 2011 05:07 PM

State(s) with the Lowest Liquor Taxes / Prices?

Because individual States apply various state and local taxes, I'm wondering if anyone has a source that compares the 50 States and indicates what State(s) have the overall lowest costs for spirits.

For example, I have noticed that Wisconsin has very low prices, while Michigan has high taxes. (A bottle of Green Chartreuse is $43 in Wisconsin and $64 in Michigan! Holy sticker shock!)

What are the States with the lowest spirits prices? Anyone seen any good comparison web sites?


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  1. New Hampshire. You may know that 17 states do not allow inter-state shipment of wine or spirits.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      Just a sample of 1, but Green Chartreuse retails for $50 in NH right now.

      Look at the On Premise Complete price list here: http://ice.liquor.nh.gov/public/defau...

      My problem with NH is that the prices are good and the selection generally terrible, unless you want bubblegum vodka or very mainstream brands.

      I just paid about $56 retail for Green Chartreuse here in the Boston area, but I didn't shop very hard for a good price (tried two stores right next to each other).

      I'm surprised to hear that 17 state forbid spirits shipments. DrinkUpNy won't ship to only a handful of state, but one of them is MA.

      www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

      1. re: EvergreenDan

        Pennsylvania is worse, with it's state stores- lousy selection AND price. I'm presently dividing my time between TX and FL, and I can't have CA wine delivered to TX. I so enjoyed those deliveries in FL.

        1. re: EvergreenDan

          Remember that wine is different than distillates. Some states that *do* permit wine shipments do NOT permit the shipment of distillates.

          Check out (among other sites) the following:

          -- http://www.wineinstitute.org/initiati...
          State Shipping Laws

          -- http://wineinstitute.shipcompliant.co...
          Who Ships Where

          -- http://www.wineinstitute.org/files/St...
          Wine Excise taxes by wine type

          -- http://www.taxfoundation.org/taxdata/...
          Excise tax rates by state -- for sales tax, gasoline, cigarettes, spirits, table wine, beer

          -- http://www.ttb.gov/tax_audit/atftaxes...
          Federal Excise Tax rates

          1. re: EvergreenDan

            Except when the New Hampshire State Liquor Stores have the rare and seasonal Handy whiskey collection for $50 instead of $70-80 (if you can find it). NH is great for stock items like vermouths, Bourbons, Scotches, etc. and some are better than others (for some reason, we discovered that the south bound I95 was better than the north bound one).

            Washington State has some abysmal pricing from what I gather. I have heard about the Pennsylvania liquor control board being draconian (there is a website/blog devoted to it). Ohio has some strange rules in terms of proof.

            All in all, I don't feel so bad about living in no-ship Massachusetts for the prices are fair, the selection is good, and New Hampshire and NYC are accessible if need be (and Rhode Island for when I need grain alcohol for infusions). And my secret for Green Chartreuse is finding neighborhood packy stores and looking for the dusty bottles on the top shelf in the corner -- often around $40 which puts it at 2007 pricing.


            1. re: yarm

              Funny story about the interstate shipping aspect. Back when the liquor store on I-95 in Portsmouth opened, the Mass. State Troopers used to camp out in the parking lot to observe when cars with MA plates left with a large purchase. They then radioed a car just over the border. When that car crossed into Mass, they were stopped, and the driver cited for importing.

              NH got wind of what was happening, and proceeded to arrest the Mass staties for loitering. After a few weeks of that, the parking lots were no longer spy zones.

              1. re: cantkick

                True story about the interstate shipping of alcohol . . .

                Back in the late-1980s (or was it the late-1990s?), the Attorney General of Texas arrested a UPS driver and seized the brown truck and contents, threatening to charge UPS as a criminal enterprise for violating Texas state law for shipping alcohol into the state.


                True story about the interstate SERVING of alcohol . . .

                Back in the early 1970s, the Attorney General of Kansas sent State Troopers to (attempt to) arrest the stewardesses of a TWA flight from LA to New York on the grounds that they were serving cocktails aboard a 707 that was flying above a DRY county . . .

                1. re: zin1953

                  coming from someone living in Texas, the first story doesn't surprise me, sigh.
                  Oh well at least we don't have state run liquor stores.

        2. I am a recent transplant from California (the promised land) to Connecticut (the Pilgrims are still here). Booze is expensive here. In SoCal, when I got to really checking things out, I could get .75L of Johnnie Walker Black for about $22, in the "Ocean State", they get $37. It's ridiculous! Also, in SoCal, at Trader Joe's I could get a really good liter of Scotch (house brand) for ten bucks. I've checked ot New Hampshire; despite the state tax void, they are still expensive. Viva California.

          Al W aka Zsnark

          6 Replies
          1. re: Zsnark

            Here in Ontario, Canada, it's 53.95 for the same bottle of Johnnie Walker. Liquor is mostly tax here.

            1. re: plasticanimal

              Incredible! I thought I was being raped by Connecticut. Still, I am not surprised 'cause on my honey moon with a lost love/hate in 1969, I ran into your Canadian booze restrictions.

              I think they call it "sin tax". Anyway, $54 is enough to reduce me to drinking sterno squeezings or abstinence. I've tried abstinence...I don't like it.

              Nice hearing from a northern cousin.

              Be well,

              Al W

            2. re: Zsnark

              Connecticut is the Constitution State. Rhode Island is the Ocean State. Which had the spendy JW Black?

              CT has some good liquor stores, though. I found a place with 3 expression of Van Winkle in stock, although I could only force myself to buy the cheapest.

              www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

              1. re: EvergreenDan

                Cheapest I've found in CT is Crazy Bruce's...Bristol and one other spot, I think. Warehouse prices still above national averages, tho.

              2. re: Zsnark

                Slightly off topic, but the Ocean State is Rhode Island; Connecticut is the Nutmeg State.

              3. Montgomery County, Maryland is quite cheap, though from what I can tell Cali is better, and Wisconsin's prices sound wonderful. On my salary, I could not afford to drink like I do if I didn't work here (and live a few minutes away). Other counties in Maryland are notceably more expensive, DC isn't great, and Virginia has an atrocious combination of very high prices and lousy selections in their state stores. On the rare instances I visit family in NC, I find similarly bad prices and poor selection.

                Just for reference, Green Chartreuse is currently $51.99, and JW Black is $31, though it's on sale nearly every other month for around $25. The monthly and weekly sales are a godsend. Cointreau often drops to $30, Buffalo Trace to $18, Elijah Craig to $17, Beefeater to $15, Landy VS to $18, and Bulleit Rye to $18, among others that are common staples in my home bar. Selection is quite good for a county controlled operation, and better for some things than others: tequila and rum selections are a bit sparse but bourbon and Scotch are quite good. However, no shipping into or out of MD is allowed.

                1 Reply
                1. re: The Big Crunch

                  Based on prices I've shopped at those who ship out of state, Cali's prices can vary wildly from retailer to retailer, and even from item to item within the same retailer.

                  Hitime wine is generally very good, and a couple years ago had the best prices around on Laphroaig 10 yr and Quarter cask at $30/ $36 (now $46/$55) - but even then their price on the 18 yr was around $120, which was the highest I had seen.

                  Morewines has the best price I've seen on Corralejo repo Tequila at $20 - but the blanco and anejo are both nearly $40, which is as high as I have seen. They have Cointreau for $30 for a liter, while their 750 price is $35.

                2. in a recording I "found," comedian Lewis Black commends the availability and prices of booze in Wisonsin, citing that drinking in Wisconsin, even with the airfare to get there, is still cheaper than drinking in NYC.

                  1. I live in Connecticut and was always told best place to buy liquor was NH. I was in NH today and priced a bottle of Hess select wine, it was $19.99. Ouch, this wine in CT is $15.99. I stopped in MA at Table & Vine, and their price is $ 11.98. So if you are looking for wine in New England, buy it in MA.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ConnecticutGirl

                      I find that the liquor prices in NH are less than MA (I live in MA), but that the wine prices are nothing special. I can often find wines here in the Boston area for the same price or less than in NH, but rarely is the liquor as cheap.