Skip to main content

Supply Chain Causes Drinks Shortages Across the Country

The supply chain bottleneck has become much more than an inconvenience. Entire industries are reeling from the massive ripple effects, including just about every layer of the drinks realm.

Some of it is even comical. You know, the tales of Champagne being rush delivered to the Hamptons by way of helicopter amid a reported shortage. But it’s become a big deal, challenging everything from labor and equipment supplies to access to key ingredients. It’s so much more than a colossal cargo ship stuck in the Suez Canal. The slumping global economy of the last year-and-a-half has simply pumped the breaks on a lot of things we always just assumed would be there.

Related Videos


Mary Bartlett is the co-founder of Future Gin. Because all of her ingredients are sourced domestically, the brand has fared pretty well. “The biggest problem has been sourcing glass bottles,” Bartlett says. “There’s a glass shortage everywhere but to compound that, a lot of brands that sourced their bottles internationally before the pandemic have had to move to domestic glass so there’s just not enough for all of us. We’ve had to push back a couple of production runs while we looked for bottles and for one run, had to substitute a different bottle.”

Wine Bottles on a shelf.

Brett Dunne is the managing director of Lucas Bols, an international spirits company. He covers the U.S. and Canada, specifically, but because they import goods from all over, it’s a truly global enterprise. Dunne is proud of how his team has pivoted but cannot believe the cost of freight these days. He says in the last year alone, the cost of ocean freight from Europe to the U.S. has more than doubled.

“The real problem can be traced back to one thing—manpower,” he says. “The entire supply chain is stressed like never before because there simply are not enough people to produce raw materials, move those materials from point A to B, and there is a lack of that same manpower to move finished goods through the supply chain.”

It’s a mean combo of heightened shipping costs, escalated prices for goods, and not enough bodies to keep things rolling. The lag time now is astonishing, as Dunne describes it, and he thinks it will likely get worse before it starts to improve. “Where it took five to six weeks to get a container from Europe into our warehouse prior to COVID, it now takes ten to twelve weeks,” he says. “Moving goods from our domestic warehouse in Louisville to our distributors used to take three to five days. Now we sometimes wait two to three weeks just for a truck to be available to pick up the goods. So, pre-COVID from Europe to our distributors could be six to eight weeks, now it’s four to five months!”

Ivan Vasquez is the owner of Madre Oaxacan Restaurant & Mezcaleria in southern California. He looks after three locations and depends heavily on imported goods from south of the border. He says he’s routinely out of beer, even the major brands like Pacifico, something he’s never experienced before. “The brands and owners of the beer companies are saying that this is caused by issues at the border, distributors not having enough workers at the warehouse, and a lack of drivers,” Vasquez says.

He says up to half of his beer menu, one that relies on artisanal Mexican selections, has been out of stock multiple times. It’s tricky for mezcal, too, as the glass shortage has affected producers and many have had to delay orders to the U.S. There’s yet another wrinkle: Vasquez says that even if the goods he needs do make it across the border, short-staffed companies and inexperienced workers may not get it into his hands. “Some of our exclusive mezcals were being sent to other accounts because some of the distributors are facing this labor shortage and they have inexperienced workers or just no employees at all,” he says.

About that Champagne shortage? It’s complicated. According to the Champagne Bureau, the volume of the prized bubbles exported to the states actually declined about 20% in 2020, mainly because of the pandemic and people spending less frivolously (a similar decline occurred in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis). What’s more to blame recently is the weather. There have been frost and fires, all in one growing season, and Champagne is likely to produce its lowest yield in four decades. Some estimate that in the end, the year’s crop will have taken a colossal 60% hit.

That’s bad timing, as some economies begin to rebound and people start spending big on wine again (and looking for an excuse to celebrate). Fortunately, as we’ve reported many times before, there are other sparkling wines out there that are just about as good and sometimes better. Back home, the domestic wine scene fared better this year, but there were widespread reports of labor shortages around harvest, especially along the west coast. Luckily, the wildfire pressure in 2021 was lighter and therefore easier on the grapes.

All in all, we’re still in it and patience and ingenuity will get us out of it. In the meantime, tip your bartender well, treat your bottle shop to some business, and don’t expect to have quite the sea of drinks options you normally have—not just yet, anyway.

Editors' Recommendations

The Roots Fund is changing the American wine scene for the better
The Roots Fund is making the wine industry more diverse and inclusive
Ikimi Dubose-Woodson.

Goodbye, wine industry of old. You were way too uptight, white, and predominately male anyway. Hello, next generation of American wine — a realm that's growing up and becoming more inclusive thanks to a new consumer mindset and the hard work of important organizations.

The Roots Fund is one of those organizations. It's just a few years old, but it's already making significant strides in an agricultural sector that doesn't have the best report card in terms of fairness, diversity, and equity. Long seen as a luxury item, wine, despite being farmed by the economically disadvantaged, has so often only been enjoyed by the rich. The Roots Fund is working to strengthen and expand the BIPOC wine community by encouraging the creation and growth of Black-owned wine brands.

Read more
This is how to make an Irish coffee like a pro bartender
The Irish Coffee is a classic drink for the ages — here are some great recipes
irish coffee

The Irish Coffee is a classic drink that's outlasted any number of trends and movements within the cocktail industry. Better, it's open to all kinds of interpretation, meaning you can mix a different version up each time you feel in the mood. And since we're still in winter's cold grip, the core ingredients of warm coffee and whiskey are even more appealing.

Of the many great hot cocktails and whiskey cocktails on the menu, the Irish Coffee has a big and deserved following. It's an old beverage showing no signs of slowing down, originally concocted in northern Europe to take on the many grey days of the offseason. We love it around St. Patrick's Day as well as late in the evening, with decaf plugged into the equation for an ideal nightcap cocktail.

Read more
The 10 best movie drinking games to play on Netflix
You'll love playing these movie drinking games

Watching something can be a great way to stave off the boredom that everyone faces from time to time. Whether it's a great show or movie available on Netflix, streaming services have ensured that we'll always have something to watch. Just having something to watch often isn't enough, though. In fact, what some people need is a game that goes alongside the latest thing on Netflix, which is why we've developed this list of drinking games that are perfect for Netflix subscribers.

You don't need to follow along with these games to get to a good drinking game with anything you're watching. What you might find, though, is that these drinking games have been carefully calibrated to ensure that you have as much fun as possible. Once you see a game that looks like fun, just grab a case of cheap beer or whatever your preferred drink might be and get started. You can also check out our guides for board games and card-drinking games if you're looking for a drinking game that doesn't involve a screen at all.
Monty Python and The Holy Grail
Monty Python and the Holy Grail Official Trailer - John Cleese Movie (1974)

Read more