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Paul Barkhoff from the Billings State Liquor Store

Paul Barkhoff from the Billings State Liquor Store No. 196 stocks shelves Tuesday afternoon. Barkhoff says December is by far the biggest liquor sale month of the year.

Here’s another twist on the Christmas spirit, or spirits.

By month’s end, Montanans will have purchased at least 70,000 cases of alcohol, making December the biggest month for liquor sales, according to the state Department of Revenue.

Sales are driven upward by seasonal shoppers, as well as businesses taking advantage of discount prices associated with the holiday to stock up for the year. Shoppers also buy a better brand for the holiday.

“People that normally drink Canadian Club might change up to Crown Royal,” said Shauna Helfert, Liquor Control administrator.

Although revenue officials have for years joked that Montana’s No. 1 beverage was ranch dressing, whiskey is the state’s most popular liquor even in December, with a 33 percent share of the market. Vodka is second with 27 percent and rum is a distant third with 12 percent.

“They buy everything, just more of it,” said Paul Barkhoff, manager of State Liquor Store No. 196. “They also buy the odd things you don’t sell much of the rest of the year, the cream and stuff, oddball things.”

Barkhoff said customers shopping his 24th Street West store will buy three times as much Baileys this month as they do the rest of the year. A lot of that liquor won’t be consumed in December.

Other high liquor sales months are June with 68,000 cases, or July depending on where the Fourth of July falls during the week. November with 62,000 cases rounds out the top five.

The last month of the year is not the big leader in drunken driving arrests, according to the Board of Crime Control. The months with the most drunken driving arrests in the last five years are August and April with more than 500 arrests on average.

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Agriculture and Politics Reporter

Politics and agriculture reporter for The Billings Gazette.