In 2023, attending a music festival is not a cheap endeavor. Even after you’ve forked over a small fortune for admission passes, booked cross-country flights, and secured in-demand hotel reservations, there are still a slew of inflated charges (parking, lockers, and the like) waiting for you once you actually hit the festival grounds. Possibly the heftiest? Booze.
While a drink or two isn’t an actual necessity, for some concertgoers, it’s key to rounding out the festival experience. Yes, you paid $20 for a mixed drink — but when is the next time you’re going to party in the Californian desert with your favorite artist? And while paying top dollar for some bottom-shelf liquor isn’t ideal ahead of a looming recession, U.S. consumers are clearly still willing to spend at in-person concerts. A recent survey by ticket platform Eventbrite found that 81 percent of over 4,400 respondents are looking forward to a music festival this year. And despite indications that 79 percent of survey respondents feel that inflation is only continuing into 2023, 70 percent indicated that they’ll spend equal or more on events this year.
The nation’s most buzzworthy festivals are also a boon for booze brands, too. They serve as key opportunities to gather crowds for discovery or a social media moment, making them the optimal events for brands to launch activations. Planning on hitting one (or more) of the biggest festivals of the year?
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Keep reading to learn more about the boozy brands you’ll see and the amount of cash you’ll likely spend.
Coachella (April 14–16 and 21–23)
Coachella is arguably the most recognizable of U.S. music festivals. It’s also the most strict when it comes to booze, as visitors are only permitted to sip libations inside designated alcohol areas. Outside of beer gardens and cocktail pop-ups, alcoholic drinks will be confiscated. And if you’re planning on sneaking in your own hooch, be warned — festival security are aware of those tricks, too.
Details on this year’s drinks lineup just dropped online, and the list of drinks partners is extensive. Some 23 brands, pop-ups, and cocktail bars are showing up this year, including a presence from legendary NYC cocktail bars PDT and Attaboy. Online favorite Chamberlain Coffee is serving up its new RTD brews at the 12 Peaks VIP area, while The New Bar pop-up stands as the festival’s first mocktail bar. Heineken plans to offer its forthcoming low-calorie beer Heineken Silver to the public for the first time, and Aperol is planning a significant brand presence as well, including an Aperol Piazza — inspired by the iconic piazzas in Italy — a tram, photo dome, and more, according to an Aperol representative.
“Music has always been a key ingredient in the Aperol Spritz ritual since its inception in 1919, with Aperol’s founders, the Barbieri brothers, releasing an Aperol vinyl record in its earliest days,” the representative tells VinePair. “There are a lot of shared values between Aperol and music festivals — togetherness, living in the moment, creating fun memories, a life filled with travel, and, of course, a love of music.”
Based on 2022 menus, the Indio, Calif., event appears to top the festival charts for the most pricey drinks. Crowdsourced lists of previous years’ prices indicate that cocktails served on festival grounds might run you anywhere from $15 to $20, depending on the seller. Reddit users note that beer prices vary by brand and location, so if you’re strapped for cash, it’s worth shopping around before ordering booze. Expect bills in the double-digits for a simple lager, regardless of size: a 16-ounce glass of Heineken will set you back $15 at the event, according to a Heineken brand representative, while smaller pours fall in the $12 to $14 range. The brand’s zero-ABV beer will run you $10, and for those concert-goers hopping on the non-alcoholic trend, caffeinated drinks will still cost a pretty penny. Cold brews and coffees typically start at $10 on the grounds and attendees aren’t permitted to bring their own pick-me-ups.
Governors Ball (June 9–11)
This annual lineup hosted in Queens, New York, is known for its fabulous food lineup, which is nearly as flashy as its headlining acts. Last year, cocktails at the music festival retailed at a modest $14, according to Insider.
While pricing information for the 2023 festivities isn’t available yet, the boozy lineup of vendors has already dropped. Seven alcohol companies, including some Gov Ball veterans and newcomers, will be represented on this year’s booze menu according to organizer Chris Vinyard. Anheuser Busch will be offering Gov Ball Brews, a special festival-themed lineup of Bud Light, Stella Artois, and Bud Light Seltzers. You’ll have the option of supping on an Aperol Spritz ($18) at the brand’s pop-up, or choose Bacardi’s Gov Ball Punch instead, which blends coconut-flavored rum with passion fruit, lime, and club soda. D’USSÉ will also have a presence this year similar to last year’s pop-up. Tito’s Vodka is set to offer a sparkling lemonade on its cocktail menu, and Espolòn Tequila will bring a branded Margarita to festival-goers. On the wine front, Chateau Ste. Michelle will be headlining as the official wine sponsor of the weekend.
“We believe music, like wine, has the power to unite, create connections and shared experiences,” a Chateau Ste. Michelle brand representative tells VinePair. “We are excited to share our passion for wine and music and invite you to raise a glass to an epic music weekend.”
Lollapalooza (August 3-6)
This Chicago festival offered 25 bars and four cocktail lounges across concert grounds in 2022, including pop-ups from Tito’s Vodka, Hendrick’s, and more. Brand activations — such as the Hendrick’s Gin’s boat-themed cocktail lounge — offered elevated craft cocktails to accompany the bumping music. This year, Lollapalooza’s partners include brands such as Cutwater Spirits, Hendrick’s Gin, Jack Daniel’s, and Bud Light.
If you’re set on sipping a spirits-based beverage, expect to pay upwards of $15 for those plastic-cup drinks. While prices vary from bar to bar, there’s a (nearly) zero percent chance of scoring any cocktails in the lower double-digits. In 2022, beer prices hovered around $10 to $12, making Lolla slightly more affordable than its Californian counterpart.
One budget-savvy Reddit user on the r/Lollapalooza thread goes above and beyond to help festival-goers save cash. Each year, they calculate the best bang for your buck among the booze tents by dividing the pre-tax price by alcohol content and ranking them by intoxication value. According to the insider’s methodology, Bud Light was the most cost-effective beer at the event, while Goose Island 312 landed on the more expensive end of the spectrum (and least advantageous, by ABV).
Austin City Limits (Oct. 6–8 and 13–15)
It’s been said that everything’s bigger in Texas — and that’s true of including drink bills, too. The annual Austin City Limits (ACL) festival, held over two weekends in October in Austin, offers a host of over 100 performances on nine stages in Zilker Park. While ACL organizers have yet to share 2023’s musician lineup (or drinks menu), last year’s prices offer a glimpse into what festival-goers might expect.
Coors Banquet ran drinkers around $11 in 2022, according to Eater, while standard hard seltzers were priced at $12. A handful of craft beers from local brewers such as Pinthouse Pizza and Independence Brewing Company landed in the $12 to $15 range, while wine cost up to a stiff $15 per pour. Texas-native sparkling water Waterloo offered cans of non-alcoholic bubbly water for $4 at festival bars.
Festival veterans on Reddit advise splitting a carafe of wine among friends — while the pitchers go for around $30 to $50, it’s a more affordable option when shared among a small group. It’s also worth noting that only beer, wine, and seltzers are offered in general-admission ticketed areas during the October festival; spirits-based mixed drinks are only available in VIP areas, as concertgoers share in a festival forum.