The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A map of where in the world people still drink Smirnoff Ice, the famously bad malt beverage

Quick, before someone sees you. (Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg News)

Smirnoff Ice, the citrus-flavored malt beverage first popularized in the United States in the early 2000s, isn't the sort of alcoholic beverage people brag about keeping in their fridge. It's low in alcohol, high in sugar, and was even the butt of an extended viral joke (ok, game) in which people were tricked into drinking it.

Look no further than a tortured New York Times explanation of "icing," the aforementioned game, for evidence of the drink's awfulness. The game, as the Times notes, was fairly straightforward: "Hand a friend a sugary Smirnoff Ice malt beverage and he (most participants have been men) has to drink it on one knee." The game hinged on a fairly universal understanding that Smirnoff Ice is famously bad, or, at the very least, a famously embarrassing thing to be caught drinking. For that very reason—the drink's recognized terribleness—the game went viral.

But like most jokes, the game ran its course. "Icing" is no longer a thing. Nor, one would think, should be drinking Smirnoff Ice anymore. And yet, surprisingly, people around the world still do. 

Specifically people in North America, Oceania, and parts of Latin America, as you can see in the map below.

The good news is that the world's biggest Smirnoff Ice drinkers aren't American — they're Costa Rican. No country, as it turns out, continues to twist open Smirnoff Ices quite like Costa Rica, where per capita consumption is nearly 17 ounces (almost a bottle and a half per person per year), according to data from market research firm Euromonitor. New Zealand, where people drink about an ounce less each year (still well over a bottle), is second; Canada, where people drink just under 14 ounces, is third; and Australia, where people drink just over 13 ounces, is fourth.

The bad news is that Americans still bought more than 300 million bottles of the stuff last year (roughly 12 ounces per person), the fifth most per capita, and enough for everyone in the country to sneak in a bottle of Smirnoff Ice and then tell nobody about it. This is how the rest of the top Smirnoff Ice drinking nations looks.

The list is fairly diverse. Venezuela, Norway, Cameroon, Brazil, and Ireland — five wildly different countries — round out the top ten, and every continent, save for Antarctica, is represented. It's also pretty top-heavy. Very few countries — only the top five—managed at least a bottle per person last year.

More broadly it seems that a lot of the world is embarrassed about lingering Smirnoff Ice cravings, and adjusting accordingly. Global sales of Smirnoff Ice are falling — they are down by roughly 22 percent since 2004, by Euromonitor's measure. The dip has been especially pronounced among some of the world's heaviest drinkers. In the United States, sales have fallen in each of the last seven years, and are down by more than 52 percent since their peak in 2006. Purchases have also been on the decline in New Zealand and Australia, where they have halved since 2008 and 2007, respectively, and in Canada, where they have fallen by more than 25 percent since 2006.

A few countries, however, don't appear to have gotten the memo.

Most notably, the joke seems to have been lost on Costa Rica, where per capita sales aren't merely the highest in the world — they're growing, too. But sales of Smirnoff Ice are also on their way up in a handful of other places, including Japan, where they jumped by more than 17 percent last year, Thailand and Colombia, where rose by 8 percent last year, respectively. And Portugal, Nigeria, Kenya, Sweden, Venezuela, and, even, Germany, where sales are still rising, though more modestly.