Vodka is set to overtake whiskey as Ireland's favourite spirit for the first time, according to press reports. In yesterday's Sunday Independent, it was claimed that, following a nosedive in RTD sales, drinkers in the country are turning to cocktails and mixing their own drinks at home.

Speaking to the newspaper, the Gin and Vodka Association said: "The 18-24 age group is the largest vodka-drinking age group. This has consistently been at 36% - 37% of total vodka drinkers since 1989. The 25-34 age group accounts for 24% - 25% of all vodka drinkers."

Vodka has also replaced gin in the shopping basket of the Central Statistics Office for the first time in 50 years, the newspaper said. A CSO spokesman told the Independent: "We have to price the most popular products and confidential research from the market place shows vodka is now more popular than gin. We have to follow the trends in the market."

In the first nine months of 2004 gin sales were up by 0.6% in Ireland, while whiskey sales rose by 3.2%. Vodka sales, however, soared by 13.5%.

Even at the peak of their popularity, RTD sales accounted for just 2% of the total Irish alcohol market, the Independent noted. This year, RTD sales made up just 1% of the market.