Salary Survey Extra: Have a drink on us
Salary Survey Extra is a series of periodic dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our most recent Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.
A much-loved 1969 middle-grade novel that’s a long-lived bastion of the “Once upon a time” genre considers the weighty question of what food or drink tastes so delightfully good that it should be inscribed in the royal dictionary as the literal definition of the word “delicious.” At the conclusion of The Search for Delicious, however, the novel’s characters arrive at a unique selection.
Circumstances conspire to embroil the kingdom in a brewing civil war, with the opposition led by a schemer who eventually seizes control of the kingdom’s entire supply of fresh water. Defeating his nefarious designs solves both the literal war and war of words — or, to be more precise, of word — as the characters ultimately agree that there is nothing so delicious as a drink of cold, clear water.
More recently, British journalist Tom Standage traced the entire history of civilization through his highly readable A History of the World in 6 Glasses, which conceptually and thematically subverts the old adage “You are what you eat.” What we drink, clearly, is an item of much higher and nobler concern to writers than the more pedestrian matter of what we chew and swallow.
It does make some sense: People certainly dine out, and gourmands abound in all societies, but drinking is quite often far more central to both formal and informal conversation, celebration, politicking, courtship, and other social rituals. To say nothing of providing vital sustenance (at least when water is consumed).
If you haven’t already guessed, yes, this is another of those highly subjective issues that we love to confront at the end of the annual Salary Survey, after participants have spent 15 or 20 minutes addressing both weightier and more mundane queries. The idea is to provide a brief and relaxing cool-down after we’ve just made you push through a survey marathon.
Sort of like how you might get up from your desk and go have a drink to settle your nerves after spending a couple of hours deeply engrossed in some precise and laborious IT task. Who can’t relate? So we put the question to our 2021 Salary Survey participants: What do you reach for when you need a drink? Does a simple 16-ounce water bottle quench all of your desires? Or do you want something with a little more kick?
Here’s what we learned:
Q: The truest and best form of liquid refreshment is (which of the following)?
Water — 36.8 percent
Coffee — 18.7 percent
Beer — 16.9 percent
Tea — 10.1 percent
Soda — 6.2 percent
Spirits — 6 percent
Wine — 5.3 percent
No fuss, no muss. No distilling, no viticulture. No brewing or steeping. Definitely no added sugar or caramel coloring. People want their liquid refreshment to be simple and straightforward. Two hydrogens, one oxygen, and bam! Serve and sip. Both in The Search for Delicious and in real life, it would seem, water is second to none.
We didn’t really expect any one selection to dominate to the degree that water did, and we kind of expected a showdown between beer and coffee for the top spot. Coffee and beer did both register strong support. And it’s not all that surprising that tea is hot (See what we did there?) on the heels of those two options.
Dead last is definitely not what we were expecting out of wine. And it’s a little odd, given its wide availability, far-flung variety, and relative inexpensiveness, that soda did so poorly. Maybe the messaging concerning the deleterious effects on overall health of cola and soft drinks has taken hold over the past few decades, or maybe adults just don’t drink soda. Or maybe we confused people by not calling it “pop.”
There are a few blind spots: It could be, for example, that we left a lot of milk drinkers out in the cold. And we didn’t really make space for energy drinks, whether of the mild (Gatorade) or wild (Red Bull) variety. Or maybe a great degree of selection would have just (ahem) watered down the strength of the challengers to the clear No. 1 choice.
Stay hydrated, folks!