Alcoholic beverages in Sweden are as common as in most of the western world. Sweden is historically part of the vodka belt, with high consumption of distilled beverages and binge drinking, but during the later half of the 20th century, habits have been harmonized with western Europe, with increasing popularity of wine and weekday drinking.
The main Swedish specialty is brännvin (literally "burn-wine"), liquor distilled from fermented grain or potatoes. Vodka is the highest grade of brännvin, with brands like Absolut Vodka and Explorer Vodka. Brännvin seasoned with herbs is known as akvavit. This is usually drunk as a snaps, also known as nubbe, a small shot glass to a traditional meal (especially pickled herring or crayfish).
Lager beer is the most popular beer, both to meals and in bars. In restaurants and bars it is usually served as a stor stark (literally "large strong"), a glass usually containing 40 - 50 cL of starköl (see below).
Sweet cider is also common. As of July 1, 2005, new rules established that only fermented juice from apple or pear is allowed to be called 'cider'. Before this change, any fruit-based beverage could be called cider, meaning that what would be considered alcopop in other countries could be sold as cider in Sweden.
Since prehistory, beer has been the staple beverage in Sweden, drunk in extreme quantities to balance the salty food—pickled herring and (if affordable) salted pork were the major protein sources for most people. Mead was a common delicacy. Distilling was introduced in the 15th century. Prohibition against production and/or sale of brännvin—distilled alcohol—has been enforced during some periods.
As Sweden was industrialized and urbanized during the 19th century, industrially produced brännvin became more available, and alcohol caused increasing health and social problems. The temperance movement rose, and since 1905, government has a monopoly on sales of liquor. The Swedish prohibition referendum in 1922 resulted in continued sales of alcohol. A rationing system, called Brattsystemet or motbok, was used until 1955. As Sweden entered the EU in 1995, drinking habits became more continental, and regulations were relaxed. Systembolaget introduced box wine and law allowed private enterprises to import and market alcohol—though the retail monopoly remained. Consumption of alcohol increased by 30 % from 1995 to 2005.
Sweden has a government alcohol monopoly called Systembolaget for sale of all beverages stronger than 3.5% by volume. Minimum purchase age at Systembolaget is 20 years. Restaurants and bars with proper permission can serve alcohol to anyone who is at least 18 and not severely drunk, though many nightclubs voluntarily require a minimum age at the door above 18 (usually 20 or 23, occasionally up to 30).
Beer is legally divided into three classes. Class I (maximum 2.25%), called lättöl ("light beer"), is sold without restrictions. Class II (up to 3.5%), called folköl ("people's beer"), is sold in regular stores, but with the minimum purchase age of 18. Class III, starköl ("strong beer", over 3.5%) is sold only in Systembolaget stores.
Beverages are taxed by content of alcohol, heavier than in most other countries. The tax on vodka (40%) is SEK 200.56/litre, on Wine (14%) SEK 22.08/litre and on beer (4.5%) SEK 6.615/litre (2007). Beer with 2.8% alcohol or less is exempt from tax. 
The import quota from other EU countries is unlimited for personal use. Due to the taxes many Swedes supply themselves in Estonia or Germany. Limited rations of duty free shopping is allowed on the ferries between Sweden and Finland, provided they dock at Åland, which is an autonomous part of Finland, and has a special treaty with the EU.
The temperance movement is strong in Sweden, especially in agricultural areas, and often connected with the "free churches" (non-conformists, that is Protestants outside the Church of Sweden). The Straight Edge movement spread among Swedish youth in the 1990s.