The Washington Post has an article by Khalid Diab about the complications that arise around the issue of obtaining alcohol during Ramadan. Excerpts are posted later. As Shahab Ahmed points out in his magnum opus (What is Islam), drinking alcohol is prohibited in Islam, but it is also an established feature of Islamicate culture; i.e. not only is it regularly used (by a minority), it is celebrated in poems and songs, there are rituals associated with its use, everyone knows someone who drinks and drinkers have their own (albeit not always comfortable) place in society. In some countries (Saudi Arabia, Iran) it is strictly prohibited and users can expect serious penalties if caught, but even in those countries a great deal of regular communal drinking does go on. A few more countries (like Pakistan) have prohibition, but with more exceptions than exist in Iran and Saudi Arabia (non-Muslims and foreigners can buy alcohol, some high end hotels have bars, and so on). In several other countries (Egypt, Tunisia, Indonesia, etc) alcohol is widely available and can be purchased in supermarkets and even in small roadside kiosks (what would be called a Khoka in Pakistan). But in all these countries, there is a visible change during Ramadan: many regular drinkers voluntarily give up alcohol for the month and those who continue to drink may go deeper underground than usual. I have friends who cannot go to sleep without one (or several) nightcaps, but who will not touch drop during Ramadan. They invariably get drunk on Eid.
Some excerpts from Khalid Diab’s article follow:
Although alcohol is considered haram (prohibited or sinful) by the majority of Muslims, a significant minority drinks, and those who do often outdrink their Western counterparts. Among drinkers, Chad and a number of other Muslim-majority countries top the global ranking for alcohol consumption.