If you are an investor who depends on dividends, you've likely found yourself in need of a drink during the past few quarters. And if you turned to one of the wine, beer, or spirits brands owned by global behemoth Diageo (NYSE:DEO), you have my vote for being onto something.

While the economy tanks, this company keeps serving
First, let's get the bad news out of the way: Contrary to some analysts' earlier predictions, the world is apparently not drinking its way through this recession. Talk about an economic slump with no upside! Yet as a dividend payer and recession survivor, it looks to me like Diageo has modeled itself after some of its beer brands -- robust and stout

Even though management sees positive operating profit growth for the second half of fiscal year 2009, they remain admirably cautious about the balance sheet. Key steps include a restructuring program designed to reduce operating costs as well as a likely pause in the share buyback.

On the marketing side, Morningstar analysts are encouraged by Diageo's head-on approach to the global recession, reporting that the company

has taken the bull by the horns and changed its marketing message to focus on the heritage and history of its brands, some of which date back to more than 400 years ago, to give consumers an anchor and to feel rooted in something that has endured bad economic times.

In addition, Diageo's new retail displays, which provide one-stop shopping for cocktail ingredients, target the customer shift from living it up at the local watering hole and to a bit of at-home mixology.

Not the least important factor in the analysis is that Diageo's 57% payout ratio offers a cushion should earnings suffer in the future. Meanwhile, fellow sin stock Fortune Brands (NYSE:FO) -- a company on which I recently advised investors to take a pass -- sports a dangerously high payout of 85%.

Sip something tasty, and be patient
Even amid the dividend carnage of recent months, investors still have a range of reliable dividend payers to consider. On that basis alone, Diageo's 3.6% yield looks like table wine compared to the high-octane payouts offered by master limited partnerships Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (NYSE:KMP) and Energy Transfer Partners (NYSE:ETP). In my opinion, those are companies worth considering, but I assume that like any smart Fool, you want to diversify your dividends across various sectors, right?

At current prices, Diageo offers a compelling combination of income potential, and -- more so than a steady consumer staples name such as Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL) -- the prospect for dramatic stock appreciation once the economy recovers.