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What's a "standard" drink?

Many people are surprised to learn what counts as a drink. In the United States, a "standard" drink is any drink that contains about 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of "pure" alcohol. Although the drinks pictured here are different sizes, each contains approximately the same amount of alcohol and counts as a single standard drink.

12 fl oz of
regular beer
=
8-9 fl oz of
malt liquor (shown in a 12-oz glass)
=
5 fl oz of
table wine
=
3-4 fl oz of
fortified wine
(such as sherry or port; 3.5 oz shown)
=
2-3 fl oz of
cordial, liqueur, or aperitif (2.5 oz shown)
=
1.5 fl oz of brandy or cognac
(a single jigger or shot)
=
1.5 fl oz shot of
80-proof distilled spirits
12 fl oz of regular beer - about 5% alcohol
8 - 9 fl oz of mAlternateText liquor in a 12 oz glass - about 7% alcohol
5 fl oz of table wine - about 12% alcohol
3-4 oz of fortified wine - about 17% alcohol
2-3 oz of cordial, liquer, or aperitif - about 24% alcohol
1.5 oz of brandy (a single jigger) - 40% alcohol
1.5 fl oz shot of 80-proof distilled spirits ('hard liquor' - whiskey, gin, rum, , vodka, tequila, etc.) - about 40% alcohol
about 5% alcohol
about 7% alcohol
about 12% alcohol
about 17% alcohol
about 24% alcohol
about 40% alcohol
40% alcohol

12 fl oz of regular beer

12 fl oz of regular beer - about 5% alcohol

about 5% alcohol

=

8-9 fl oz of malt liquor
(shown in a 12-oz glass)

8 - 9 fl oz of mAlternateText liquor in a 12 oz glass - about 7% alcohol

about 7% alcohol

=

5 fl oz of table wine

5 fl oz of table wine - about 12% alcohol

about 12% alcohol

=

3-4 oz of fortified wine
(such as sherry or port; 3.5 oz shown)

3-4 oz of fortified wine - about 17% alcohol

about 17% alcohol

=

2-3 oz of cordial, liqueur, or aperitif
(2.5 oz shown)

2-3 oz of cordial, liquer, or aperitif - about 24% alcohol

about 24% alcohol

=

1.5 oz of brandy
(a single jigger or shot)

1.5 oz of brandy (a single jigger) - about 40% alcohol

about 40% alcohol

=

1.5 fl oz shot of
80-proof distilled spirits ("hard liquor")

1.5 fl oz shot of 80-proof distilled spirits ('hard liquor' - whiskey, gin, rum, , vodka, tequila, etc.) - about 40% alcohol

about 40% alcohol

The percent of "pure" alcohol, expressed here as alcohol by volume (alc/vol), varies by beverage.

The examples above serve as a starting point for comparison. For different types of beer, wine, or malt liquor, the alcohol content can vary greatly. Some differences are smaller than you might expect, however. Many light beers, for example, have almost as much alcohol as regular beer—about 85% as much, or 4.2% versus 5.0% alcohol by volume (alc/vol), on average.

If you want to know the alcohol content of a canned or bottled beverage, start by checking the label. Not all beverages are required to list the alcohol content, so you may need to search online for a reliable source of information, such as the bottler's Web site. For fact sheets about how to read wine, malt beverage, and distilled spirits labels, visit the consumer corner of the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

Although the "standard" drink amounts are helpful for following health guidelines, they may not reflect customary serving sizes. For example, a single mixed drink made with hard liquor can contain 1 to 3 or more standard drinks, depending on the type of spirits and the recipe. If you want to know how much alcohol is in a cocktail or a beverage container, try one of our calculators.

Is your "lite" beer light in alcohol?

Not necessarily. Although they have fewer calories, many light beers have almost as much alcohol as regular beer—about 85% as much, or 4.2% versus 5.0% alcohol by volume, on average.

Check the alcohol content of your beverage. Malt beverages are not required to list their alcohol content on the labels, so you may need to visit the bottler's Web site.

See What's a standard drink?

How many "drinks" are in a bottle of wine?

A typical 25-ounce (750 ml) bottle of table wine holds about 5 "standard" drinks, each containing about 5 ounces. This serving size of wine contains about the same amount of alcohol as a 12-ounce regular beer or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits.

Get to know what 5 ounces looks like by measuring it out at home. That way you can estimate how many standard drinks you're being served in a restaurant or bar that uses large glasses and generous serving sizes.

See What's a standard drink?

Mixing alcohol with certain medications can cause nausea, headaches, drowsiness, fainting, a loss of coordination, internal bleeding, heart problems, and difficulties in breathing. Alcohol can also make a medication less effective. For more information, see Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol with Medicines.

Examples of medical conditions for which it's safest to avoid drinking include liver disease (such as from hepatitis C), bipolar disorder, abnormal heart rhythm, and chronic pain.

Among the dangers of underage drinking:

Even moderate amounts of alcohol can significantly impair driving performance and your ability to operate other machinery, whether or not you feel the effects of alcohol.

Heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause brain damage and other serious problems in the baby. Because it is not yet known whether any amount of alcohol is safe for a developing baby, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should not drink.

Highest risk

About 50% of people who drink in this group have an alcohol use disorder.

Increased risk

This "increased risk" category contains three different drinking pattern groups. Overall, nearly 20% of people who drink in this category have an alcohol use disorder.

Low-risk drinking

Only about 2% of drinkers in this group has an alcohol use disorder.

A U.S. "standard" drink contains about 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of "pure" alcohol. That's the amount in 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of table wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Low risk drinking levels - On any single day: Men, no more than 4 drinks on any day. Women, no more than 3 drinks on any day. Per week: Men, no more than 14 drinks per week. Women no more than 7 drinks per week.

Distilled spirits include vodka, whiskey, gin, rum, and tequila.

Light to moderate drinking

Heavy or at-risk drinking

Low-risk drinking

Men: No more than 4 drinks on any day and no more than 14 per week

Women: No more than 3 drinks on any day and no more than 7 per week

People with a parent, grandparent, or other close relative with alcoholism have a higher risk for becoming dependent on alcohol. For many, it may be difficult to maintain low-risk drinking habits. For more information, see A Family History of Alcoholism: Are You at Risk?

Pace yourself: It's best to have no more than one standard drink per hour, with nonalcoholic "drink spacers" between alcohol beverages. On any day, stay within low-risk levels of no more than 4 drinks for men or 3 for women. Note that it takes about 2 hours for the adult body to completely break down a single drink. Do not drive after drinking.

For comparison, regular beer is 5% alcohol by volume (alc/vol), table wine is about 12% alc/vol, and straight 80-proof distilled spirits is 40% alc/vol.

The percent alcohol by volume (alc/vol) for distilled spirits is listed on bottle labels and may be found online as well. It is half the "proof," such that 80-proof spirits is 40% alc/vol.

Convert proof to alc/vol

Enter in the proof of the alcohol in the left field to automatically calculate the alc/vol.


  
 

Convert to fluid ounces

Enter in the measurement in milliliters in the left field to automatically calculate the amount in fluid ounces.