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Many people are surprised to learn what counts as an actual drink. In Canada, a ‘standard’ drink is any drink that contains about 13.6 grams of “pure” alcohol. Once you know what a standard drink is you will know how much alcohol you are actually drinking.
Alcohol by Volume: Beer, Wine, & Liquor
Learn more about how alcohol by volume (ABV), ounces, and proof are all measurements for understanding how much alcohol is in a standard serving.
The 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines advises that if alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation—with women of legal age drinking up to one standard drink per day and men of legal age consuming up to two standard drinks per day.
However, many may not understand what constitutes a “standard” drink serving size. Whether it’s a craft beer, mixed cocktail or a glass of wine at a winery, it’s important to understand the differences between the type of alcohol you’re having and its serving size to determine its alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage. ABV is the measure of alcohol content within a beverage.
Our aim in this article is to educate you about the different levels of alcohol in different beverage types and measures. However, if you are concerned that you or someone you care about is abusing alcohol on a regular basis, please call our confidential hotline at 1-888-685-5770 and speak to an American Addiction Centers staff member about options for help.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a standard drink contains around 14 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol.1 In the U.S., this can generally be found in:1
- 12 ounces of beer, or one bottle at 5% ABV.
- 8 ounces of malt liquor at 7% ABV.
- 5 ounces of wine at 12% ABV.
- 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, or one shot, at 40% ABV.
- 8-9 ounces of malt liquor at 7% ABV.
ABV Effects: Pour Size, Alcohol Type and Other Factors
Although standard drink sizes are used to help people make informed decisions about their drinking, not all alcoholic beverages meet the criteria to be considered a standard drink. See how different types of alcohol can vary amongst each other and within their own category below:
Beer Alcohol Content
One standard serving of beer is 12 ounces, or about the size of a bottle of beer. In comparison, a pint of beer at a brewery is generally 15 ounces, which is larger than the standard serving size.2 Beer contains between 4-7% ABV, with the average being 5%.2
Therefore, if you’re drinking a 12-ounce beer at 5% ABV, that equals 0.6 ounces of alcohol per serving. However, if you’re consuming a craft beer such as an IPA at a local brewery, your alcohol per serving can be closer to 0.9 ounces and will therefore take the liver longer to process.
Wine Alcohol Content
Although a standard serving of wine is 5 ounces and generally contains between 11-13% alcohol by volume, not all wines are created equal.2 The same goes for the amount poured, whether it’s at a restaurant or at home with friends. White wine generally is on average 10% ABV; however, it can range from as little as 5% to as much as 14%.3
Liquor Alcohol Content
There are several kinds of distilled spirits, or hard liquors, on the market such as gin, bourbon, whiskey, vodka, tequila, liqueurs, and absinthe. These forms of alcohol are distilled so they have a higher concentration of alcohol by volume; as a result, the standard serving size is very small.
A serving of distilled spirits is about 1.5 ounces, which is the size of a shot glass.1 This standard applies to liquors which are 40% ABV.2 Again, like wine and beer, liquors have different ABVs. Fruit liqueurs typically range from 28% to 32%, gin ranges from 35% to 40%; vodka ranges from 35% to 46%; whiskey, rum and tequila are 40-46%; and cask strength whiskey is 55-60%.3 Mixed drinks, shots, and straight liquors should not contain or be more than one shot to be considered a standard drink.
Fortified Wine Alcohol Content
Fortified wines are wines to which a distilled beverage has been added, usually brandy (grape spirits).5 Sherry, port, madeira are all forms of high-proof wine, and they should be served in much smaller servings.3 Most fortified wines range from 17% to 21% ABV.3 NIAAA considers a standard serving of fortified wines to be 3-4 ounces.4
Malt Liquor Alcohol Content
Although the word liquor is in its name, these beverages are closer in alcohol content to beer than distilled spirits. NIAAA considers a standard serving to be 8-9 ounces, as malt liquors are typically about 7% alcohol.4