Many people are surprised to learn what counts as a drink. The amount of liquid in your glass, can, or bottle does not necessarily match up to how much alcohol is actually in your drink. Different types of beer, wine, or malt liquor can have very different amounts of alcohol content. For example, many light beers have almost as much alcohol as regular beer – about 85% as much. Here’s another way to put it:
- Regular beer: 5% alcohol content
- Some light beers: 4.2% alcohol content
That’s why it’s important to know how much alcohol your drink contains. In the United States, one "standard" drink (or one alcoholic drink equivalent) contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:
- 12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol
- 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol
- 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40% alcohol
How do you know how much alcohol is in your drink?
Even though they come in different sizes, the drinks below are each examples of one standard drink:
Each beverage portrayed above represents one standard drink (or one alcoholic drink equivalent), defined in the United States as any beverage containing 0.6 fl oz or 14 grams of pure alcohol. The percentage of pure alcohol, expressed here as alcohol by volume (alc/vol), varies within and across beverage types. Although the standard drink amounts are helpful for following health guidelines, they may not reflect customary serving sizes.
For more information, visit Rethinking Drinking.