So What’s in One Drink?

SO WHAT’S IN ONE DRINK“Hey, it’s just one drink. It’s no big deal.”

How many times have you heard that one, or something along those lines? While one drink doesn’t seem like much to many people, you might be surprised to learn what constitutes a single drink in the United States.

And you might be surprised by the wide disparity of alcohol content in a variety of popular alcoholic beverages.

In the U.S., a standard drink is any beverage that contains about 0.6 fluid ounces, or 14 grams, of pure alcohol.  The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (website: has a handy guide that compares different types of drinks.


The beverages listed below are considered one standard drink. They all contain approximately the same amount of alcohol. However, the key difference is the size of the glass; in other words, the serving amount.

* 12 ounces of regular beer = about 5 percent alcohol.* 8-9 ounces of malt liquor = about 7 percent alcohol.* 5 ounces of table wine = about 12 percent alcohol.* 3-4 ounces of fortified wine (for example, sherry or port) = about 17 percent alcohol.* 2-3 ounces of a cordial, liqueur or aperitif = about 24 percent alcohol.* 1.5 ounces of brandy or cognac (a single jigger or shot) = about 40 percent alcohol.* 1.5 ounces of 80-proof hard liquor (gin, rum, vodka, whiskey) = 40 percent alcohol.

The above guide is a good starting point if you’re trying to watch how much you drink for health reasons. But keep in mind that the alcohol content can vary greatly in different types of beer, wine, and malt liquor…or the difference can be very small.

For example, those people who reach for a lite beer because they think they’ll be consuming much less alcohol are mistaken. In reality, many lite beers have almost as much alcohol as regular beers. The average lite beer has an alcohol content of 4.2 percent, and the average regular beer is 5 percent. Not much difference!

But the difference among regular beers can be huge. While a standard beer has about 5 percent alcohol, some microbrews or handcrafted beers can contain a whopping 11 percent alcohol. Obviously, your impairment is much greater after drinking the latter.There can be a big gap in wines, too. Typically, wine has about 12 percent alcohol, but it can range from just 4 percent in wine coolers to 19 percent in dessert wines.


Another big part of the equation is the serving size of the glass. Some bars and restaurants will serve a beer in a 12-ounce glass; others in a 16-ounce glass (commonly known as a pint). Many establishments serve wine in a 5-ounce glass, but others will serve wine in a slightly larger glass.

This is also a good time to take inventory of your own drinking glasses, wine glasses, and beer mugs. How many ounces do they hold? Are we “generous” when pouring drinks for ourselves or guests?  In general, the narrower the glass, the less it contains, while the wider the bowl, particularly at the bottom, the more it contains. This may sound like stating the obvious, but a little experimentation with different shapes and sizes of glasses might surprise you.

It is important to always be aware of how much alcohol you have consumed or are consuming and to get someone to drive you home if you are out with friends and had too much to drink.   If you find yourself charged with a DUI in the state of Maryland, please contact the legal offices of Alpert Schreyer. Andrew Alpert is a nationally acclaimed DUI defense attorney and his team of experienced legal professionals can help you. Call or contact us for a free case evaluation.

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