Alcoholic Content of Beer, Wine & Distilled Spirits
by David J. Hanson, Ph.D.
The description of alcohol in a popular source of information (the Indiana Prevention Resource Center) reports that
Beer is a low potency alcoholic beverage made by fermenting grains and then extracting the liquid from the mash. Wine is a relatively low potency alcoholic beverage made by fermenting fruit juices (or other sugary liquid). Distilled spirits are high potency alcoholic beverages that are made by fermenting grains or fruit juices and then distilling the resulting liquid to reduce its water content and to concentrate its alcohol. 1
That may be technically correct, but it unintentionally perpetuates the myth that spirits are “harder” or more likely to lead to intoxication than are beer or wine. To prevent the misuse of alcohol, it’s important for drinkers to know that standard drinks of beer, wine and spirits all contain equivalent amounts of alcohol -- about six-tenths of one ounce.
A glass of white or red wine, a bottle of beer, and a shot of whiskey or other distilled spirits all contain equivalent amounts of alcohol and are the same to a Breathalyzer. A standard drink is:
- A 12-ounce bottle or can of regular beer
- A 5-ounce glass of wine
- A drink of one and 1/2 ounce of 80 proof distilled spirits (either straight or in a mixed drink)
Learn what they are and why they're very important.
Knowing about alcohol equivalence can help people drink in moderation. In the words of the American Dietetic Association, "Knowing the facts of beverage alcohol equivalence is a crucial aspect of responsible drinking." 2 For example, people won’t be fooled by the misleading term "hard liquor," which implies that drinking distilled spirits leads more quickly to intoxication than other alcohol beverages.
The drivers manuals of most states emphasize alcohol equivalence, as does the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American Public Health Association, the American Dietetic Association, the American Heart Association, the National Kidney Foundation, the American Diabetes Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Gastroenterological Association, the National Consumers League, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, and many others. 3
Alcohol equivalence is an important fact to know. Alcohol is alcohol and a drink is a drink. It’s not what people drink but how much they drink that maters.
A statement of the alcohol equivalence of standard drinks of beer, wine and distilled spirits on the Indiana Prevention Resource Center web site might very well reduce alcohol abuse and save lives.
Filed Under: Diet