Alcohol Equivalence: Beer, Wine & Spirits

Alcohol equivalence means that standard drinks of beer, dinner wine and spirits have the same amount of pure alcohol. Each contains six-tenths of one ounce of alcohol.1 A breathalyzer can’t tell one from another.

The health benefits of drinking in moderation are also similar for beer, wine and spirits. The primary factor associated with health and longevity appears to be the alcohol itself.

Knowing about this equivalence can help us drink sensibly and in moderation. The American Dietetic Association has this to say. “Knowing the facts of beverage alcohol equivalence is a crucial aspect of responsible drinking.”2 People won’t believe the myth that drinking “hard liquor” leads more quickly to intoxication.

alcohol equivalenceDrinking Problems

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Understanding alcoholic drink equivalence is important. We know that having two beers before driving is no safer than having two glasses of wine. Or a few shots of whiskey or a few Martinis. Being aware of drink equivalence can help us avoid driving while impaired. That can prevent us from having trouble with the law. But much more important, it can prevent injuries and save lives.

Knowing about drink equivalence also helps us understand that there is no drink of moderation, only behaviors of moderation.

Doctors have long known this. In a poll of physicians, 95% said it is important that people understand the alcohol equivalence of standard drinks. Even more, 98%, believe it important for doctors to explain this to their patients.3

Tips for Drinking in Moderation

  • Pace your drinks. Most people can take one drink per hour without any ill effects.
  • Eat while drinking.  This helps keeping your BAC from rising as fast.
  • Sip and savor your drinks. Don’t gulp them.
  • Avoid drinking games.
  • Accept a drink only when it fits into your pace of drinking.
  • Alternate non-alcoholic with alcoholic drinks.
  • Skip a drink now and then.
  • Be careful with punches and drinks in containers of unusual size. It’s hard to space them properly.
  • Follow any medical advice about drinking with meds.

Remember. A glass of dinner wine, a bottle of beer, and a shot of spirits are all equivalent in alcohol contents. A standard drink is:

alcohol equivalence

  • A 12-ounce bottle or can of regular beer.
  • A 5-ounce glass of dinner wine.
  • A one and 1/2 ounce of 80 proof distilled spirits. (Either straight or in a mixed drink.)

References

1.  Federal agencies recognize alcohol equivalence.. They include DOT, FDA, DOE, HSS, NIAAA, CDC, USDA, NHTSA, TTB, and the Surgeon General’s Office.

2. American Dietetic Association. Nutrition Fact Sheet. Moderate Consumption of Distilled Spirits and other Beverage Alcohol in an Adult Diet. Chicago: ADA, 2011, p. 1.

3. Am Med Women’s Assn. Press release, January 11, 2005.

 

Filed Under: Health