Alcoholic Content of Drinks: Beer, Wine & Spirits

It’s important for drinkers to know the alcoholic content of alcoholic drinks. In short, standard drinks of beer, wine and spirits have the same amounts of pure alcohol. It’s six-tenths of one ounce in each case.

A glass of white or red wine, a bottle of beer, and a shot of whiskey or other distilled spirits are the same to a breath tester.

Alcoholic Content of Drinks

A standard drink is any of these.

    • alcoholic content12-ounce bottle or can of regular beer
    • 5-ounce glass of dinner wine
    • A shot (one and 1/2 ounce) of distilled spirits. (Either straight or in a mixed drink.)

Understanding alcohol equivalence helps people drink in moderation. For example, people won’t be fooled by the misleading term “hard liquor.” That term implies that it leads more quickly to intoxication than other alcohol beverages.

The drivers manuals of most states teach alcohol equivalence. So do these agencies and groups, among many others.

    • Am Public Health Ass’n.
    • Acad of Nutrit and Diet (formerly Am Dietetic Ass’n).
    • Nat Inst on Alco Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
    • Am Heart Ass’n.
    • U.S. Dept of Agri (USDA).
    • Nat Highway Traffic Safety Admin’n (NHTSA).
    • Am Acad of Family Physicians.
    • Centfor Disease Control and Prev (CDC).
    • Food and Drug Adm’n (FDA).
    • Nat Kidney Found.
    • Am Diabetes Ass’n.
    • Nat Consumers League
    • Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
    • Am Gastro Ass’n.
    • Nat Coun of Alco and Drug Dep.1

Alcohol equivalence is a basic fact to remember. Alcohol is alcohol. And a standard drink is a standard drink. It’s not what people drink but how much they drink that matters.



1. Facts from the web sites of the agencies and and other groups.


Buglass, A. Handbook of Alcoholic Beverages. Chichester, Eng: Wiley.