Alcoholic Content of Alcoholic Drinks: Beer, Wine & Spirits

Alcohol Equivalence

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 alcohol. It’s about six-tenths of one ounce of pure alcohol 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 breathalyzer.

Standard Drinks

A standard drink is:

  • alcoholic contentA 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)

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.

  • American Public Health Association.
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly American Dietetic Association).
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
  • American Heart Association.
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • American Academy of Family Physicians.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • National Kidney Foundation.
  • American Diabetes Association.
  • National Consumers League
  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
  • American Gastroenterological Association.
  • National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.1

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


1. Information obtained from the web sites of the respective agencies and organizations.

Resource for Alcoholic Content

Buglass, A. Handbook of Alcoholic Beverages. Technical, Analytical and Nutritional Aspects. Chichester, Eng: Wiley, 2011.