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Alcohol & Health
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Updated on September 25, 2023
6 min read

What is a Standard Drink?

What is Considered a Standard Drink?

In the U.S., a standard drink is any drink that consists of 14 grams of pure alcohol. This is equal to about 0.6 fluid ounces or 1.2 tablespoons.

A standard drink is typically as follows for each type of alcoholic beverage:

  • 12 fl oz of beer
  • 5 fl oz of wine
  • 8 fl oz of malt liquor
  • 1.5 fl oz of an 80-proof distilled spirit
What is a Standard Drink AlcoholRehabHelp

Many light beers contain almost as much alcohol as regular beers do. This is about 85 percent as much. On average, this equals 4.2 percent alcohol content compared to 5.0 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).

How to Determine a Drink's Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

Different types and brands of alcoholic beverages vary in alcohol content. The effects of alcohol on the body depend on your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The liver can only process approximately one drink per hour.

Check the label to know the alcohol content in a canned or bottled drink. Not all beverages display alcohol content, so you may have to search online for a reliable source, including the bottler’s website.

Although the standard drink amounts are useful for following health guidelines, they don’t always reflect common serving sizes. Likewise, while the alcohol concentrations listed are typical, there's significant variability in alcohol content within each alcoholic beverage. 


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What are the Types of Alcoholic Beverages?

Alcoholic drinks contain alcohol, water, and other ingredients. There's a vast difference in the alcohol content of drinks, depending on the type of beverage.

Common types of alcoholic beverages include:

  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Cider
  • Hard liquor 

Understanding Alcohol Percentage in Beverages

Below are the types of alcoholic beverages available and the alcohol percentage they typically contain. Sometimes, various brands of alcoholic drinks may have different alcohol contents.

The percentage of alcohol in the beverage determines the equivalent of one standard drink. Check the label of each alcoholic beverage to understand the exact percentage of alcohol in the drink.

Beer and Wine Coolers

Beer and wine coolers usually consist of around 5 percent alcohol. A standard drink is 12 fluid ounces.



Cider is typically about 6 percent alcohol. A standard drink is around 10 fluid ounces.


Malt Liquor

Malt liquor is around 7 percent alcohol. A standard drink is approximately 8 to 9 fluid ounces.



Table wine is typically 12 percent alcohol, making five fluid ounces a standard drink. Fortified wines, including sherry and port, are more potent at around 17 percent alcohol. A standard glass of wine is 3 to 4 fluid ounces.



Liqueurs, cordials, and aperitifs are usually quite potent at around 24 percent alcohol. A standard drink is 2 to 3 fluid ounces.

liqueur cup


Spirits are usually 80 proof, meaning they are 40 percent alcohol. A standard drink or shot of a spirit is 1.5 fluid ounces. Spirits include whiskey, gin, vodka, and brandy.


Is 1 Shot a Standard Drink?

A 1.5 fl oz shot of brandy or cognac is considered a standard drink in the U.S. A 1.5 fl oz shot of an 80-proof distilled spirit is also considered a standard drink.

Types of Alcohol AlcoholRehabHelp 1

What Does Drinking in Moderation Mean?

Moderate drinking for men is having no more than two standard drinks per day and no more than one for women. Drinking in moderation, or not at all, reduces the risk of alcohol-related issues. This is why abstinence or moderate alcohol consumption is recommended.

Understanding what a standard drink is is essential to avoid the harmful effects of heavy drinking. This can also help you keep track of how much alcohol you drink.

the health effects of alcohol

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What Does Binge Drinking Mean?

Drinking five or more drinks for men or four or more for women within 2 hours is binge drinking. Binge drinking is common among college students.

Consuming more than five drinks for men or over four for women in a single session on five or more days a month is heavy drinking.

If you regularly drink more than the recommended guidelines, you may have an alcohol problem. This leads to an increased risk of developing health issues.


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What are the Side Effects of Drinking Alcohol?

Alcohol consumption can cause several adverse effects. These include the following:

Short-term effects of alcohol consumption include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Impaired judgment
  • Loss of coordination and awareness
  • Poor memory
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Slurred speech
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Injuries (such as car crashes and drowning)

Long-term effects of alcohol consumption include:

  • Brain damage
  • Liver damage
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease 
  • Pancreas issues
  • Increased risk of cancers
  • Weakened immune system
  • Learning problems
  • Social, mental, and financial problems
  • Alcohol use disorder (AUD)

Drinking multiple drinks in a short time or drinking on an empty stomach can increase the effects of alcohol. This is because your body absorbs more alcohol in a short period.

Do I Have a Drinking Problem?

If you think you have a drinking problem, this self-assessment questionnaire may be helpful for you:

  1. Have I wanted to cut back on drinking or quit but cannot?
  2. Have I been drinking more or more often than I’d planned to drink?
  3. Do I keep drinking more and more to feel the effects of alcohol?
  4. Does drinking interfere with aspects of my life, such as my job, family, or self-care?
  5. Do I spend a lot of time drinking alone?
  6. Do I spend a lot of time seeking out opportunities to drink or recovering from drinking, including blackouts?
  7. Am I experiencing alcohol-induced health complications?
  8. Do I continue drinking despite health, social, financial, or legal issues?
  9. Do I have severe cravings for alcohol?
  10. Do I experience withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, irritability, or tremors, when not drinking alcohol?

You may have a mild AUD if you respond “yes” to at least two or three questions. Four to five “yes” answers may be considered a moderate AUD. Six or more "yes" answers may indicate a severe AUD.

Treatment Options and Resources for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

Many treatment options and resources are available for alcohol abuse and addiction, including:


Knowing what a standard drink is and understanding the potential effects of alcohol can help you make informed decisions about drinking. It’s also important to take regular self-assessments to determine if you need treatment for an AUD.

Many resources are available, such as inpatient programs and support groups. If you drink more than the recommended levels or notice any of these effects on your body, it's time to seek help. Making smart choices now will help you in the long run.

Updated on September 25, 2023
6 sources cited
Updated on September 25, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. "What Is a Standard Drink?" National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

  2. "What's a "standard" drink?" Rethinking Drinking.

  3. Jung et al. "Alcohol intoxication and poisoning – diagnosis and treatment." Handbook of Clinical Neurology, 2014.

  4. "Binge Drinking." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022.

  5. Marshall, M. "Types of Alcohol & Liquor Names." The Kitchen Community, 2023.

  6. "Alcohol use disorder." Mayo Clinic, 2022.

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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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