What is a Standard Drink?

It may seem obvious, but drinks with a higher alcohol content affect the way you think, feel and act more than drinks with less alcohol. And those effects don’t just go for when you’re drinking, multiple day hangovers do exist! Rather than making morning drills harder than they need to be, understand how much alcohol is in that drink you love and stick to your limit.

“That’s a standard drink?!”

Beer, wine and liquor all have different amounts of alcohol, so a standard drink of each type of alcohol [PDF 545KB] may look very different. While the sizes vary, these drinks each have the same amount of alcohol and are a “standard drink”:

  • 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol)
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol)
  • 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol)
  • 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40% alcohol) spirits or liquor

In some places, you may be able to find other spirits, like moonshine. The alcohol content in these drinks can vary and may be much higher than traditional drinks. Be careful if you choose one of these spirits because it’s hard to know how much alcohol they contain.

The amount and type of alcohol in a drink makes a big difference! That drink you order at the bar could be equal to two or three “standard drinks.” To calculate how many drinks are actually in your cup, check out the Rethinking Drinking Drink Size Calculator.