Holiday Driving Safety: When One Drink is More Than You Think

Whether you are going out for the holidays or hosting celebrations in your home, if alcohol is involved you need to know a little more about the alcohol content in the beverages you may be consuming or serving to your guests. If you have always judged alcohol consumption by the number of drinks, your estimations can be way off. The alcohol content, even from one brand of beer to the next, can vary greatly. If you are trying out new drinks, you could be in for a nasty surprise.

A “Standard Drink” is not so Standard

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a standard U.S. drink contains about 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol and translates to 12 ounces of what they call “regular” beer, which contains 5% alcohol, five ounces of “table wine”, and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.

Do not expect your drink to fall into that standard:

  • Beer typically ranges from 5% to 15% alcohol, but it also comes in 3.2% and a few varieties range up over 50%. Microbrews and dark beers tend to have the higher alcohol contents.
  • Most wines range from about 12% to 15%, but some types of wine are intentionally low, down to about 5%, while others can get up to around 21%. And if you are drinking homemade wine, there is no telling what the alcohol content will be.
  • Distilled spirits, such as whiskey, vodka, and gin, are labeled in proof, which is twice the percentage of alcohol. 80-proof is 40% alcohol. While that is really pretty standard, craft distillers will often create higher-proof runs, and some of the large brands have very high proof varieties with the highest clocking in at 190 proof, which is 95%.


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