Skip to main content

What's in a Drink


Have you ever gotten completely buzzed on a single drink of rum and coke or a margarita one night, but cruised along after a couple of beers the next? Or maybe you’ve gotten wasted on a few shooters, but you’re usually fine sipping wine? That’s because alcoholic drinks vary in strength or “proof.” Know the standards.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a standard drink is 6 ounces of ethanol, or…

  • 12 ounces of beer (5 percent alcohol)
  • 5 ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol)
  • 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of gin, vodka, rum, whiskey and other spirits (40 or 80 percent proof)

Where’s the proof?

Standard drink sizes are determined by the percentage of alcohol they contain. Another word for this is “proof.” In the United States, proof is usually twice the percentage of alcohol by volume. Beverages with alcoholic content above a certain percentage sold in the United States must state the “proof” on the label. For wine, only bottles where the alcohol content is 13 percent or higher require a proof notation.

Alcohol and Weight Gain

Here’s something else to keep in mind. With at least 300 calories in an average 8-ounce mixed drink, liquid calories can add up faster than five jelly doughnuts from Dunkin’ Donuts (1,025 calories) or five small bags of French Fries from McDonald’s (1,150 calories). Consider the calories you might consume in just one night of heavy drinking.

  • 5 regular 12-ounce beers = 725 calories
  • 5 shots of liquor = 500-1,000 calories
  • 5 5-ounce Cosmopolitans = 1,700 calories
  • 5 8-ounce Long Island iced teas = 2,630 calories
  • 5 8-ounce margaritas = 2,265 calories
  • 5 10-ounce rum and Cokes = 1,780 calories

What does “drinking in moderation” mean?

Remember, alcohol is a drug. If you’re of legal age, average weight and you choose to drink, research suggests:

  • The average person should drink no more than one drink an hour if they are drinking a standard drink—a glass/bottle of beer, a glass of wine, a shot of liquor. However the person must also take into consideration their own body’s ability to process the alcohol and the other contents of the drink. For example, carbonated drink mixes increase the body’s absorption of alcohol.

  • Moderation in drinking suggests that a drink per day for women, and two per day for men will not negatively affect their health. Some sources suggest a drink per day can be good for the heart in adults but other factors such as medications being taken and fitness and illness have to be taken into consideration for this to be true.

But if you’re drinking, don’t drink and drive!

Related Educational Resources

See similar informational materials.

Alcohol Poisoning

Learn how to spot alcohol poisoning and what to do if you or a friend are experiencing symptoms.

Party Smart Tips

Learn ways to lower your risk of encountering a dangerous situation while partying.

What to Know About BORGs

BORGs have become popular among college-aged populations but are seriously dangerous. Understand the risks of consumption.