A fifth is a unit of volume formerly used for distilled beverages in the United States, and is equal to one fifth of a gallon, 4⁄5 quart, or 253⁄5 fluid ounces (757 mL); it has been superseded by the metric system, 750 mL, which is the standard capacity of wine bottles world-wide and is approximately 1% smaller than 253⁄5 fluid ounce.
In the late nineteenth century, liquor was often sold in bottles which appeared to hold a quart (32 fl oz) but in fact contained 2, 3, or 4 fluid ounces less than a quart and were called "fifths", short quarts, or commercial quarts.
A quart or one fifth of a gallon was a common legal threshold for the difference between selling by the drink and selling by the bottle or at wholesale, and thus the difference between a drinking saloon or barroom and a dry-goods store.
During the 1970s, there was a push for metrication of U.S. government standards. In 1975, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, in cooperation with the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, proposed six metric-standard bottle sizes to take effect in January 1979 and these standards were incorporated into Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations. These sizes are 50, 100, 200, 375 (355 for cans), 500 (until June 1989), 750, 1000, and 1750 mL.
- E. Frank Henriques, The Signet Encyclopedia of Wine, p. 298
- United States Congress, "Report of hearings on H.R. 16925 to Regulate the Storage of Food Products in the District of Columbia", January 24, 1910, p. 300
- Municipal League of Los Angeles, Municipal Affairs 2:1 (January 1907) "commercial+quart" p. 4
- The Southwestern Reporter 55, 1900, p. 212
- Annual report of the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners (California), 1894, p. 71
- testimony of Carl L. Alsberg, "Amendments to the Pure Food and Drugs Act", Commonwealth of Virginia, 1919, p. 17: "The ordinary whisky bottle contains one-fifth of a gallon, or 253⁄5 ounces... They are either marked 25 ounces, or one-fifth of a gallon."
- 27 CFR Chapter I, Part 5, Subpart E, Section 5.47a Metric standards of fill for distilled spirits bottled after December 31, 1979
- "Old Standard Fifth Due New Moniker", Indiana Evening Gazette, 16 July 1975, p. 40