Standard drink

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A "standard drink" does not necessarily reflect a typical serving size, such as seen here

A standard drink is a notional drink that contains a specified amount of pure alcohol (ethanol). The standard drink is used in many countries to quantify alcohol intake. It is usually expressed as a certain measure of beer, wine, or spirits. One standard drink always contains the same amount of alcohol regardless of the container size or the type of alcoholic beverage, but does not necessarily correspond to the typical serving size in the country in which it is served.

The standard drink varies significantly from country to country. For example, it is 10 grams (12.7 ml) of alcohol in Australia[1] and New Zealand;[2] in Japan it is 25 ml (19.75 grams).

In the United Kingdom the term "standard drink" is not officially defined; instead a unit of alcohol is defined as 10 ml.[3] The number of units in a typical serving is printed on bottles; the advent of smartphones has led to the creation of apps which report the number of units contained in an alcoholic drink.[4] The system is intended to inform people how much alcohol they drink, not to determine serving sizes. Typical servings deliver 1–3 units.[5]

In the United States the standard drink contains 0.6 US fluid ounces (18 ml) of alcohol. This is approximately the amount of alcohol in a 12-US-fluid-ounce (350 ml) glass of 5% ABV beer, a 5-US-fluid-ounce (150 ml) glass of 12% ABV wine, or a 1.5-US-fluid-ounce (44 ml) glass of a 40% ABV (80 proof) spirit.[6]

Standard drinks as defined by various countries[edit]

The amount of alcohol is stated in the table in both grams and millilitres. The number of standard drinks contained in 500ml of beer of 5% ABV (a typical large drink of beer) is stated for comparison.[7]

Country Mass (g) Volume (ml) 500 ml[n 1] beer contains
Australia[8] 10 12.67 2.0 standard drinks
Austria 6 7.62 3.2 standard drinks
Canada[9] 13.6 17.2 1.4 standard drinks
Denmark 12 15.2 1.6 standard drinks
Finland[10] 12 15.2 1.6 standard drinks
France 12 15.2 1.6 standard drinks
Hungary 17 21.5 1.2 standard drinks
Iceland[11] 8 10 2.5 standard drinks
Ireland 10 12.7 2.0 standard drinks
Italy 10 12.7 2.0 standard drinks
Japan 19.75 25 1.0 standard drinks
Netherlands 9.9 12.5 2.0 standard drinks
New Zealand[12] 10 12.7 2.0 standard drinks
Poland 10 12.7 2.0 standard drinks
Portugal 14 17.7 1.4 standard drinks
Spain 10 12.7 2.0 standard drinks
UK (unit) 7.9 10 2.5 units
USA[13] 14 17.7[n 2] 1.4 standard drinks

Time to metabolise[edit]

On average, it takes about one hour for the body to metabolise (break down) one UK unit of alcohol, 10 ml. However, this can vary with body weight, sex, age, personal metabolic rate, recent food intake, the type and strength of the alcohol, and medications taken. Alcohol may be metabolised more slowly if liver function is impaired.[5]


Explanatory notes

  1. ^ 16.9 fl oz; just over 1 pint
  2. ^ defined as 0.6 fl oz


  1. ^ Guide to Labelling of Alcoholic Beverages
  2. ^ ALAC - What's in a standard drink?
  3. ^ "Drinkaware". 
  4. ^ "The Alculator". 
  5. ^ a b UK NHS:How long does alcohol stay in your blood?, reviewed 2013
  6. ^, US NIH Web site:What's a "standard" drink?
  7. ^ ICAP Report 5 - "What is a 'standard drink'". URL:[1]. Accessed on June 19, 2008.
  8. ^ Population Health Division, Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing The Australian Standard Drink
  9. ^ Canadian Public Health Association. URL: [2]. 2006.
  10. ^, How to use alcohol wisely
  11. ^ Landlæknisembættið, Icelandic Directorate of Health
  12. ^ New Zealand Food Safety Authority
  13. ^ "Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions". CDC. Retrieved 2011-10-17. 

External links[edit]