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 quantity of alcohol within a "standard drink" varies significantly from country to country. For example, in Australia, a "standard drink" is the amount of a beverage that contains 10 grams of alcohol at 20 degrees Celsius (12.7 ml)". A similar definition is used in New Zealand;.
A "standard drink" in Japan contains 25 ml (19.75 grams).
In the United States, a "standard drink" is one that contains about 0.6 US fluid ounces  (18 ml or 14 grams) of pure 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.
Labelling is usually required to give an indication of alcoholic content of a serving. Australia requires that "the label on a package of an alcoholic beverage must include a statement of the number of standard drinks in the package".
The term "standard drink" was used in the United Kingdom in the first guidelines (1984) that published "safe limits" for drinking, but this was replaced by reference to "alcohol units" in the 1987 guidelines and that term has been used in all subsequent UK guidance. A Unit of alcohol is defined as 10 millilitres (8 grams) of pure alcohol. This definition is independent of the strength (% ABV) and amount (volume) of any individual alcoholic beverage. The number of units of alcohol in a bottle or can (and, optionally, the number of units in a typical serving) are indicated on the drink container. Typical servings deliver 1–3 units of alcohol.
Standard drinks as defined by various countries
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.
|Country||Mass (g)||Volume (ml)||500 ml[n 1] beer contains|
|Australia||10||12.67||2.0 standard drinks|
|Austria||6||7.62||3.2 standard drinks|
|Canada||13.6||17.2||1.4 standard drinks|
|Denmark||12||15.2||1.6 standard drinks|
|Finland||12||15.2||1.6 standard drinks|
|France||12||15.2||1.6 standard drinks|
|Hungary||17||21.5||1.2 standard drinks|
|Iceland||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||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)||8||10||2.5 units of alcohol|
|USA||14||17.7[n 2]||1.4 standard drinks|
Time to metabolise
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.
- 16.9 fl oz; just over 1 pint
- defined as 0.6 fl oz
- Guide to Labelling of Alcoholic Beverages
- ALAC - What's in a standard drink?
- The US fluid ounce is about 4% larger than the no-longer-used Imperial fl.oz.
- rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov, US NIH Web site:What's a "standard" drink?
- "Alcohol guidelines, Eleventh Report of Session 2010–12" (PDF). UK Parliament. House of Commons, Science and Technology Committee. 7 December 2011. p. 7. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
- "Drinkaware - What is an alcohol unit?".
- "How long does alcohol stay in your blood?". NHS Choices. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
- UK NHS:How long does alcohol stay in your blood?, reviewed 2013
- ICAP Report 5 - "What is a 'standard drink'". URL:. Accessed on June 19, 2008.
- Population Health Division, Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing The Australian Standard Drink
- Canadian Public Health Association. URL: . 2006.
- paihdelinkki.fi, How to use alcohol wisely
- Landlæknisembættið, Icelandic Directorate of Health
- New Zealand Food Safety Authority
- "Alcohol and Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions". CDC. Retrieved 2011-10-17.