Fifth (unit)

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A metric fifth of Dewar's Scotch whisky

A fifth is a unit of volume formerly used for distilled beverages in the United States, equal to one fifth of a US liquid gallon, 45 quart, or 25 35 US fluid ounces (757 ml); it has been superseded by the metric bottle size of 750 ml,[1] sometimes called a metric fifth, which is the standard capacity of wine bottles world-wide and is approximately 1% smaller.


In the late 19th 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",[2] short quarts, or commercial quarts.[3]

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,[3][4][5] and thus the difference between a drinking saloon or barroom and a dry-goods store.

The fifth was the usual size of bottle for distilled beverages in the United States until 1980.[6] Other authorized units based on the fifth included 45 pint and 110 pint.[7]

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.[7][8] These sizes are 50, 100, 200, 375 (355 for cans), 500 (until June 1989),[9] 750, 1000, and 1750 ml.[clarification needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ E. Frank Henriques, The Signet Encyclopedia of Wine, p. 298
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ a b Municipal League of Los Angeles, Municipal Affairs 2:1 (January 1907) "commercial+quart" p. 4
  4. ^ The Southwestern Reporter 55, 1900, p. 212
  5. ^ Annual report of the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners (California), 1894, p. 71
  6. ^ 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 2535 ounces [...] They are either marked 25 ounces, or one-fifth of a gallon."
  7. ^ a b 27 CFR Chapter I, Part 5, Subpart E, Section 5.47a Metric standards of fill for distilled spirits bottled after December 31, 1979
  8. ^ "Old Standard Fifth Due New Moniker", Indiana Evening Gazette, 16 July 1975, p. 40
  9. ^ "Packaging regulations for alcoholic beverages". Colorado State University. Retrieved 12 March 2015.