What's a standard drink

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Tuesday, 15 June 2010.
Tagged: alcohol, drinks, measures

What's a standard drink
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A standard drink is any drink containing 10 grams of alcohol (or 12.5ml pure alcohol). One standard drink always contains the same amount of alcohol regardless of the size of the glass or the type of alcohol (beer, wine or spirit). 

Examples of standard drinks

A standard drink means:

  • 100ml small glass of wine (12% alcohol)
  • 100ml glass of champagne (12% alcohol)
  • 150ml glass of light wine (8% alcohol)
  • 285ml bottle of alcopop e.g.Breezer, Cruiser (5% )
  • 375ml can of mid-strength (3.5%) beer
  • 425ml glass (schooner) of light beer (2.7%)
  • 275ml glass (middie or half-pint) of full-strength  beer (5%)
  • 60ml sherry, port or fortified wine (20%)
  • 30ml shot/nip of spirits (vodka, rum, tequila) (40%).

If you drink a small glass of port, which has a high 20% alcohol, you consume the same amount of alcohol as a glass of beer (at a lower 5% alcohol) or as a shot of vodka (40% alcohol).

Similarly, a mixer drink of rum and Coke would give you the same alcohol as drinking a small 100ml glass of wine.

  • Cocktails often contain two, three or even five standard drinks as they're mixes of two or three spirits and/or champagne.

Drink sizes can vary

It's important to reaslise that a standard drink and a standard size glass are NOT the same thing.

For example, it's fashionable to serve red wine in a large 200ml balloon glass. This quantity of wine contains 20 grams of alcohol (i.e. 2 standard drinks).


In Australia, all bottles, cans and casks of liquor must state the number of standard drinks they contain and the percentage of alcohol by volume in the total container.

Red wine standard drink Lnsp

White wine Nordic 

You'll usually spot a number on a logo that identifies the number of standard drinks contained in the bottle or can - this will vary depending on the size of the container and the type of alcohol. For instance, a 750ml bottle of red wine with 14.0% alcohol contains 8.3 standard drinks (see image).


Drinks: a picture says a thousand words


Download a great poster showing over 20 different drinks and how many standard drinks each contains (reproduced from the NH&MRC report Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol 2009).

bev red wine deep-etched_smllCheck out whether red wine is the answer to the French Paradox - the observation that the French have one of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world despite eating a rich diet high in saturated fat.


beer-two-tankards-xsmall-cmpsdWeigh up the differences between low-carb and low-alcohol beer.  Which one is the best choice when you're watching your weight?

Read a summary of the NH&MRC report.

Catherine Saxelby About the author

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Catherine Saxelby has the answers! She is an accredited nutritionist, blogger and award-winning author. Her award-winning book My Nutritionary will help you cut through the jargon. Do you know your MCTs from your LCTs? How about sterols from stanols? What’s the difference between glucose and dextrose? Or probiotics and prebiotics? What additive is number 330? How safe is acesulfame K? If you find yourself confused by food labels, grab your copy of Catherine Saxelby’s comprehensive guide My Nutritionary NOW!