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Understanding Units of Alcohol

One of the biggest questions often is, what is a standard drink measurement?

In Ireland, one standard drink contains 10 grams of pure alcohol. The average person takes about one hour to process through their system. However, this can vary from person to person, nobody reacts to alcohol in the same way.

The number of standard drinks is based on the size of the drink and its alcohol strength, usually shown on labels as alcohol by volume (ABV). You'll see from the graphic below that common examples include a half pint of beer, a small glass of wine, and a pub measure of spirits. All are based on average strength drinks - 4.5% lager, 12.5% wine, and 40% spirits.

Common Questions

1. Is a unit of alcohol the same as a standard drink?

No, this is a common misunderstanding and it is important to note that they are not the same. One UK unit contains 8 grams of pure alcohol, compared with 10 grams in one Irish standard drink. Alcohol guidelines are typically set by the Department of Health in each country, so try to keep this in mind if you see unit content on a can or bottle label and follow the guidance for Ireland.

2. What will affect the number of standard drinks?

a. Alcohol Strength (ABV)

There is a huge variety of drinks available which can  vary dramatically in alcohol content. For example, some craft beers can often contain more alcohol than some of the more commonly recognised brands.

b. Size of the measure

Free-pouring spirits and wine can lead to drinking more than you intended. Why not order our Standard Drink Measuring cup to help pour accurate measures at home?

c. Size of glass or bottle

Wine glasses come in all shapes and sizes, with some able to hold significant and risky amounts of wine. One glass does not always mean one standard drink.

Above all, staying within the HSE low-risk guidelines for alcohol consumption is recommended to reduce risks to your health and wellbeing.

For more information, visit Drink Aware


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