When you think about grabbing a drink, one thing you really need to remember is that that single drink might not be a single alcoholic beverage at all. The amount of alcohol in any mixed drink can vary depending on the mixture.
The standard drink size in the United States is five ounces of wine at 12% alcohol, a 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof liquor or distilled spirits, eight ounces of 7% malt liquor or a normal 12-ounce can of beer with 5% alcohol content. Now, think about the last time you ordered a drink. Maybe you had a mixed drink that uses two shots of rum and a fruity mixer. Even if that drink is only 12 ounces in total, you’re really looking at two alcoholic beverages, not just one.
Knowing how much alcohol is in your drink isn’t always simple, because the percentage of alcohol in a particular drink can vary significantly. Yes, there are wines that have only 12% alcohol, but there are also wines with 15% or 8%. The variation is what makes it so hard to know how much you’ve had to drink when you’re at a restaurant or bar, unless you’re able to see the bottle itself.
The standard drink size helps, but it’s not perfect
While you can use the standard drink sizes to measure how much alcohol you’ve had to drink in some cases, it’s by no means a perfect science. The bartender might have been feeling generous and added an extra shot to your drink, or the mixer you chose might increase the size of the drink so much that the bartender actually adds less alcohol. It’s hard to say without seeing the actual alcohols used, so it’s best to ask if you’re unsure.
Uncertain alcohol percentages are why you should get a ride home
When you don’t know exactly what you’re drinking, one of the best things you can do is to get a ride home instead of driving yourself. The drink you think has only one shot might actually have more, depending on what it is, and counting up your drinks might not be enough to tell you what you really ingested or how it will affect you.
If you go out to drink, get a ride. Doing this will help prevent you from facing a DUI or having to deal with an arrest or car crash from being intoxicated.