Alcohol Content of Common Beverages
There is a general rule that most follow: One drink is one can/bottle of beer, one shot of liquor, or one glass of wine.
Why is that the rule, though? All drinks have a different amount of alcohol, so at times it’s better to know exactly how much alcohol you are consuming.
While we cannot possibly tell you the exact amount of alcohol in every single type of beverage, we are here to give you a comparison of how much alcohol is in each of the most common mixed drinks, beers, wines, and straight liquors.
What Is Alcohol?
First, let’s define the whole point of this blog.
Alcohol — what exactly is it?
Alcohol is a chemical substance and also has psychoactive (mind-altering) effects when consumed by humans.
It comes in three forms — methanol, ethanol, and isopropanol. The only form that is safe for moderate consumption is ethanol.
While it is possible to consume alcohol in moderation, ethanol is still toxic to the human body. It causes liver damage, brain cognition impairment, and can damage other organs as well with enough use.
Ethanol is produced by the yeast fermentation of different types of starch or sugar.
There are two forms of alcohol that are available for consumption (and safe in moderation). They are distilled alcohol and undistilled alcohol.
Let’s start with undistilled alcohol, which is commonly consumed as beer, wine, or hard cider.
Undistilled alcohol simply means that instead of being distilled (which we’ll explain later), the alcohol is created in fermentation alone. Fermentation is the process of yeast or bacteria converting sugar into ethanol.
Undistilled Type 1: Beer
Where can we possibly begin with beer? In the age of booming microbreweries in the United States, it is hard to keep a handle on all of the different kinds of beer out there.
Most commonly, you will come across domestic beers such as Budweiser, Miller, or Coors. However, they are not alone. They are met with a ton of new products every day from breweries all over the world.
You have your imported beers from other countries, like Dos Equis from Mexico, Heineken from the Netherlands, or Guinness from Ireland.
All of the above names and the thousands upon thousands of others out there have different forms of creation that go by different names. They all also have differing amounts of alcohol by volume (ABV).
India Pale Ales (IPAs), sours, wheat beers, lagers, porters, bitters, and so many more are available.
It is easy to quickly become overwhelmed with options and confused by the strength of each of these drinks. If you are looking for direct answers, we simply say you should read all labels and contents before consuming anything.
In very general terms, and without giving exact numbers, these are the most popular beer types in order of highest to lowest ABV.
Russian Imperial Stout
There are hundreds of Russian Imperial Stout beers out there. They often range from 9-12% ABV.
American Malt Liquor
Popular brands of American malt liquor include Colt 45 or King Cobra. These beverages are typically about 8% ABV.
Pumpkin ales typically contain 7-8% ABV.
American IPAs typically contain 6-7% ABV.
German Pilsner, American Blonde Ale, Hefeweizen, Cream Ale, American Amber
Most beers will fall in the range of 5-6% ABV. All of these beers typically fall into that category.
Kölsch and Light Lager
Typically the lightest alcoholic beers available include Kölsch and light lager. These beers contain 4-5% ABV.
Non-alcoholic beer can contain no alcohol, but in most cases, they contain less than 1% ABV.
Undistilled Type 2: Wine
If you think there are a lot of beers out there, just wait until you begin hearing about wine. It seems that in 2021, you cannot drive farther than 15-20 miles outside of a metro area in the United States without coming across a winery.
The most common wine types are well known and can be split into a few categories.
The first split is white or red. You may also hear it split between sweet and dry.
Splitting further, you have merlot, cabernet sauvignon, riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir, malbec, and so many more.
All wines, similar to beers, can vary from brand to brand and type to type. To give you a general idea of how much ABV is in different types of wine, here are the most commonly consumed in the United States from highest to lowest based on ABV.
Again, for a clearer understanding of exactly what is in each bottle (or in some cases for wine, a box), read the contents before consuming.
Often among the strongest wines at around 14.5% ABV. This wine packs quite the punch and will have a larger impact if consumed in larger quantities than others.
Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Malbec, Merlot, and Pinot Noir
On the scale of ABV, chardonnay, pinot gris, malbec, merlot, and pinot noir all fall typically in the middle of the chart. Generally speaking, these wines contain 12.5-13.5% ABV.
Riesling, Rosé, and Prosecco Wine
Typically the lightest wines in terms of alcohol are rieslings, rosés, and proseccos. These come in around 12% ABV.
Undistilled Type 3: Hard Cider
Typically a drink saved for fall and winter months, hard cider has become an increasingly popular option for an alcoholic beverage in the United States.
Hard ciders truly range very far in terms of ABV. Most commonly, though, they will contain 4.5-7% ABV.
There are ciders that contain 10-12%, however.
Again, check the label before consuming anything.
While undistilled alcohol goes through fermentation, it does not go through further manipulation, unlike distilled alcoholic beverages.
Distilled beverages go through the process of distillation after fermentation. Distillation is the process of separating alcohol from other components of fermented substances, like water.
By doing this, distilled beverages have a higher concentration of alcohol and are much stronger.
If you think of distilled beverages, you are thinking of hard liquors like rum, tequila, whiskey, and vodka.
Below are the types of distilled spirits and popular mixed drinks that are made from them, sorted by ABV.
Distilled Type 1: Whiskey
Whiskey, made by fermenting grain mash from grains like wheat, corn, barley, or rye, is a popular spirit option in the United States.
Produced at many centuries-old distilleries, whiskey is cemented as a top option for drinkers throughout the country. It is also one of the strongest beverages in terms of alcohol concentration, making it a powerful and dangerous beverage to consume.
Old-Fashioned Mixed Drink
Old-Fashioned is a mixed drink that is not far off from being a straight shot of whiskey. With only three other ingredients, it comes in at a whopping 32% ABV.
The only of our three mentioned whiskey mixed drinks that includes another form of alcohol, Manhattan cocktails come in around 30% ABV.
A whiskey sour, one of the most popular mixed drink options, comes in with a power-packed 27.5% ABV in a traditional serving.
Distilled Type 2: Rum
Rum, a liquor made from fermenting sugarcane or molasses, is a popular drink in North America, Central America, and South America.
Similar to whiskey, it is often aged in oak barrels.
A daiquiri comes in many different flavors, most commonly strawberry. They range in ABV by often standing between 15% and 20%.
Widely known as the legendary Ernest Hemingway’s drink of choice, mojitos come in at around 13% ABV.
Do you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain? If so, every time you grab one, you are consuming a beverage that is around 13% ABV.
Distilled Type 3: Vodka
Vodka is a liquor originating from Europe. It is made of mostly water and ethanol.
Vodka is one of the most common alcoholic spirits in the world and is an ingredient in many different mixed drink options.
The Cosmopolitan, or Cosmo, is a light and fruity beverage made from vodka, cranberry juice, and lime juice.
Cosmos pack a huge punch, and for that reason are served in small martini glasses. They’re typically 30-35% ABV.
A typical, classic margarita is made with 3 ounces of tequila. That is enough to give it a massive amount of 30-33% ABV.
While martinis are most commonly made with gin, they can also be made with vodka. This is a strong drink, coming in at around 28% ABV.
Tequila. Grenadine. Orange Juice. Three ingredients, but a popular drink across the board. Tequila sunrises have 13-17% ABV.
With a large mix of ingredients, including a lot of vegetables, the Bloody Mary is a less potent drink than others. It is typically 12-15% ABV.
Alcohol Detox and Treatment
Regardless of your choice of beverage, addiction and misuse can slowly creep in and take over every corner of your life.
According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 15 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is the medical term for what many in the past have referred to as alcoholism.
It’s crucial to know you are not alone if you’re battling an AUD, and there are options to reach a happier and healthier life through treatment.
If you or someone you know needs to detox from alcohol, there are safe and reliable options available. With the right team supporting you, detox can be accomplished and your life can get back on track.
Call Shadow Mountain Recovery Today
If you’re reading this today and you or someone you know is in need of treatment for alcohol addiction, don’t wait to get help.
AUD affects the lives of millions in the United States, and many thousands in our beloved state of New Mexico.
It is not simple to make the call, but rest assured, it is a way to overcome the obstacle of addiction.
Call today at (800) 203-8249 to learn more about our options for you.