What is a standard drink?

What is a standard drink?

A 2012 report by the Health Research Board (HRB) found that less than 1 in 10 people can correctly identify the number of standard drinks in different measures when asked. Getting the facts about standard drinks is a good place to start to understand your drinking. 

A standard drink is a measure of alcohol. In Ireland, one standard drink contains roughly 10 grams of pure alcohol, taking the average person about one hour to process although this will vary from person to person. 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 above that common examples include a half pint of beer, small glass of wine and pub measure of spirits. All are based on average strength drinks - 4.5% lager, 12.5% wine and 40% spirits.

Order our Drinks Calculator Wheel to work out the number of standard drinks

What will affect the number of standard drinks?

  • Alcohol strength (%ABV)
    There is a huge variety of drinks available which can vary dramatically in alcohol content. For example, some craft beers can contain more alcohol than some of the more commonly recognised brands. 
  • Size of the measure
    Free-pouring spirits or wine can lead to drinking more than you intended. Why not order our Standard Drink Measure Cup to help pour accurate measures at home?
  • Size of the 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 reduces risks to your health and wellbeing.

Find out about the HSE low-risk guidelines »