What is a standard drink?

What is a standard drink?

The Drinkaware Barometer showed that just 1 in 10 Irish adults can correctly identify the three standard drink measures. Getting the facts about standard drinks is a great place to start to understand your drinking habits.

A standard drink is a measure of alcohol. In Ireland, one standard drink contains 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 a free Standard Drink Measure Cup to keep track of how much you drink at home

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

No. This is a common source of confusion, particularly on labelling, but it is important to note they are not the same. One UK unit contains 8 grams of pure alcohol, compared to 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 displayed on a can or bottle label and follow the guidance for Ireland.

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 often 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 reduce risks to your health and wellbeing.

Find out about the low-risk guidelines »