Cocktail Calculus: How boozy is your poison of choice?

There’s a perception out there that if you want to get less drunk, you’re better off sticking with something low in alcohol content, like a beer. But considering that beer, wine and cocktails all are served at different volumes, how does one consider the per ounce alcohol content of a given beverage for a true comparison? With math, that’s how.

Let’s meet our contestants:

  • Beer: A typical 12oz beer, at 6% ABV (alcohol by volume)
  • Wine: A 5oz glass, at 12% ABV
  • Margarita (Shaken Cocktail): 2oz Tequila Blanco (80 proof), 1oz Cointreau (80 proof), 1oz Lime Juice, ~5.3oz after shaking if following a 25% dilution rule*
  • Manhattan (Stirred Cocktail): 2oz Rye (90 proof), 1oz Sweet Vermouth (33 proof for a Carpano Antica), 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters (~1/16oz at 91 proof), ~4.08oz after stirring*

*25% dilution rule = ideal amount of ice melting should result in a drink whose final volume is 25% water

First, let’s calculate, in ounces, the alcohol content of a standard serving for each of our beverages:

  • Beer: 12oz x 6% = .72oz of alcohol
  • Wine: 5oz x 12% = .6oz of alcohol
  • Margarita: (2oz x 40%) + (1oz x 40%) + (1oz x 0%) + (1.3oz (dilution) x 0%) = 1.2oz of alcohol
  • Manhattan: (2oz x 45%) + (1oz x 16.5%) + (0.0625oz x 45.5%) + (1.0125oz (dilution) x 0%) = 1.093oz of alcohol

A ranking clearly emerges, with the only surprise being that Margaritas have more alcohol than Manhattans (though you don’t notice it as much thanks to the juice). But things get more interesting when you consider how much of any beverage you’re likely to drink.

For instance, a bottle of wine is 750ml, or 25.36oz. That’s roughly 5 glasses of wine, which is ~3oz of alcohol. A pitcher of beer is roughly 60oz, which again is 5 servings or 3.6oz of alcohol.

Now, I don’t know about you, but a bottle of wine or a pitcher of beer is… a bit much. I can enjoy maybe 3 glasses of wine or 4 beers in a night without really regretting it (and even then, it’s sure to stay with me). Oddly enough, my limit with cocktails is a bit higher — around 3 or 4 — which, as you recall is, somewhere in the neighborhood of 3oz – 4.8oz of alcohol using the calculations above.

So why is that three Manhattans don’t hit me the way an entire body of wine would?

I chalk it up to volume of liquid. With the Manhattans, that’s just ~12oz of liquid as opposed to ~25oz with the wine. That difference (for me, anyway) is usually made up with water, thus keeping me hydrated. Beer and wine just leave less room for that.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure which is better. But I can say I’d rather have three Manhattans than a bottle of wine or a pitcher of beer. Just…. slowly :]

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One thought on “Cocktail Calculus: How boozy is your poison of choice?

  1. […] A month ago, I did a comparison of ABVs for different types of alcoholic beverage, including beer, wine, a stirred cocktail and a shake…. […]

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