Battle of the Booze: Which popular cocktail packs the most punch?

A month ago, I did a comparison of ABVs for different types of alcoholic beverage, including beer, wine, a stirred cocktail and a shaken cocktail.

Today, I’m going to do the same thing for 12 popular cocktails, including: Manhattan, Old-Fashioned, Corpse Reviver #2, Sidecar, French 75, Negroni, Margarita, Daiquiri, Mai-Tai, Bloody Mary and, yes, a Long Island Iced Tea.

Before I dive into the results, a few words to the wise:

  • Shaken & stirred drinks have an additional 25% added to their total volume to account for ice melting
  • Drinks served over ice are listed at their start ABV; yes, they will “soften” as the ice melts
  • Recipes are mixture of common ratios and the IBA standard

Okay? Okay. Onto the list, going from highest to lowest ABV.
[NOTE: Each item is listed as: “Drink — (ABV, Volume, Ounces of Alcohol per serving)]

  1. Old-Fashioned — (38.09%, 2.44oz in volume, 0.93oz alcohol)
  2. Manhattan — (27.68%, 4.75oz in volume, 1.31oz alcohol)
  3. Mai-Tai — (26.2%, 6oz in volume, 1.57oz alcohol)
  4. Sidecar — (25%, 4oz in volume, 1oz alcohol)
  5. Margarita — (22.5%, 5.33oz in volume, 1.2oz alcohol)
  6. Negroni — (20.13%, 4oz in volume, 0.81oz alcohol)
  7. Long Island Iced Tea — (19.35%, 6.4oz  in volume, 1.24oz alcohol)
  8. Corpse Reviver #2 — (18.73%, 4.08oz  in volume, 0.76oz alcohol)
  9. Cosmopolitan — (16.5%, 6.67oz  in volume, 1.10oz alcohol)
  10. French 75 — (15.43%, 4.67oz in volume, 0.72oz alcohol)
  11. Daiquiri — (15%, 5.33oz in volume, 0.8oz alcohol)
  12. Bloody Mary — (12%, 7.5oz in volume, 0.9oz alcohol)

What this list tells me is that ABV is not really an indicator of how drunk you’re going to get; that’s totally up to how much you’re drinking. Well, duh. So let’s sort this list by “Ounces of Alcohol per serving” instead:

  1. Mai-Tai — (26.2%, 6oz in volume, 1.57oz alcohol)
  2. Manhattan — (27.68%, 4.75oz in volume, 1.31oz alcohol)
  3. Long Island Iced Tea — (19.35%, 6.4oz  in volume, 1.24oz alcohol)
  4. Margarita — (22.5%, 5.33oz in volume, 1.2oz alcohol)
  5. Cosmopolitan — (16.5%, 6.67oz  in volume, 1.10oz alcohol)
  6. Sidecar — (25%, 4oz in volume, 1oz alcohol)
  7. Old-Fashioned — (38.09%, 2.44oz in volume, 0.93oz alcohol)
  8. Bloody Mary — (12%, 7.5oz in volume, 0.9oz alcohol)
  9. Negroni — (20.13%, 4oz in volume, 0.81oz alcohol)
  10. Daiquiri — (15%, 5.33oz in volume, 0.8oz alcohol)
  11. Corpse Reviver #2 — (18.73%, 4.08oz  in volume, 0.76oz alcohol)
  12. French 75 — (15.43%, 4.67oz in volume, 0.72oz alcohol)

Simply put, this shows us that if you’re rounding your third Margarita while your friend is just finishing off their second Old-Fashioned, you’re going to be nearly twice as drunk, despite whatever pre-conceived notions you might have about which is the stiffer drink. Interestingly enough, our boozy and stirred star child, The Manhattan, is at the top of both lists, demonstrating that some common wisdoms hold true even in the face of bitter analysis.

How about the much aligned Long Island Iced Tea, often ordered for its, ahem, potency? By the standards above, it is actually does pack quite the punch but it also comes in a six and a half ounce servings so assuming you don’t drink it down as quickly as actual iced tea, you should be fine.

Your safest bet is a French 75, largely in part due to the small amount of gin (just 1oz) and the use of a lower proof champagne (in this case, Moet @ 12% ABV). A Daiquiri is likely to treat you pretty well too, provided there’s someone behind the stick who actually knows how to make one properly.

Want to calculate the eABV and the amount of alcohol for your own drinks? It’s easy, just follow this formula:

(Ingredient 1 Volume x Ingredient 1 ABV) + (Ingredient 2 Volume x Ingredient 2 ABV) + … + (Ingredient N Volume x Ingredient N ABV) / ((Volume of ingredients that will be shaken or stirred) * 1.33)

This gives you the effective ABV (eABV). If you want the amount of alcohol, just don’t divide by (Volume x 1.33). For drinks with a top or a float, it’s a little trickier and I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader.

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