How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?

Many of us think we drink safely, but we often have misconceptions about how much we’ve actually drunk. And most of us know that drinking too much alcohol is bad for us. So it is not uncommon for us to ask ourselves, “How much alcohol is safe to drink? Or “Am I drinking too much?” And just how much alcohol is in that beer? wine? brandy? or cocktail?

Alcohol: How Much Can I Safely Drink? What’s Ok?

The answer is actually pretty simple. To meet dietary and health recommendations, researchers and doctors typically suggest no more than . . .

  • Men: 2 standard drinks/day
  • Women: 1 standard drink/day

But what equals a standard drink? One beer? One glass of wine? One margarita?

What is a Standard Drink of Alcohol?

Each alcoholic beverage has a different percentage of alcohol in it, so a unit of measure, called the Standard Drink, is used to help us understand how potent a particular drink is and track how much alcohol we’re adding to our bodies.

The following infographic provides you with an easy formula for converting any alcoholic beverage into standard drink units and some visualizations of how many standard drinks are in common alcoholic drinks like a martini, bottle of beer, or glass of wine.

How Much Alcohol is in . . . My Beer? Wine? Brandy?

You can use the formula provided in the infographic to determine how much alcohol is any alcoholic beverage you have, but here’s a quick chart with some common drinks.

Name Size
of Bottle
Standard Drinks
in Bottle
Beer 12 oz can 12% 1

Malt Liquor

Strong Lager, Ale

40oz bottle 8% 6

Table Wine

Grape, Dessert

750 ml bottle 12% 5

Fortified Wine

Madeira, Marsala, Port, Sherry, Vermouth      

750 ml bottle 19% 8

Distilled Spirits

Brandy, Gin, Tequila, Vodka, Whiskey

750 ml bottle 40% 17

Remember, cocktails and mixed drinks are created using distilled spirits and fortified wine. And the amount of alcohol by volume for mixed drinks will vary greatly since they are more of an art than science in how they are created.

Should I Drink to Be Healthy?

Understanding No-Risk, Low-Risk, and High-Risk

Researchers are continually experimenting with whether alcohol is good for your health. And the results often swing back and forth between, yes, maybe, in moderation, and no.

One reason the health recommended drink number is no more than

  • 1 drink for women/day
  • 2 drinks for men/day

is that those numbers tend to be a relatively “low risk” number for most people.

Generally speaking, if you follow those standard drink guidelines, the risk that you will become addicted is lower than if you exceeded those guidelines.

And risk is everything when it comes to alcohol.

Alcohol is an addictive substance. And once the addictive part of your brain has been triggered, you will not be able to control it and will need help to treat the disease.

Often people want to know how much alcohol they can drink before they get drunk or how much they can have and still be able to drive, but the real question is “is drinking even worth the risk”? Before long, a simple habit can develop into a dependency or addiction.

Which is why any small health benefits that might come from drinking alcohol are generally out-weighed by the reality of the substance’s addictive nature.

I’m A Recovering Alcoholic. . .

But I Can Still Have One Drink, Right?

Wrong. In fact, picking up alcohol again after you’ve not been drinking for awhile is extremely dangerous. During your time not drinking, your tolerance level for alcohol has dropped; this means that if it used to take you 12 drinks to get drunk, drinking the same amount after withdrawal might poison you.

If you have quit drinking or are a former alcoholic currently in recovery, you should not follow even the standard drink guideline. You should follow the complete abstinence rule.

One of our guests, Debbie, finally realized this after attending several rehab programs—a realization that eventually saved her life. (Watch the video of her story: Learning to Say No to One Drink Saved My Life)

If you or someone you love has been addicted to alcohol, you should seek assistance immediately. For years, Duffy’s has given guests the tools they need to find life on the other side of the bottle.