What is a Standard Drink?

It is important to understand what a standard drink is so that when you are drinking you can manage how much alcohol you consume. This can help you stick to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines.

In Australia, a standard drink is any drink containing 10 grams of alcohol, regardless of container size or alcohol type (e.g beer, wine, spirit).

A standard drink is a unit of measurement. In the same way one metre measures a particular distance travelled, one standard drink measures a particular amount of alcohol consumed.

Alcoholic beverages are sold and served in many different sized containers. Different types of beverages contain different amounts of alcohol, and glass sizes are often not the same. A glass or container can hold more than one standard drink of alcohol. This can make it difficult to know how many standard drinks you consume. Using standard drinks to measure your alcohol consumption is more accurate than counting the number of glasses or other containers you have consumed. [1]

If you are drinking packaged liquor the number of standard drinks should be written on the side of the beverage container.

Use these images to see how many standard drinks are in each type of beverage.

 

One standard drink is equal to approximately: [1]

  • 285 mL of full strength beer (4.8% alc. vol)
  • 375 mL of mid strength beer (3.5% alc.vol)
  • 425 mL of low strength beer (2.7% alc. vol)
  • 100 mL of wine (red – 13% alc. vol, and white – 11.5% alc. vol)
  • 100 mL of champagne (12% alc. vol) (3)
  • 30 mL of spirits (40% alc. vol)
  • 275 mL bottle of ready-to-drink beverage (5% alcohol content)

Australian food labelling laws requires all packaged alcohol to include the number of standard drinks on its label. Counting your standard drinks can help you stay within the NHMRC Guidelines: [2]

GUIDELINE 1: Reducing the risk of alcohol-related harm over a lifetime.

The lifetime risk of harm from drinking increases with the amount consumed. For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.

GUIDELINE 2: Reducing the risk of injury on a single occasion

On a single occasion of drinking, the risk of alcohol-related injury increases with the amount consumed. For healthy men and women, drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.

 

A glass of wine is often poured in amounts greater than a standard drink. A wine glass is misleading and actually holds around 1.5 to 1.8 standard drinks.

[1] Australian Government. (2010). Standard drinks guide. Available at http://www.alcohol.gov.au/internet/alcohol/publishing.nsf/Content/drinksguide-cnt

[2] National Health and Medical Research Council. (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol: Commonwealth of Australia. Available at http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines/publications/ds10