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How big is a standard drink?

You’ve seen it written on the labels of beer and wine bottles: the number of standard drinks. But what exactly is a standard drink?


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A standard drink is the amount of alcohol that an average person can process in one hour. This means that if you drink a bottle of beer that’s 1.5 standard drinks then your body will have processed that in roughly an hour-and-a-half. This makes it a handy way to measure whether you’re able to drive or not.

To help people understand how much a standard drink is – with The Tomorrow Project – has released The Standard Glasses. The set contains a beer glass, a wine glass and a spirit measure. Each has graduations that mark the level for one standard drink based on the amount of alcohol in the drink. So a 4% beer is 320ml, a 5% beer is 250ml. If you prefer wine, a 12% wine is 110ml and a 14% wine is only 90ml.

A quick experiment in the Consumer NZ office found nearly everyone overestimated how much a standard drink was. We hope this new education drive will mean many more people will be in the know and we’ll have fewer drunks driving.