Alcohol Drinks

Alcohol units are a United Kingdom-based drinking measure system used to make it easier to compare the actual alcohol content of different drinks of varying volumes and alcohol percentages.

The rough guideline is that an average adult male can metabolise roughly one unit of alcohol per hour, giving us an idea of how long alcohol is able to stay in our system based on how many units we have consumed.

Adults are advised not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week to avoid health issues such as alcohol-related heart disease or the possibility of alcohol dependence. If you reach this amount in less than a week, it is highly recommended that you don’t drink for the rest of that week in order to avoid going above the 14 units mark and to help prevent alcohol dependency.

But how many units are in a ml or vice versa?

One unit is equivalent to 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol.

By normal drink standards, this amount is comparable to:

  • Half a pint of standard strength lager (4% ABV)
  • 2/3rds of a small glass of standard strength red wine (12% ABV) (wine glass measure)
  • A single measure of spirit
Whiskey with ice

How to Calculate Alcohol Units

The formula to work out how many units an alcoholic drink contains is simple, it just involves multiplying the number of litres of the whole drink (e.g. 0.5 for a 500ml beer) by the ABV percentage (e.g. 5%).

So, in the example drink used above, 0.5 x 5 = 2.5 units.

What does ABV mean?

ABV stands for alcohol by volume and tells us by law what percentage of any drink is made up of alcohol. The simplest way to put it is that a drink of 5% ABV is 5% alcohol, it’s that simple.

However, with most drinks varying in ABV and in volume, keeping track of how much you’re actually drinking can be complicated, which is why units were devised to create a standard measurement across all drinks.

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Infographic explaining units of alcohol
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