Alcohol Percentage Content By Beverage

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Drinking alcohol has been a staple across global cultures for thousands of years. People drink collectively to celebrate life events, and they drink individually for various reasons from enjoying the flavor to how it makes them feel (or not feel). 

A wide variety of alcohol types exist worldwide, however, to structure laws around drinking the United States has classified the types as beer, wine, and liquor. In addition, several subcategories were developed to regulate the production of individual alcoholic beverages. 

You may ask why it is important to know what percent of alcohol is whiskey, or how much alcohol is in rum or any other drink. While we may not give it much thought, understanding these specifics and variations helps alcohol manufacturers, distributors, sellers, bar/restaurant personnel and consumers determine how much alcohol is consumed per serving. We also know overindulging can have many health and safety concerns, so understanding the amount of alcohol you’re consuming can be a helpful safety net.

Types of Alcohol and Content Percentage

People who enjoy alcohol are known to have their preferences. For example, some strictly drink beer, while others prefer their wine. Then some individuals have a whole array of alcohol that they like to choose from in their liquor cabinet at home. 

Multiple types of bottles of alcohol set up on a bar

Let’s take a look at some common types of alcohol along with their ABV (alcohol by volume) content. You will notice from this list there is a wide range of alcohol content among the beverage choices.

Liquor or Spirits

  • Vodka: This type of alcohol has an ABV starting around 40 percent, but it goes up to 95 percent.
  • Gin: This beverage has an ABV of 36-50 percent.
  • Rum: Rum alcohol content is an ABV of 36-50 percent.
  • Whiskey: Whiskey alcohol percentage is subdivided among scotch, bourbon, and Irish and Canadian whiskeys. ABV of Whiskey can range from 36 percent to 50 percent depending on the aging process.
  • Tequila: Tequila sold in the US is not allowed to contain additional drugs. The ABV for Tequila is typically around 50-51 percent.
  • Liqueurs: These beverages are distilled spirits that are combined with other ingredients such as sugar, fruit, cream, or herbs. Liqueurs include amaretto, triple sec, schnapps, and Sambuca and may not have more than 15 percent ABV, on average.


  • Fortified wine: This is a type of fruit and/or honey alcohol that, either has an ABV of 16-24 percent due to the addition of brandy or because of the duration of its fermentation. 
  • Unfortified wine: This type is a standard fruit or honey alcohol, such as ice wine or mead, and contains 16 percent or less ABV.


  • Beer: This is the most popular beverage worldwide. Subcategories are lagers, pilsners, flavored beers, and ale. The ABV in beers varies, depending on the brewing process. It is generally between 4 percent and 8 percent, with 5-6 percent being the standard in the United States. However, some craft beers are as high as 12 percent ABV.
  • Malt beverages:  The ABV can range up to 15 percent, as it includes beers with additional alcohol added.
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Alcohol Content Quick Reference

  • Fortified Wine ABV: 16-24%
  • Unfortified Wine ABV: 14-16%
  • Beer ABV: 4-8%
  • Whiskey ABV: 36-50%
  • Vodka ABV: 40-95%
  • Gin ABV: 36-50%
  • Rum ABV: 36-50%
  • Tequila ABV: 50-51%
  • Malt Beverage ABV: 15%
  • Liqueurs ABV: 15%

The Alcohol Content in a Standard Drink

While it is important to understand alcohol content by type, it is also relevant to understand how much alcohol there is in a standard drink. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), informs that a standard drink contains around 14 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol.  In the United States this can typically be found in:

  • 5 ounces of wine at 12% ABV.
  • 12 ounces of beer, or one bottle at 5% ABV.
  • 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, or one shot, at 40% ABV.
  • 8-9 ounces of malt liquor at 7% ABV.

What Drink Has the Highest Alcohol Content?

Generally, the title for the most alcoholic drink goes to certain brands of spirits known as “neutral grain spirits,” which boast alcohol levels nearing the theoretical limit of distillation. Typically, these spirits can reach an astounding 95% alcohol by volume (ABV). A prime example of such an extreme spirit is Everclear, which offers versions that are 190 proof, meaning they contain 95% alcohol. This level of alcohol concentration is so high that Everclear is actually illegal in several states due to its potency and health risks.

Another contender is Spirytus vodka. Originating from Poland, Spirytus is another 190-proof spirit, tying with Everclear at 95% ABV. It’s primarily used in very small amounts to enhance the potency of homemade concoctions and traditional recipes. Due to their extreme strength, both should be handled with care and consumed responsibly, typically diluted or used as components in mixed drinks rather than being consumed straight.

Alcohol Use Disorder in the United States

There is a broad range of problematic drinking in the United States so alcohol percentages need to be understood by those who sell and consume alcohol as well as those who treat Alcohol Use Disorder.

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is characterized by compulsive drinking that continues despite the harm it causes to one’s self or others. People with this diagnosis may feel helpless or unable to quit or make changes without assistance.

Some signs of AUD are:

  • Problems controlling frequency and amount of drinking
  • Preoccupation with alcohol (always thinking about the next drink)
  • Cravings and urges to drink
  • Increased tolerance levels resulting in drinking more to get the same effect
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, shaking, and nausea
  • Trouble regulating moods and actions (inappropriate behaviors)
  • Difficulty with responsibilities at home or work
  • Drinking in unsafe situations
  • Inability to recognize risky situations

Excessive drinking can lead to long-term health issues such as liver damage and cancer, alcohol poisoning, hospitalization, car accidents, other injuries, or death.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) states that “adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women when alcohol is consumed. Drinking less is better for health than drinking more.”

If you need support to cut back on alcohol or quit altogether, Ria Health can help. Through our convenient telemedicine app, we provide the tools and resources you need to meet your goals. Your customized treatment plan will include medical and coaching support right from home and on your schedule. Learn more about how it works, or get in touch with a member of our team today.

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Written By:
Lisa Keeley
Lisa Keeley is a freelance writer who believes in the uplifting power of words. She especially enjoys writing about health, relationships, employment, and living one’s best life. Lisa has a Master’s in Education and previously worked in vocational and educational services. Her articles can be found on Your Tango, Thrive Global, Heart to Heart, Medium, Muck Rack, and on various professional websites.
Reviewed By:
Ria Health Team
Ria Health’s editorial team is a group of experienced copywriters, researchers, and healthcare professionals dedicated to removing stigma and improving public knowledge around alcohol use disorder. Articles written by the “Ria Team” are collaborative works completed by several members of our writing team, fact-checked and edited to a high standard of empathy and accuracy.

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