What percentage of alcohol does each drink have?

What percentage of alcohol does each drink have?

Having a drink or a beer can be very tempting when it's summer, if you are at a party or if you’re just watching a football game. Sometimes we use it for relief or calm. To keep this behavior from getting out of hand, it is important to know how much alcohol each drink has and how it affects your body.


cups of wine

How is alcoholic strength by volume calculated?

Let's get a little theoretical. Alcoholic strength is represented by the percentage of alcohol a drink contains. To calculate it the drink must be at 20ºC in order for the number to accurately represent the percentage of alcohol; this is also the number that will be printed later in the packaging.

For you to understand it better, we will show you an example. If a drink has 25 degrees of alcohol, this means that out of 100ml, 27 of them are from pure alcohol. There’s also a formula that you can use to calculate the amount of pure alcohol present in a beverage.


alcohol grams formula

How to calculate the grams of alcohol with the UBE table

Recently, some criteria have been established in Spain in order to assure the responsible consumption of alcohol and to enable the calculation of total alcohol intake.

For this purpose, the Standard Beverage Unit (UBE) and the Standard Drink (TE) were established. This measurement was set at 10ml of pure alcohol per unit. However, the quantity of grams changes depending on the country. For example, in the United States or Canada a Standard Drink Unit is set at 13-14ml. 

This measurement was created because it makes it easier for us to calculate the amount of grams that are being consumed or distributed, especially in the field of primary health care. However, according to a study made by Diageo, only 35% of Spaniards are familiar with these measurements. 

But don’t worry, in the following table we will show you how simple it is to calculate the grams of alcohol present in a drink:


Standard beverage unit


Alcohol can be compatible with a healthy lifestyle, as long as it is consumed moderately and responsibly. The Ministry of Health recommends a consumption below 20 grams of pure alcohol per day in women and below 30 grams in men. But remember that even if you don’t drink a lot of alcohol, you’re still being exposed to some risks.

Types of alcoholic beverages


An alcoholic drink is understood to be one that contains 1% or more of ethanol, which is also known as ethyl alcohol. All alcoholic beverages fit into two main types:  

1. Fermented. 

Fermented beverages are those that come from a process called fermentation. This phenomenon happens when you let fruit rest for a while at an appropriate temperature. During this time, the fruit blends with microscopic substances like yeast and together they transform the sugar of the fruit into alcohol. Some alcoholic drinks that belong to this type are:

o Wine: An alcoholic beverage obtained through the fermentation of grapes. it contains 10 - 18 degrees of pure alcohol. 

o Beer: An alcoholic drink produced from barley and hops. Its alcohol content varies from 2 -11 degrees of pure alcohol.

o Cider: An alcoholic drink with a low alcohol content that comes from the fermentation of apples. Its pure alcohol content ranges from 2-8 degrees.

2. Distilled spirit or distilled liquor

It is obtained through an artificial process by distilling a fermented drink. This process purifies the liquids and eliminates the dilution components to increase the concentration of pure alcohol. These beverages have a higher alcohol content and are equivalent to 2 UBE. Some examples of this kind of drink are:

o Whiskey: High alcoholic strength drink obtained through the distillation of barley and other cereals such as corn and rye. It usually contains between 37 to 42 degrees of pure alcohol

o Rum: Drink that comes from the fermentation and distillation of sugar cane. Its pure alcohol content usually ranges from 37 to 40 degrees.

o Brandy: Alcoholic drink that comes from the distillation of different wines. Its pure alcohol content oscillates between 36 and 40 degrees

o Geneva or Gin: Drink obtained by the distillation of cereals. Its pure alcohol content ranges from 35 to 40 degrees.

o Vodka: High alcoholic-strength drink obtained from rye, wheat, or potatoes. Its pure alcohol content varies between 37 to 42 degrees.

o Liqueur: Drink obtained through vegetable extracts. It usually contains between 8 to 30 degrees of pure alcohol.

o Spirits: High alcohol-content drink obtained by the distillation of wine and other fermented substances such as cereals, sugar cane or beets. Its pure alcohol content ranges from 65 to 85 degrees.  

Classification of alcoholic beverages

As you may have noticed, alcohol drinks can be classified in two ways; depending on their origin and on the way they are fabricated. In the list below we show you different fermented and distilled beverages with their respective alcohol by volume percentage:


How Alcohol Affects Your Body

Alcoholic beverages contain ethanol, a substance that impacts and has consequences in our organism; in our brain, our liver and our heart. According to López Illescas, ethanol is "a drug that affects our brain". Also, it can create dependency. 

Drinking alcohol has many short and long-term effects. They vary a lot depending on how much alcohol you drink and whether you mix it with other substances, such as drugs. But do you know exactly how alcohol intake affects you?

Alcohol has a gradual effect on our bodies. On the one hand, it can cause excitement, impulsive behavior, and euphoria. But over time it causes a loss of balance, sleepiness, confusion, and vomiting.

On the other hand, its long term effects can be irreversible to the body. Alcohol can affect the neurons of the central nervous system, the ones that are related to memory loss and cognitive impairment. Also, it can affect the digestive system favoring the appearance of different diseases. Also, if consumed uncontrollably it can cause stomach, larynx or pancreas cancer.

It can even cause an increase in our cardiac activity which can lead to high blood pressure and affect the reproductive system. Now, after knowing all this information, what do you think about alcohol?