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Frequently Asked Questions

Are some forms of beverage alcohol ‘safer’ than others?

Alcohol is alcohol. One “standard drink” or “drink-equivalent” contains the same amount of the same pure alcohol called ethanol. Research has linked alcohol consumption to certain health outcomes, and studies show that these associations are attributable to ethanol. Individuals with questions about their alcohol consumption should reach out to their healthcare providers.

When consuming any type of alcohol, it is important to understand the definition of a standard drink and how much alcohol is in each beverage consumed. Use the Calculator to find out! Additional tools on responsible consumption can be found at

Is it true that distilled spirits are ‘harder’ than beer or wine?

No. When it comes to alcohol, there is no beverage of moderation, only the practice of moderation. The standard drink equivalents of distilled spirits, beer and wine contain the same amount of alcohol. A distilled spirits beverage could contain more or less alcohol than a beer or wine beverage. A critical aspect of responsible consumption is understanding the definition of a standard drink and how much alcohol is in each beverage consumed.

Aren’t canned cocktails ‘stronger’ than wine spritzers and other sparkling malt beverages?

Not necessarily. Ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages can be spirits-, wine-, malt-, or sugar-based, and they vary in ‘strength’ (or alcohol by volume) considerably. Can sizes vary, too. That’s why knowing how to calculate standard drinks is so important. For example, a 12oz malt-based RTD with 5% ABV, a 12oz spirits-based RTD with 5% ABV, and a 12oz beer with 5% ABV each equate to one standard drink equivalent and have the exact same alcohol content.

Some places only sell certain types of beverages. Is there a reason why types of alcohol are treated differently?

There is no scientific, public safety, or public policy basis to differentiate between distilled spirits, wine, and beer – especially when some products, such as ready-to-drink beverages, may have the exact same alcohol by volume. Treating beverage types differently sends the dangerous message that some forms of alcohol are ‘safer’ than others.

Why are the Dietary Guidelines different for males and females?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate alcohol consumption as up to 2 drinks per day for males and up to 1 drink per day for females. Most people think the different recommendations are solely based upon body weight, but this is only one factor. For example, females have less water in their bodies; therefore, if a female and a male of the same size and weight drink the same amount of alcohol, a female is likely to reach a higher concentration of alcohol in her blood. Try this Blood Alcohol Content Calculator to learn more about how different factors affect your BAC depending on your gender, weight, the food you eat, as well as other important variables.

Are there individuals who should not drink alcohol?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans outlines potential health risks associated with alcohol consumption and identify individuals who should not drink beverage alcohol. These individuals include those who are pregnant or might be pregnant; are under the legal age for drinking; have certain medical conditions or are taking certain medications that can interact with alcohol; are recovering from an alcohol use disorder or if they are unable to control the amount they drink; or plan to drive or take part in other activities that require skill, coordination, and alertness. Individuals should discuss questions about alcohol consumption with their physician, who can determine what is best for them based on individual factors, such as family history, genetics, and lifestyle.