Spirit: Understanding Your Alcohol

A brief overview of some alcoholic beverage terms, and some cautions.


Wow, yet another blog post title that wrote itself!  Thanks Ghost!

Alcohol is one of the beverages I enjoy in moderation (might have to do with the fact I am still young).  When I drink, I typically have are beer, vodka, and whiskey.  I sometimes drink tequila if I feel like spending a bit more.  Talking with my peers, I am unique in the fact I take my drinks straight.  I don’t add anything to them, just add the liquor into a glass and drink it.

Instead of discussing my choice of poison, I am going to give some loose definitions for different kinds of ethanol-infused solutions.  My information comes from a few quick searches online, and from one of my nutrition classes.

Alcohol Proof:  This is how “strong” the drink is.  Proof is measured as twice the alcohol by volume (ABV) amount in America.  Meaning a 100-proof drink is 50% ethanol.

Beer:  This is an alcoholic drink made with fermented grains with hops added for flavor, and slowly fermented with yeast.  A typical serving of beer has somewhere between 5-9% ethanol.  A standard serving is 12 fluid ounces.  Some beers are stronger, so keep that in consideration when drinking, as these have a much smaller serving size.

Wine:  This is a fermented grape drink.  Sometimes other fruits are fermented to make different wines, but this is a looser interpretation of wine.  Wine typically has 12-17% ethanol.  A serving size is 5 fluid ounces.

Spirits (liquor):  These are drinks that are made, and then distilled to have a higher proof/ABV.  Any alcoholic beverage with more than 20% ABV is considered a spirit.  Drinks like vodka, tequila, and whiskey are considered spirits.  A serving of these is 1 to 1.5 fluid ounces.

Some of you might be wondering what is considered a “safe” amount to drink.  One drink a day for women, and up to two drinks a day for men is considered safe, according to mayoclinic.com.  Now, this does not mean you have to drink this much.  It is healthier to drink as little as you can.

Ethanol, even when drank responsibly can pack a lot of Calories, as 1 gram of ethanol contains 7 Calories (compare this to 1 gram of fat with 9 Calories).  This is not even considering mixed drinks, which have even more stuff added that increases the number of Calories per serving.  Not to mention there is an age restriction in the United States, so anyone under the age of 21 probably should not drink alcohol anyway.

What kind of drinks do you guys out there enjoy (if you are legal, that is)?  Anyone abstain from drinking alcohol at all?  If so, would you like to share why in the comments, provided it’s not too personal (don’t want to make things awkward for you guys!)?

Author: The Nutrition Punk

Some snarky college student at Oregon State University studying nutrition. Listens to too much rock, heavy metal and other loud music. My goal is to have a place to eliminate some misinformation about nutrition while trying to be funny about it. Note: I am not a doctor, so any advise on this site is not meant to be taken as medical advice.

2 thoughts on “Spirit: Understanding Your Alcohol”

  1. There is some good news about your alcohol consumption. It seems that the thermogenic effect of food for ethanol means the calories are about 20% less than you think they are https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8184963 . More good news is that it seems that that de novo lipogenesis is not very efficient when calories are coming from ethanol see: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/5/928.full . I’m not going to claim alcohol is healthy (that post is still in my drafts), but it is not the vice that it is commonly portrayed as.


    1. It seems most of the sources I’ve found regarding the Calorie counts is 7 Cal per gram. Now the fate of these Calories are not described (I had not read these studies before). However, I would still not advise high amounts of alcohol, more for its impact on body tissues.

      Now, word of advice from one science-guy to another. One thing my university professors advise is to keep the research within about 5 years or so, just because the field is constantly changing (hopefully I don’t sound too much like a condescending asshole)!

      Thank you very much for your response! You definitely gave me more food for thought on the topic!


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