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What is a standard drink?

In Canada, a standard drink contains about 13.6 grams of pure alcohol. Once you know what a standard drink is, you will know how much alcohol you are actually drinking.

One Standard Drink equals:

Different Sizes

Alcoholic beverages are sold and served in many different sized containers. As such, using standard drinks to measure your alcohol consumption is more accurate than counting the number of drinks you have had. Some drinks have more alcohol, including:

  • Coolers which may have seven per cent alcohol.
  • Sweeter drinks, like Port can have 20 per cent alcohol content or a liqueur like apricot brandy can have an alcohol content of 25 per cent.
  • Specialty drinks, like a martini or long island ice tea, which combine a variety of alcohols. A martini, for instance, can have three or more standard shots of various types of alcohol. So one martini can be equal to drinking three beers. Long island ice tea, on the other hand, has four shots, so one drink equals four standard beers.

Knowing what a standard drink is helps you lower associated short-term risks and harms such as hangovers, headaches, nausea, shakiness, vomiting (and other symptoms of alcohol poisoning), memory loss, falls and injury, assaults, car accidents and accidental death. It also helps reduce long-term chronic health risks such as cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, brain damage, diabetes, hypertension and sexual dysfunction.

Many people are surprised to learn what counts as a standard drink, but taking the time to educate yourself on Canada’s Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines can help you know your limits and drink more responsibly.  

If you choose to drink, here are suggested maximum daily limits for men and women:

Women – no more than two standard drinks/day most days and no more than 10 standard drinks a week.

Men – no more than three standard drinks/day most days and no more than 15 drinks a week.

Other Ways to Lower Your Risk

•Plan at least two non-drinking days every week to avoid developing a habit.
Set limits for yourself and stick to them.
•Drink slowly no more than two standard drinks in any three hours.
•For every drink of alcohol, have one alcohol-free drink.
Eat before, and when you drink.
•Your age, body weight and health problems may suggest lower limits.
•If you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding, the safest choice is to drink no alcohol at all