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What does "one drink" mean to you?
Ask for a drink in Austria and you might get more than you bargained for. Order one in the UK and you might feel like you’ve been given the short end of the tap. A new study published in the journal Addiction revealed that the definition of “one drink” varies drastically from country to country.
The report examined the standard government-dictated measurements of a single drink in 75 different countries around the world and found that the sizes range from a low of 8 grams of ethanol (countries like the UK and Iceland) to 20 grams (Austria). Researchers also found that some countries were very precise about their definition of a drink while others were more lax. Luxembourg, for example, defines one drink as containing 12.8 grams of ethanol while Portugal allows for wiggle room by specifying somewhere between 10 and 12 grams.
If you’re wondering where the US stands, we define a drink as containing a respectable 14 grams of ethanol.
The study also looked at countries’ definitions of low-risk drinking habits—a.k.a. the amount a man or woman could safely consume per day. One of the findings was that while Austria has the most generous concepts of a standard drink, their guidelines state that a man should only have a little bit more than one drink per day, while a woman is only allotted 16 grams of ethanol—less than one drink by their definition. Chile and the US allow for the most alcohol consumption in their guidelines: Both say that women can safely drink 42 grams of ethanol a day (about three cans of beer) and men can drink 56 grams (four cans of beer).
So while the pours might be more generous in Austria, you’re better off sticking to American bars. The drinks might be smaller, but you can have a lot more of them.