June 28, 2023

What is a standard drink?

standard drinks on a bar

Different types of alcoholic drinks contain varying amounts of alcohol.

This can make it tricky to keep track of how much you’re actually drinking.

In fact, one serving is usually more than one 'standard drink':

  • a pot of full-strength beer has 1.1 standard drinks
  • a 375ml stubby of full-strength beer is around 1.4 standard drinks
  • an average glass of white wine (150mls) has 1.4 standard drinks
  • an average glass of red wine (150mls) has 1.6 standard drinks. 1

An Australian standard drink contains 10g of alcohol (12.5ml of pure alcohol).

It’s handy info to know, because health experts recommend no more than 4 standard drinks a day and no more than 10 standard drinks a week.2

Why? Because each extra drink can increase the risk of injury and accidents and impact long-term health.2

If you’re somebody who drinks and would like to keep an eye on your drinking, keeping track of the number of standard drinks in your beverages can help.

Know how much to pour for a standard drink:

standard drinks

Keeping track of your drinks

Other factors that make it difficult to track how much you’re drinking include:

  • varying glass sizes at different venues
  • drinks mixed with unknown quantities of alcohol, e.g. in cocktails and alcoholic punches
  • shared jugs and casks
  • ‘topping up’ glasses before they’re empty.

You can also keep track of how many standard drinks you’re having by:

  • reading the label — all alcohol containers in Australia must show the number of standard drinks they contain
  • using an online calculator — check out the Drinks Calculator or the Standard Drink Calculator
  • asking the bar or restaurant staff — if you’re drinking a cocktail or other type of mixed drink, the bar staff should be able to tell you how many standard drinks are in it.

Why count standard drinks?

For some people, counting standard drinks can help reduce their drinking and help them stick to the Australian drinking guidelines.

By following the Australian drinking guidelines you can reduce your immediate risk of injury and accidents and your risk of developing cancers, including breast, stomach and bowel.2 Read the guidelines on the NHMRC website

It’s a simple equation: the less you drink; the more you reduce your risks.

And, some countries are beginning to introduce even lower drinking guidelines.

In 2023, Canada recommended no more than 2 drinks per week to minimise health risks.3

Counting your drinks can also help you track your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels and help determine whether you’re OK to drive.

As a general rule, if you’re planning on drinking, you should have no more than 1 standard drink per hour.4 You can read more about this on our article about BAC.

Want to know more about standard drinks? Check out the standard drinks guide on the Department of Health website.

Help and support

If you’re worried about your drinking or a loved one’s use of alcohol, there’s support available:

  • National Alcohol and Drug Hotline (1800 250 015): Confidential telephone counselling, information and referral service for the general public, concerned family and friends, students and health professionals.
  • Path2Help: Intuitive online tool designed to help you find support and information tailored to the specific needs of your loved one who uses alcohol and other drugs or yourself.
  • Drug Info and Advice line (1800 85 85 84): for further information and advice about alcohol and other drugs. 
  1. Department of Health and Aged Care. Standard drinks guide2020 [09.05.2023].
  2. National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol 2020 [08.05.2023].
  3. Dalzell S. Is there a safe limit of alcohol you can drink? New guidelines from Canada say there's not.ABC News [Internet]. 2023 [08.05.2023]. Available from:
  4. Nadalin T. BAC explained: Everything you need to know: RACV; 2022 [08.05.2023].

Related content

Share this