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Nutrition

How Many Drinks Are You Actually Having When You Crack Open a Cocktail in a Can?

Love the convenience of a cute, trendy cocktail but aren’t quite sure how many drinks you’ve actually had after finishing one? Try this handy tool to help track your alcohol consumption.

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Whether you’re a fan of beer, wine, or hard spirits in trendy cocktail form, the type of alcohol present in each is the same (i.e., pure ethanol), just in different quantities. For instance, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that the standard drink (or drink equivalent) contains approximately 0.6 ounces of ethanol.

To put this into perspective, this would equate to the following based on the type of alcohol typically consumed by volume (alcohol by volume, or ABV):

  • Beer = 12 oz 5% ABV
  • Wine = 5 oz 12% ABV
  • Distilled Spirits (80 proof) = 1.5 oz 40% ABV
  • Ready-To-Drink Beverages = 12 oz 5% ABV

Now, if you’re wondering why you’ve convinced yourself the “worst hangover of your life” was from those ready-to-drink wine cans you had at the Super Bowl party, that hangover is not necessarily related to the type of alcohol you consumed, but the amount you had. Even the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that “the amount of alcohol consumed is what affects a person, not the type.”

According to nutrition expert Nicole Rodriguez, RDN, NASM-CPT, consumers need to drink with caution when consuming any alcohol, particularly canned cocktails. Rodriguez shares, “While canned seltzers, cocktails, and wine-based beverages may somehow seem innocuous as compared to other adult drinks, it’s important to note what actually defines a serving of alcohol is 0.6 ounce. That being said, not only are canned cocktails in no way ‘healthy,’ they can also sneak up on you as some of them may feel as light as soft drinks. To be clear, there’s no such thing as a ‘moderate’ alcoholic beverage, but you can consume them in moderation.”

To help consumers navigate their alcohol consumption while deciphering truly how many standard drinks (or drink equivalents) are in their trendy canned cocktails, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States recently released a website, StandardDrinks.org. This website has a plethora of information, including a handy calculator that allows consumers the ability to enter the ounces or milliliters of an alcoholic beverage alongside its percent ABV to help calculate how many drinks the beverage contains.

To be honest, as much as I love the thought of this tool, I was a bit skeptical about how frequently it would be used by a consumer. Rodriguez shared that the new tool can actually be a real eye-opener, noting that the innocent-looking canned beverage might be the equivalent of as many as 2.5 standard drinks! She thinks the health-conscious consumer will use Standard Drinks, especially if they use a macro tracking app or other fitness apps as a way to consciously calculate enjoyable consumption.

With the influx of reduced alcohol and other trendy beverages hitting the market, it’s important consumers remember to drink responsibly and practice moderation. Based on guidelines, that means the equivalent of 2 standard drinks per day for men and 1 standard drink for women. Rodriguez reminds us that if you choose to consume alcohol, drink what you’re actually going to enjoy in moderation as opposed to what’s trendy.

So, the next time you pick up your adult canned beverage of choice, take a look at Standard Drinks, you may just be surprised at how many drinks that little can has!