• Home
  • Articles
  • How Alcohol Is Measured Around The World: Comparing Global Metrics 

How Alcohol Is Measured Around The World: Comparing Global Metrics 

But just as metrics around the world measure distances differently in miles and kilometres, so too they measure the spirits and mixers added to cocktails using different units. And if that’s not enough, there are also differences in the standards of marking alcohol consumption too which means that the alcohol by volume or ABV coupled with the metric unit together work towards determining prescribed levels of drinking in varied states.

We did study the metric system in school and spent laborious hours converting mls to litres and grams to ounces and furlongs to yards until our minds could process numbers no longer. But for bartenders, metrics amount to bartending basics. The craft of mixing drinks is about getting your measurements accurate so you can make drinks which bring out the flavours of every ingredient to arrive at a perfectly balanced concoction.

But just as metrics around the world measure distances differently in miles and kilometres, so too they measure the spirits and mixers added to cocktails using different units. And if that’s not enough, there are also differences in the standards of marking alcohol consumption too which means that the alcohol by volume or ABV coupled with the metric unit together work towards determining prescribed levels of drinking in varied states.

Units Across The Globe

In regions which follow the metric system, the general rule of thumb is to measure alcohol in millilitres or ml. The International Bartenders Association too uses the metric system for all their official recipes so mls or centilitres (cl) are used to quantify shots or single and double pours. This means, one shot or a single pour is equivalent to 25 ml or 2.5 cl whereas a double pour qualifies as 50 ml or 5 cl.

But just as metrics around the world measure distances differently in miles and kilometres, so too they measure the spirits and mixers added to cocktails using different units. And if that’s not enough, there are also differences in the standards of marking alcohol consumption too which means that the alcohol by volume or ABV coupled with the metric unit together work towards determining prescribed levels of drinking in varied states.

Where you have your metrics, the United Kingdom continues to serve some of its drinks in Imperial Measures so that beer is still served in pints. According to an essay by the European Bartender School, while this measuring system is a bit archaic, the three countries which have retained its usage in cocktail making include Liberia, Myanmar and the United States of America. 

These measures differ from metrics quite a bit so for a skilled mixologist, conversations are really nothing but essential ‘Bartender Maths.’ As cocktails originated in America, the imperial system was carried forward here in bartending craft and knowing the essential conversion of 1 ounce (oz) as 29.57 ml or 2.9 cl goes a long way in perfecting your cocktail recipes.

Yet, interestingly, the 1 ounce of booze does not equal one pour or one shot in the US, the same essay reminds us because in this part of the world, bartenders are free to choose their single or double pour. The general standard however is 1.5 oz (44.3 ml or 4.4 cl) for a single pour and 2 oz (59.14 ml or 5.9 cl) for a double pour.

How Alcohol Is Measured Around The World: Comparing Global Metrics 

Of Splashes, Dashes And Cocktail Varieties

And then there are your more freewheeling measures like a splash of whisky and a dash of cordial or a bar spoon full of lime juice which are metrics that define the flavour highlights of your cocktail. However, these are not as random and you might think and cocktail experts have set some measuring standards for them too. A splash can be 5.9 ml, whereas a dash is one shake of a bitter bottle and one bar spoon equals 4.9 ml of booze.

As well, there are also differences in the units that are used to measure the amount of booze from drink to drink. So, if you go looking for a G&T, you will be offered a drink containing 40 ml gin and some tonic water in a long glass but ask for a frothy beer and it will be brought to you in an inviting pint bottle.

Measures will come in handy for you when you are making batch cocktails but don’t worry too much about memorising these charts. Stick to one metric and you will soon get the knack of the free pour which means adding booze to your drinks without having the need to pick up a jigger each time. But knowing global measures would surely come in handy if you order single pour shots in America and are served a rather boozy drink!