You can order the same drink at bars all over the world, but how much booze each order is really going to get you depends a lot on where you are.
A new study in the journal Addiction surveyed the different alcohol contents of a single drink in 75 different countries. What they found was that the alcohol content of “one drink” varies wildly depending on where you order it.
In the UK, for example, a single drink came in with a trim 8 grams of pure ethanol; that means you could be two drinks down in a British bar with one more on the way to hit the equivalent of a single Austrian drink, which had 20 grams. A drink in the United States, though, would dissatisfy Icelanders and Austrians both to the exact same degree: it fell right in the middle at 14 grams of pure ethanol.
Here’s the full chart of how each country surveyed counted a single drink:
The actual sizes, though, are probably even more all over the place than the numbers you see above. Why?
Because the study used government standards for a single drink. The actual drinks you get poured out at a bar, though, are just approximations; some places are going to be either much heavier or lighter-handed. Perhaps that’s one reason several countries chose to go for a range or an approximate size, rather than a single standard number and other surveyed countries chose not to set any standard at all.
For those that wish there was a little more consistency in the measure, the World Health Organization (WHO) has settled on what it thinks a single drink is: anything with 10 grams of pure ethanol in it. But with populaces all over the world who are all used to receiving what they think of as a standard pour, the meaning of “one drink” is likely to keep on depending on where you are when you order it.