Alcohol Units

Alcohol Units

The idea of counting alcohol units was first introduced in the UK in 1987 to help people keep track of their drinking. Units are a simple way of expressing the quantity of pure alcohol in a drink but sometimes people find it difficult or confusing to calculate how much they drink especially with so many different drinks and glass sizes, from shots to pints to bottles – it's easy to get confused about how many units are in your drink.Alcohol Change has a good unit calculator. https://alcoholchange.org.uk/alcohol-facts/interactive-tools/unit-calculator

To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level if you drink most weeks:

  • men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
  • spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week
  • if you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week
  • Fourteen units is equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine.

Drinks and units

A 750ml bottle of red, white or rosé wine (ABV 13.5%) contains 10 units.

See the guide below to find out how many units are in your favourite tipple.

Type of drink Number of alcohol units

  • Single small shot of spirits * (25ml, ABV 40%) 1 unit
  • Alcopop (275ml, ABV 5.5%) 1.5 units
  • Small glass of red/white/rosé wine (125ml, ABV 12%) 1.5 units
  • Bottle of lager/beer/cider (330ml, ABV 5%) 1.7 units
  • Can of lager/beer/cider (440ml, ABV 5.5%) 2 units
  • Pint of lower-strength lager/beer/cider (ABV 3.6%) 2 units
  • Standard glass of red/white/rosé wine (175ml, ABV 12%) 2.1 units
  • Pint of higher-strength lager/beer/cider (ABV 5.2%) 3 units
  • Large glass of red/white/rosé wine (250ml, ABV 12%) 3 units

*Gin, rum, vodka, whisky, tequila, sambuca. Large (35ml) single measures of spirits are 1.4 units.

Calculating units

Using units is a simpler way of representing a drink's alcohol content – usually expressed by the standard measure alcohol by volume (ABV).

ABV is a measure of the amount of pure alcohol as a percentage of the total volume of liquid in a drink. You can find the ABV on the labels of cans and bottles, sometimes written as "vol" or "alcohol volume", or you can ask bar staff about particular drinks.

For example, wine that says "12% ABV" or "alcohol volume 12%" means 12% of the volume of that drink is pure alcohol. You can work out how many units there are in any drink by multiplying the total volume of a drink (in ml) by its ABV (measured as a percentage) and dividing the result by 1,000.

  • strength (ABV) x volume (ml) ÷ 1,000 = units

For example, to work out the number of units in a pint (568ml) of strong lager (ABV 5.2%):

  • 5.2 (%) x 568 (ml) ÷ 1,000 = 2.95 units

For a quicker method, use Alcohol Change UK's unit calculator https://alcoholchange.org.uk/alcohol-facts/interactive-tools/unit-calculator