Let’s face it, it’s not uncommon to have a drink or two with the intention on driving. I’m not talking about bar-hopping around town. I’m talking about having a beer or glass of wine with dinner, or a martini while meeting up with some friends. Yes, it happens and it also means we’ve heard someone say, “I’ll stick to beer so I don’t get drunk.”
But does sticking to beer rather than a mixed drink keep you from getting intoxicated quicker?
To many peoples’ surprise, the answer is no.
The average beer is 12 ounces. Although the average beer is about 5 percent alcohol, the alcohol content for beer ranges quite widely. I’m referring to the most common, run of the mill, lagers. For every ounce of beer, there’s about 0.05 ounces of alcohol. This means that in that 12 ounces of beer, about 0.6 ounces are alcohol (12 ounces x 0.05 ounces = 0.6 ounces).
The average mixed drink has about one to two shots worth of alcohol. For purposes of this article, let’s just say the average mixed drink has 1.5 ounces of alcohol. The rest of the mixed drink is comprised of whatever mixer you choose. The majority of spirits used for mixed drinks (gin, whiskey, vodka, rum, etc.) is 80 proof, which means that they have 40 percent alcohol. For every ounce of a common spirit, there’s about 0.4 ounces of alcohol. This means that for 1.5 ounce of that spirit used in your cocktail, there’s about 0.6 ounces of alcohol (1.5 ounces x 0.4 ounces = 0.6 ounces).
Ok, so beer and a mixed drink are about the same, but what about wine?
Although the alcohol content of wine varies greatly, the average wine is about 13 percent alcohol, which means that for every ounce of wine, there’s about 0.13 ounces of alcohol. The average glass of wine is about five ounces. This means that for every glass of wine, there’s about 0.65 ounces of alcohol (5 ounces x 0.13 ounces = 0.65 ounces).
There you have it. Beer, wine, and mixed drinks have about the same amount of alcohol.
Bear in mind, however, that people tend to drink their respective drinks at different paces. For example a wine might be sipped whereas someone might take a shot of alcohol. The speed at which someone drinks alcohol can affect intoxication.
But if you’re trying to avoid a California DUI by sticking to beer, be aware that it’s not all that much different than drinking a mixed drink. Remember, the only way to be completely safe is to not drink at all before driving.