A Drink Is A Drink? Variation in the Amount of Alcohol Contained in Beer, Wine and Spirits Drinks in a US Methodological Sample

Authors

  • William C. Kerr,

    Corresponding author
    1. From Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute (WCK, TKG, JT, SEB), Berkeley, CA; and University of California, San Francisco (WCK, TKG), San Francisco, CA.
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  • Thomas K. Greenfield,

    1. From Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute (WCK, TKG, JT, SEB), Berkeley, CA; and University of California, San Francisco (WCK, TKG), San Francisco, CA.
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  • Jennifer Tujague,

    1. From Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute (WCK, TKG, JT, SEB), Berkeley, CA; and University of California, San Francisco (WCK, TKG), San Francisco, CA.
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  • Stephan E. Brown

    1. From Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute (WCK, TKG, JT, SEB), Berkeley, CA; and University of California, San Francisco (WCK, TKG), San Francisco, CA.
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  • This research was supported by grants P-50-A05595 and R21-AA-13532 to the Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Reprint requests and correspondence: Alcohol Research Group, 2000 Hearst Ave., Suite 300, Berkeley, CA 94709-2130; Fax: (510) 642-7175; E-mail: wkerr@arg.org

Abstract

Abstract: Background: Empirically based estimates of the mean alcohol content of beer, wine and spirits drinks from a national sample of US drinkers are not currently available.

Methods: A sample of 310 drinkers from the 2000 National Alcohol Survey were re-contacted to participate in a telephone survey with specific questions about the drinks they consume. Subjects were instructed to prepare their usual drink of each beverage at home and to measure each alcoholic beverage and other ingredients with a provided beaker. Information on the brand or type of each beverage was used to specify the percentage of alcohol.

Results: The weighted mean alcohol content of respondents’ drinks was 0.67 ounces overall, 0.56 ounces for beer, 0.66 ounces for wine and 0.89 ounces for spirits. Spirits and wine drink contents were particularly variable with many high-alcohol drinks observed.

Conclusions: While the 0.6-ounce of alcohol drink standard appears to be a reasonable single standard, it cannot capture the substantial variation evident in this sample and it underestimates average wine and spirits ethanol content. Direct measurement or beverage-specific mean ethanol content estimates would improve the precision of survey alcohol assessment.

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