Kristi King | kking@wtop.com
Gigi Barnett | gbarnett@wtop.com
December 15, 2022, 8:00 PM
There’s such a variety of alcoholic drinks that it might be tough to figure out what it means to drink in moderation.
Some people might be surprised to learn, for example, that a “standard” drink serving for an 80-proof distilled spirit is 1.5 ounces.
“That’s three tablespoons. That’s all. It is not three fingers. It’s three tablespoons. And the only way to really know that is to use a jigger — jiggers are an ounce and a half. Or use your little measuring spoons,” said Kathleen M. Zelman, a registered dietitian nutritionist who also is an adviser to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
“It’s the same amount of alcohol that’s in five fluid ounces of wine,” Zelman said. Most wines are 12% alcohol by volume.
With beer, the container label gives you the full picture, but Zelman said most people drink beer in a 12-ounce can. A 12-ounce can of regular beer is 5% alcohol by volume.
So what constitutes moderation?
Not drinking alcohol at all is an option noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Otherwise, moderation for women is considered to be one drink or fewer in a day; for men it’s two drinks or fewer in a day.
“That one-a-day or two-a-day doesn’t mean you can save them all up and have seven on Friday night. It’s important to understand that these guidelines are for daily consumption,” Zelman said.
If you’re attending a festive gathering where you might consume alcohol, Zelman recommends eating at least a little something beforehand and drinking a nonalcoholic beverage after enjoying a cocktail.
“It hydrates you. It’s gonna make you feel better in the morning. It stalls that next cocktail or drink, and it helps you come within those guidelines of moderation,” Zelman said. “I would also suggest that you eat food with your alcohol, because alcohol on an empty stomach is much more likely to go right to your head.”
That said, moderate alcohol consumption may provide some health benefits, such as reducing your risk of developing and dying of heart disease, possibly reducing your risk of diabetes, and possibly reducing your risk of ischemic stroke — which is when the arteries to your brain become narrowed or blocked, causing severely reduced blood flow, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The Standard Drink Calculator from the Distilled Spirits Council translates various beverages into standard drinks by evaluating a product’s volume, how much there is, along with its percentage of alcohol by volume, or proof.
Zelman has a trick that can help you gain perspective on what five ounces of wine looks like: At home, measure out five ounces, then pour it into different-sized glasses that wine might be presented in when you’re out.
Specialty cocktails can bring a little extra cheer to your holiday party. So when hosting one this season, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said that the menu and drinks list go a long way to keep your guests safe.
If you’re the host with the most, make sure you have a good selection of alcohol-free drinks, such as water, juices and sparkling sodas. These help offset the dehydrating effects of alcohol.
Non-alcoholic drinks also offer an alternative for guests who don’t want to drink.
Next, have some healthy foods and snacks on your menu. As Zelman said, food slows the absorption of alcohol and can also reduce stomach irritation and gastrointestinal distress that may follow the day after.
Finally, help guests get home safe by making sure a sober driver or taxi is on hand and at the ready.
Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

Gigi Barnett is an anchor at WTOP. She has worked in the media for more than 20 years. Before joining WTOP, she was an anchor at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas, and a staff reporter at The Miami Herald. She’s a Navy wife and mom of three.

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