What are units of alcohol?

What are units of alcohol?

Units are confusing… it’s like that science stuff you learn at school which you think you will never need to know! There are so many drinks and glass sizes, it can all be an information overload.

Put simply, units are a simple way of expressing the quantity of pure alcohol in a drink. The number of units in a drink is based on the strength of your drink as well as the size of it.



How many units of alcohol is recommended?

The NHS recommend, to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level if you drink most weeks:

  • That men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
  • That spreading your drinking over 3 or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week is advised
  • Trying to have several alcohol-free days a week is helpful

Did you know that 14 units is equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of lower-strength wine?


How can I keep track of the units I drink?

Keeping track of your units is important because it can help you to stay in control of your drinking, it can help you keep yourself safe and avoid doing stupid things under the influence and it can help reduce the health risks that rise from heavy drinking such as liver disease and stroke.

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 (which is measured as a percentage) and dividing the result by 1,000. See… you are even doing maths revision!

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 (%) x 568 (ml) ÷ 1,000 = 2.95 units

If you do not have the brain power for all the maths, labels on drinks will show you how many units are you are having.


There are also online calculators that can help you with looking at how many units you have drunk in a day or over a week. Check these out:

Drink Aware – Individual Drinks

Drink Aware – Drinks over the week

There is also more information on our Drinks Calculator page.


How many units are in my favourite drink?

The drinks calculators above can give some information on how many units are in your favourite drink. But here are some examples:

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


Single small shot of spirits (25ml, ABV 40%) contains 1 unit

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


An alcopop (275ml, ABV 5.5%) contains 1.5 units


A standard glass of red/white/rose wine (175ml, ABV 12%) contains 2.1 units


Pint of lower-strength lager/beer/cider (ABV 3.6%) contains 2 units


Pint of higher-strength lager/beer/cider (ABV 5.2%) contains 3 units




How can I reduce the amount of units drink?

Try these top tips:

  1. Have alcohol free days
  2. Only have alcohol with meals
  3. Have a wine spritzer instead of a full glass of wine
  4. Have a glass of water or soft drink in-between alcoholic ones
  5. Change social plans to do something other than something including drink- go to the cinema perhaps or go to the gym
  6. Try lower alcoholic drinks
  7. If you’ve had a heavy drinking session, try to avoid alcohol for 48 hours.


pexels-helena-lopes-697244What are the benefits of reducing the amount I drink?

In the short term you will have better skin, feel better in the mornings, have more energy and save money.

In the long term you will lower the health risks that come with drinking a lot of alcohol including lowering your blood pressure and reducing the risk of liver disease and stroke, you may find it easier to manage your weight and you will have better sleep and mood.