Saturday, September 23, 2006

Alcohol Content

Q: What mixed drink can one order that has the most alcoholic content? (This very common question was originally posted on our forum -- thanks Iduenas!)

A: If you're talking percent alcohol by volume (ABV), the most alcohol will be found in straight drinks like shots and extra-dry martinis which will usually be 80 proof or 40% ABV. Higher proof liquors will obviously have more alcohol (Wild Turkey 101, Bacardi 151, etc.) -- but keep in mind you should NEVER drink anything straight that's higher than about 120 proof.

Some small batch Bourbons and other higher-end liquors are bottled at cask-strength (usually about 120 proof) instead of being cut back to the more common 80 proof, and these are intended to be sipped slowly so you can appreciate the complex taste of the spirit. Drinking straight liquor at more than 120 proof can cause some serious ill-effects, including blindness and alcohol poisoning. Plus, if you haven't picked up on it yet, I'm not a fan of shots or drinking just to get hammered -- I try to teach people to craft and enjoy alcoholic drinks the same way they would a gourmet meal.

Now, if you want to know the drink with the highest alcohol content (i.e., 1 ounce versus 2 ounces regardless of what percentage of the total drink that comprises), there really is no good answer. Most drinks contain about 1/2 ounce of pure alcohol (like a 12-ounce beer, a glass of wine, a standard mixed drink, or an 80 proof shot), but obviously a 22-ounce beer or a double mixed drink will have more alcohol in them. As a general rule of thumb, I tell people that an extra-dry martini will usually have the most alcohol in it, since you're pretty much dealing with between 2 and 4 ounces of straight 80-proof liquor, which equates to 0.8 to 1.6 ounces of pure alcohol.

Some states limit the total amount of liquor you can serve in one drink to 2 ounces which allows for Boilermakers (or a shot served with a beer), Long Island Teas, etc., but keep in mind that is the total amount of liquor, not alcohol -- 2 ounces of Wild Turkey 101 has more alcohol than 2 ounces of Stoli. Doesn't make a lot of sense, but there you have it.

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