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Alcohol units FAQs

What are alcohol units?

Because alcohol comes in different strengths and measures, the UK has developed a unit system to help people work out how much alcohol they're getting from individual drinks, and how much they're drinking over a week.

One unit is 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. That's the amount of alcohol an average adult's body can process, or get rid of, in one hour.

However, bottles tend to have labels saying how much alcohol by volume (ABV) they contain. So 10% ABV means that 10% of the bottle or measure is pure alcohol.

Alcohol Concern and the NHS offer calculators to help you turn ABV into UK alcohol units.

The basic sum is ABV x ml volume divided by 1,000.


  • Small glass of wine (125ml, ABV 12%) 1.5 units
  • Standard glass of wine (175ml, ABV 12%) 2.1 units
  • Large glass of wine (250ml, ABV 12%) 3 units
  • Bottle of wine (750ml, ABV 12%) 9 units


  • Pint of lower strength (ABV 3.6%) beer, lager or cider 2 units
  • Pint of higher strength (ABV 5.2%) beer, lager or cider 3 units
  • Bottle (330ml, ABV 5%) of beer, lager or cider 1.7 units
  • Can (440ml, ABV 4.5%) of beer, lager or cider 2 units



  • Alcopop bottle (275ml, ABV 5.5%) 1.5 units


  • Small shot of spirits (25ml, ABV 40%) 1 unit
  • Large measure of spirits (35ml, ABV 40%) 1.4 units




What do the UK guidelines say?

The latest UK guidelines say men and women shouldn't drink more than 14 units a week, spread over 3 days or more, with some alcohol-free days.

The UK's chief medical officers say there is no safe amount of alcohol that women can drink during pregnancy.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 06, 2017

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