Alcohol and summer go hand in hand but drinking too much is bound to spoil any festivities. When drinking beer or wine, it’s easy to keep track of how much alcohol you’ve had. It’s when you’re throwing back the bartender’s specialty mixed drinks that things can start to get a bit hazy. A new online tool hopes to take some of the mystery out of your favorite cocktail by calculating how many “standard drinks” are actually in your poolside martini.
What Is One Standard Drink?
One “standard drink” contains about the same amount of alcohol as a 12-ounce beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. The amount of alcohol in mixed drinks largely differs from bar to bar, depending on the preference of the drink’s preparer. "Most people don't realize how much alcohol is actually in a drink," said Dr. George Koob, director of the National Insitutes of Health's (NIH's) National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the New York Daily News reported. The NIH is hoping to help the public get a better understanding of how much alcohol they are drinking with the help of its Cocktail Content Calculator.
Three Margaritas = Five Standard Drinks
Using the Cocktail Content Calculator is easy. Simply select your cocktail from a list of popular mixed drinks, and the calculator instantly breaks down your drink's ingredients, while at the same time informing you of exactly how many standard drinks you're necking back. For example, did you know that the average margarita actually contains 1.7 standard drinks? That means that only three of these summertime favorites will go over the five standard drinks.
Summertime Means More Dangerous Drinking
Alcohol safety is even more important in the summer because as the temperature rises, the number of alcohol-related injuries increases. “By the end of summer, law enforcement has been inundated with arrests and injuries and all the things that go with binge and underage drinking," former La Crosse Police Chief Ed Kondracki told News 8000. Heat makes us thirsty, while alcohol is a diuretic that causes dehydration. Along with pacing yourself, Koob advises that we alternate with water or club soda between our alcohol in order to stay hydrated.
Your Genes Determine How Much You Can Handle
While keeping track of your drinks is a great way to prevent having an early night due to drinking too much, in the end, the amount of alcohol we are able to comfortably consume is largely dependent on our genetics. Some people can’t have more than two drinks during an evening without feeling unwell while others can throwback upwards of eight or more beers and think nothing of it. The largest determinant of how much alcohol you can drink is your gender. Women’s bodies react differently than men's, and not just because they tend to have less body mass. On average, if a man and woman weighing the same were to drink together, it would take the woman one drink less than the man to become intoxicated. This is because women aren’t able to metabolize the alcohol as fast and their bodies contain less water.
Your ability to tolerate alcohol may depend on whether or not you have a certain gene. People with certain variations in particular genes can produce more of the enzyme used to break down alcohol, and are therefore less tolerant. In a study from the University of North Carolina, researchers found the "tipsy gene," or CYP2E1 gene. People with this gene displayed higher levels of alcohol tolerance. Unfortunately, this higher tolerance for alcohol was also labelled as a “predictor of risk of alcoholism.”