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What Does ABV Mean?

Men cheers with beers in a pint glasses at a bar.
Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com

If you’ve ever examined a bottle of alcohol and wondered what that percentage means on the label, you’re not alone. It’s the drink’s ABV, but if you don’t know what that is, thankfully, it isn’t complicated to master.

ABV stands for alcohol by volume, and it’s a measurement of how much pure alcohol is in a spirit, beer, or wine. Basically, the higher the ABV percentage, the stronger the drink.

ABV is important for a few reasons and can be valuable to understand even if you’re not a bartender, server, or brewmaster.

ABV is an excellent guide for consumers who want to keep track of their alcohol intake. Knowing the ABV of a drink can help you pace yourself, avoid overindulging, and avoid a hangover the next day. Drinking guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control take ABV into account when it comes to moderate consumption.

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According to the CDC, men should have no more than two standard drinks and women should have no more than one per day. But you have to know what a standard drink is, and that includes ABV. Per the agency, standard drinks are:

  • Beer: 12 ounces at 5% ABV
  • Wine: 5 ounces at 12% ABV
  • Malt Liquor: 8 ounces at 7% ABV
  • Distilled Spirits: 1.5 ounces at 40% ABV

If you’re drinking a beer, wine, malt liquor, or spirit with a higher ABV than the standard, you’ll want to lower your intake to stay within moderation consumption.

Knowing the ABV allows you to make more informed drinking decisions. If you’re wondering how strong a drink may be or what it might taste like, check out the ABV percentage. Go with lower percentages—or even some great non-alcoholic options—if you want to keep your alcohol intake low.

Abbey Ryan Abbey Ryan
Abbey Ryan is a storyteller, preferably of stories in written form. Across the 5 years of her professional writing career, her work has been featured in The Chicago Tribune, Amazon, The Medical News Today, and more. When she's not writing (which is rare), she's likely traveling, painting, or on the hunt for a good snack. Read Full Bio »
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