How Much Alcohol Is in That Bottle

No alcohol beverage is 100 percent alcohol. It's alcohol plus water, and — if it's a wine or beer — some residue of the foods from which it was made.

The label on every bottle of wine and spirits shows the alcohol content as alcohol by volume (ABV). (For reasons too complicated to discuss in fewer than, say, 50 pages, beer containers may carry this information, but United States law doesn't require it.)

ABV measures the amount of alcohol as a percentage of all the liquid in the container. For example, if your container holds 10 ounces of liquid and 1 ounce of that is alcohol, the product is 10 percent ABV — the alcohol content divided by the total amount of liquid.

Proof — an older term that describes alcohol content —is two times the ABV. For example, an alcohol beverage that is 10 percent alcohol by volume is 20 proof.

By the way, right now, alcohol beverages are the only entries in the food and drink market sold without a Nutrition Facts label. The National Consumers League and the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest are petitioning the Food and Drug Administration to create an ingredients label for alcohol beverages. The label would show the ingredients, the number of standard servings in the container, and the alcohol content and calorie count per serving so you can compare products — and control what you drink. Smart. To see the proposed label, visit

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