The holiday season is a time of celebration and festivities—and often, that involves alcoholic beverages. Many times, the best choice is to go to holiday parties or gatherings and avoid alcohol altogether for the enjoyment, fun, and safety of you and others.
But if you partake in drinking alcohol, how do you know when too much becomes dangerous, and a sign you should avoid getting behind the wheel?
Here is information about the length of time it takes your body to remove alcohol from your bloodstream and a list of five factors to consider before you decide to drive.
Undistilled vs. Distilled Drinks
Of the three types of alcohol, ethanol is the only one that humans can safely consume; the purposes for the other two kinds of alcohol—methanol, and isopropanol—are for cleaning and manufacturing. While the human liver can metabolize ethanol, it can only do so in limited quantities.
Alcoholic beverages come in two categories: distilled and undistilled, and go through a process called fermentation.
The fermentation process is when bacteria or yeast chemically convert sugar into ethanol. Undistilled drinks, also called fermented drinks, go through this process before distilled ones do. While distilled beverages do go through the distillation process, they do so only after fermentation. Distillation concentrates alcohol when it separates it from water and other components of a fermented substance.
Two different measurements calculate a drink’s alcohol content: alcohol by volume (ABV) and alcohol proof.
ABV’s calculation is the number of milliliters of ethanol per 100 milliliters (or 3.4 fluid ounces) in a substance. Alcohol proof is twice the percentage of ABV.
Here is a breakdown of typical holiday alcoholic beverages and their ABV.
Undistilled Alcoholic Beverages
- Beer. The oldest alcoholic drink in history, beer, can have an ABV between 4% and 6%. “Light beers” only usually have between 2% and 4% ABV, while “malt liquors” have between 6% and 8%.
- Wine. While average wine has less than 14% ABV, and champagne has an alcohol concentration that falls between 10% and 12%, some wines are “fortified” with distilled alcohol and have about 20% ABV. (Examples of fortified wines include Port, Madeira, Marsala, and Sherry).
- Hard Cider. A fermented apple juice, hard cider, has about 5% ABV.
- Mead. Mean is a blend of water and fermented honey and has between 10% and 14% ABV.
- Sake. Sake is a popular Japanese drink made from fermented rice and has an alcohol concentration of approximately 16% ABV.
Distilled Alcoholic Beverages (Liquors and Spirits)
- Gin. Made from juniper berries, gin can have anywhere from 35% to 55% ABV.
- Brandy. The alcohol concentration in brandy, a distilled wine, ranges from 35% to 60%. An example includes Cognac, one famous brandy that has 40% ABV.
- Whiskey. As a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain, whiskey’s ABV levels range from 40% to 50%.
- Rum. Rum is a distilled drink made from fermented sugarcane or molasses and has a standard alcohol concentration of 40%. Much rum is “overproof” or has an alcohol concentration of at least 57.5% ABV, but most overproof rum exceeds that minimum and usually reaches 75.5% ABV, the equivalent to 151 proof.
- Tequila. A type of liquor, tequila’s main ingredient, is the Mexican agave plant and has an alcohol concentration of about 40% ABV.
- Vodka. This liquor is made from fermented grains and potatoes and has an average alcohol concentration of 40% ABV.
- Absinthe. Made from a combination of leaves and herbs, Absinthe has a high alcohol concentration. Some varieties of Absinthe have about 40% ABV, while others have as much as 90% ABV.
- Everclear. Everclear is a grain-based spirit that has a massive alcohol concentration. While the minimum Everclear ABV is approximately 60%, the highest ranges can vary between 75.5% and 95% ABV.
5 Factors to Consider Before Driving
If you consume any of the alcoholic beverages described above and wonder if you are still safe to drive, consider these five factors in your decision.
- Reaction time
If you feel at all skeptical about your ability to execute any of the factors above, avoid driving.
Safety Tips for Holiday Drinking
If you decide to drink during the holidays, here is a list of safety tips to consider.
- Have a designated driver.
- Use public transportation.
- Call for a taxi, Uber, or Lyft.
- Arrange to be picked up.
- Arrange to stay overnight.
- Do not accept a ride from someone who has been drinking.
If you have been involved in a drinking and driving incident or have any legal questions or concerns, The Bateman Firm can help. Serving Greenville, Clemson, and Spartanburg, SC, along with their surrounding areas, The Bateman Firm can address your legal issues and answer your complex questions. Contact their office today!