Units and calories in spirits

Get the facts about spirits and what you can do to cut back on the amount you drink.

What are the daily unit guidelines for spirits?

Three 35ml 40% measures of spirits puts a man over the lower risk guidelines. Just two 35ml 40% spirit measures will put a woman close to the upper guideline limit.

If you regularly drink over these guidelines, you could be increasing your chances of developing long-term health conditions. Find out more about the effects of alcohol.

The calories in vodka, whisky and other spirits can be surprising

You may be surprised to know that a 25ml measure 40% ABV shot of dark spirit, like whisky, with mixer contains 106 calories, similar to a chocolate mousse dessert. Clear spirits contain slightly fewer calories than dark spirits but the calories in vodka and other clear spirits can still quickly add up – a single 37.5% ABV vodka and tonic contains 96 calories, the equivalent of a crumpet.  

Ordering a 50ml ‘double’ spirit measure at a pub or bar makes your drink even more calorific  -  a double 37.5% ABV gin and mixer contains 149 calories, similar to a chocolate filled pancake.

For more information on calories in vodka, calories in whisky and other spirits calories, try our calorie calculator.

Check the strength of your spirits

Checking a spirit's ABV (alcohol by volume) will give you a guide to how strong it is. The ABV tells you what percentage of the drink is made up of alcohol. For example, a spirit with 40% ABV is 40% pure alcohol. The higher the percentage, the more alcohol is present. Spirits are often hidden in things like alcopops and cocktails. You should always check the volume of alcohol you’re consuming.

Things you can do right now to reduce the amount of spirits you are drinking

Spirit measures are so small that you can easily drink over the guidelines without really noticing. To stay on track, try these top tips:

1. Mind your spirit measures at home If you're used to drinking doubles, try switching to single measures of spirits. Avoid measuring spirits by eye – it's easy to over-pour. Why not order the unit measure cup from our online shop? 

2. ...and at the bar Although spirits used to be commonly served in 25ml measures, many pubs and bars now serve them in 35ml or even 50ml measures. Ask before you buy so you can keep track of how much you are drinking.

3. Avoid shots Downing any kind of alcoholic shots will take you over the daily unit guidelines very quickly, so try and avoid doing them.

4. Give alcohol-free days a go If you drink regularly, your body starts to build up a tolerance to alcohol. This is one of the main reasons why many medical experts recommend taking regular days off from drinking to ensure you don't become addicted to alcohol. Alcohol free drinks are a good way of cutting down, and why not give our non alcoholic cocktails a go? Test out having a break for yourself and see what positive results you notice. 

5. Keep a drink diary If you choose to drink, recording exactly what you've drunk during the week will give you a great idea of whether you're within the guidelines. MyDrinkaware, our drink tracking tool, is perfect for this.

Discover some more practical ways to cut back on spirits with our tips on cutting down

Are you drinking too much?

Find out how many units you are drinking

Compare your drinking to the government's lower risk guidelines.

Try our Unit Calculator

Take a drinking self assessment

Answer these simple questions and find out what kind of a relationship you have with alcohol.

Assess your drinking

How to cut down

We have many tips and strategies for cutting down at home or when out and about.

Tips on how to cut down

Page updated: March 2015