05 April 2020

Alcohol by volume, ABV

Alcohol by volume, ABV, is the standard way of stating the alcohol content of a drink. Older systems such as degrees proof have largely fallen into disuse and can safely be ignored. ABV is expressed as a percentage:

(volume of pure ethanol in drink) ÷ (total volume of drink) x 100%

By this formula, water has an ABV of 0%, pure ethanol has an ABV of 100% and all alcoholic drinks lie somewhere in between.

This table shows the typical ABV range of normal commercial drinks. I've not included any 'alcopops'. These are synthesised drinks designed to hook teenagers. They should never have been invented and are not worth discussing further!

ABV of commercial drinks
ABV %Products
3.0 to 4.5normal beers
4.0 to 5.5normal ciders
5.0 to 9.0premium & specialist beers
6.0 to 9.0scrumpy style ciders
9.0 to 11light table wines
12 to 14most table wines
15 to 20fortified wines (ports, sherries)
35 to 45most spirits and liqueurs
Under the table - not a good place to be!

The successful ex-pat plonk maker takes account of these norms and does not produce insipid under-strength wines or lethal over-strength beers. The idea, believe it or not, is to turn out a product that people enjoy drinking. There's a radical notion!

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