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Calculate alcohol intake with mobile site CALCohol

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 11:42 a.m. CDT

The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division has launched CALCohol, a mobile site that calculates standard drink sizes and the number of alcohol servings per container. The goal of CALCohol is to educate consumers, retailers and servers how much alcohol is in any given beverage.

USDA guidelines state that 0.6 ounces of pure ethyl alcohol constitutes one standard drink. The old adage “a drink, is a drink, is a drink” refers to the equal alcoholic content of a 12 ounce beer, a five ounce glass of wine and a 1.5 ounce serving of liquor. However, this is only accurate at the conventional alcoholic content of five percent alcohol by volume (ABV) beer, 12 percent ABV wine and 80-proof liquor. This comparison standard no longer applies in today’s marketplace because many new alcoholic beverage products blur the lines between the categories of beer, wine and liquor. The correct serving size for an alcoholic beverage must be determined by alcoholic content, not just category.

“As the marketplace trends to flavored and sweeter products, it becomes more difficult for the consumer to be aware of how much alcohol they are consuming. CALCohol is a tool that will quickly identify the number of standard servings and may show, on some occasions, one drink is more than enough,” said Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Commission Chairperson Jim Clayton.

CALCohol has two functionalities. The user can calculate servings per container by inputting the alcoholic content (ABV or proof) and container size (ounces or liters). Using CALCohol, a consumer will understand that a 12 percent ABV malt beverage in a 24-ounce pop-top can actually contains nearly five servings of alcohol. CALCohol can also calculate a serving size of any alcohol product by simply entering in ABV or proof without a container size. For example, a single serving of a 30-proof liqueur is four ounces but a serving of 120-proof whiskey is only one ounce.

Browse the alcohol aisle at any local grocery store and there will be products with non-traditional package shapes and sizes including boxes, large cans and pouches; the alcoholic content within these products varies widely among each category. Beer is no longer strictly 5 percent ABV; many have higher amounts of alcohol and a variety of flavors. Fortified wines can be stronger than 20 percent ABV and liquor products range from very low to very high proof.

“ABD created CALCohol so users can quickly and simply calculate how much alcohol they are consuming,” said ABD Administrator Stephen Larson. “Hopefully the mobile site makes monitoring alcohol intake interactive and engaging while encouraging moderation.”

CALCohol removes the guesswork when trying to decipher the size of a standard drink of any alcohol product. The mobile site is available at IowaABD.com/CALCohol.