Unit guidance: What are the low risk drinking guidelines?

The UK’s Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) low risk drinking guidelines advise that both men and women are safest not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week. 14 single measures of 40% spirit equals 14 units so is equal to the CMOs' guideline.

If you regularly drink over these guidelines, you could be increasing your chances of developing long-term health conditions such as liver and heart disease, and seven types of cancer. Find out more about the effects of alcohol.

Are spirits more dangerous than other alcoholic drinks?

How many calories are in spirits?

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.

Clear spirits contain slightly fewer calories than dark spirits but the calories in vodka and other clear spirits can still quickly add up.

Get unit and calorie info about vodka

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.

Find out  more about the units and Calories in Gin

Check the strength of your spirits

There are often several measures of spirits in cocktails, alcopops or pre-mixed drinks – even if they don’t taste particularly strong. Always check the volume of the drink you’re consuming.

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 there is.

How to reduce the amount of spirits you’re drinking

Spirit measures are smaller than normal alcoholic drinks so it can be more difficult to keep track of the units you’re drinking. To stay on track, try these top tips:
1. Mind your spirit measures at home: Stick 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: Drinking any kind of alcoholic shots will take you over the low risk guidelines very quickly, so best to avoid 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 tell you whether you're keeping within the low risk drinking guidelines. Our free Drinkaware: Track and Calculate Units app is perfect for tracking your drinks when you’re out and about.

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