The Easiest Way to Calculate the Strength of Your Cocktail

In most cases, at least a few of my friends participate in Dry January. The last few years have not been like most years. I don’t know of a single person (who hasn’t been sober yet) who is completely abstaining from alcohol this month, but I do know a few who are trying to drink less, or at least drink more deliberately.

Drinks are drinks, and low-strength and no-strength drinks deserve the same attention, respect, and real estate on the menu as martinis. To encourage a more holistic approach to drinking, Portland bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler has created a handy calculator to help bartenders and patrons determine the strength of their cocktail and be more mindful of how much alcohol they’re drinking:

I’m sure others have done this before, but this year I’m actively promoting a new type of cocktail menu: a menu that lists the amount of alcohol next to a list of ingredients and a price. How great would it be for thoughtful drinkers to be able to make informed choices throughout our time in a bar? And, as bartenders, how great would it be to know how much alcohol our guests have drunk and make informed choices about how our drinks affect them and everyone around them?

The calculator is actually a downloadable spreadsheet, and it’s pretty elegant. Every time I wrote “I know Excel” on my resume (or curriculum vitae), it was a lie, and yet even I can work with it. (Ok, I emailed Jeff a very stupid question, but I can’t be good at everything! That would be unfair!)

You can download the spreadsheet here and then connect and play with your ABVs and fill volumes. There are eight pre-loaded cocktails, but you can change the values/ingredients as you see fit. (There’s even an entry for “percent dilution,” which takes into account the age at which ice melts when shaking, stirring, or making a drink right in a glass.) Really drinkable. For example, I knew that martinis were strong, but I didn’t know that they were “more than four times as strong as an Aperol Spritz”. (There are actually two metrics you can look at: ABV, or Total Alcohol Volume, which tells you how many ounces of ethanol a drink contains.)

Updated January 25, 2022 at 1:00 pm EST to include a note about “Total Alcohol Volume.

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