How Much Alcohol Is in Your Long Island Iced Tea?

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How Much Alcohol is in a Drink and How Can You Tell If You Drank Too Much to Drive?

DUI lawyers, represent many clients who are arrested for DUI or DWI who aren't drunks, but got arrested for DUI simply because they only counted the number of drinks they had and didn't understand how much alcohol they had.

I hear all the time "I only had two drinks".  People are unaware of what they are drinking and what will cause them to get impaired or drunk.  The number of drinks is not an accurate indicator of your blood alcohol content.  That's because the number of drinks usually referred to being necessary to make you legally drunk is based upon a standard sized drink and when you go to a restaurant or a bar, you will not be served a standard sized drink.

How much alcohol is in a standard sized drink? A drink contains 1.2 tablespoons of pure alcohol.

Besides counting the number of drinks you had, you need to know:

  • Who made the drink? You, a friend or a bartender? (did a bartender give you an overly generous amount of alcohol for a big tip?)

  • How big is the glass?  Is it a tall glass or a standard size wine glass or 12 ounce can of beer?

  • Is it a mixed drink that uses more than one shot of alcohol, such as a Long Island Iced Tea?

You will have to wait a lot longer to drive after drinking 3 large glasses of orange juice each containing 2 ounces of 100 proof alcohol, than if you drink 3 small glasses of orange juice each containing 1 ounce of 80 proof alcohol which might not get you arrested.

A study by the Alcohol Research Group (ARG) of the Public Health Institute, found that "alcoholic beverages served in bars and restaurants are often as much as 50 percent larger than the assumed standard for drink sizes."  That means that even though you may think you had four drinks, you may actually have consumed the equivalent of 5 or 6 standard drinks.

The study found that the average glass of wine was 43 percent larger than a standard drink. The average draft beer was 22 percent larger and drinks mixed with spirits were 42 percent larger than a standard drink. Only single shots of spirits equaled the established standard.

One of the drinks, probably responsible for more DWI arrests than any other drink is the Long Island Iced Tea, probably because it is very popular; has an elegant sounding name; has been seen on TV and in movies such as Sex and the City; and is a large drink with a substantial amount of alcohol.  A Long Island Iced Tea is made with 5 equal parts of different alcohols and one Long Island Iced Tea can have as much alcohol as 6 beers:

1 part Vodka
1 part Tequila
1 part Rum
1 part Gin
1 part Triple Sec
1 1/2 parts sweet and sour mix
1 splash Coca-ColaŽ

One of my former DUI clients is a female who weighs 95 pounds and told me at the cop was lying when he said that she was weaving in and out of her lane because she only had two drinks.  She blew a blood alcohol level of .23.  I asked her what she was drinking; how big were the glasses; how long a period of time elapsed; and what she was doing at the time. 

She said that she was at a restaurant having dinner with a friend and only had two Long Island Ice Teas during the course of 1 1/2 hours.  She indicated that the size of the glasses were large.  She probably had the equivalent of 8-10 drinks.  Since an average adult body breaks down one drink every two hours, by the time she left the restaurant she was seriously drunk.

She never thought of how much alcohol was in her drink and only thought that since she only had two drinks over the course of 90 minutes, she was ok to drive.  The reality was that she was so drunk, she was pulled over on the street just outside the restaurant.  She never got very far.

Additional factors which must be considered when drinking and driving:

Some people have asked how much is a "splash" in a drink.  Since a "splash" is a not measured amount of alcohol or other liquid, it will be different with every bartender.  There is simply no way to know how much alcohol is in a non-measured splash.

While there are other factors you need to consider, you need to know how much alcohol is in your drink.

Next article: BAC - How drunk are you?

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