Do you have a type of alcohol you avoid because the effects happen too quickly? Some people claim wine is a fast way to go over your limit, while others might point to a cocktail or liquor. The most effective way to determine which types of alcohol will affect you the fastest is by looking at the alcohol by volume (ABV), a measurement that shows what percentage of the beverage’s total volume is pure alcohol.

One of the biggest reasons a lower alcohol content beverage might show its effects earlier is an external factor: food consumption. For example, if you go out for a drink and then eat dinner afterward, you’ll feel the effects of the alcohol faster than you expected. Food slows down the absorption of alcohol in the body, making it less effective.

There are certain types of alcohol that can be dangerous, particularly when consumed without moderation. Some of the most dangerous alcohols can leave you well over the limit after one ounce. Continue reading to find out which alcohols are the strongest and how to control your consumption.

Most Common Alcoholic Beverages and ABV Levels

Alcohol falls into several categories. Beer and wine or hard liquor are the two types of licenses issued for resale in many states. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the type of alcohol doesn’t matter, and most properly mixed beverages should contain 14 grams of pure alcohol per serving. It’s the serving size that dictates what makes one drink stronger than another. Below is a snapshot of each type of alcohol and some of the most dangerous alcohols.


Beer contains between 3%-13% ABV, though most beers are closer to 4%-7% ABV. For this article, we’re including all single-serve, low alcohol content beverages in this category, which includes wine coolers, ciders and other premixed drinks with an ABV of 13% or lower. The typical serving size of a beer is 12 ounces.

People tend to consider beer a safe choice when it comes to drinking. Having two or three beers with food seems reasonable when you’re spending time with friends and spacing out your drinks over several hours. However, quickly drinking many beers can leave you feeling the effects much more quickly. The atmosphere surrounding drinking beer and the party mindset that often goes with it can make it difficult to stop drinking.


Many people claim to feel the effects of wine more quickly than other types of alcohol. Wine can contain 5.5%-20% ABV. Most wines have 11%-13% ABV, which makes wine stronger than the same amount of beer. However, serving sizes compensate for the ABV difference between wine and beer, as a glass of wine is usually five ounces.

It’s common to order wine while waiting for food, while beer is often served with snacks. Eating while you drink is an effective way to slow down the effects of alcohol. Nevertheless, there’s some truth to the idea that wine gets you drunk faster than other alcohol. It’s more potent than beer and doesn’t have the delayed digestion brought on by distilled spirits, so you may have a faster onset of effects.

Mixed Drinks

Many people get in trouble with mixed drinks — because they’re blended you don’t know how much alcohol is in them. Every mixed drink has a different ABV, making this the most difficult category. For example, a standard mojito is equivalent to 1.3 drinks, according to the National Institutes of Health, while a margarita is about 1.7 drinks and a piña colada is two standard drinks.

With varying levels of alcohol content, mixed drinks can be a dangerous option when people are trying to moderate their consumption level.


A shot of alcohol is 1.5 ounces and refers to hard liquor or distilled spirits. Vodka, gin, rum, whiskey and tequila are some examples of hard liquors. When ordering shots, some prefer to order shooters, which may have a lower alcohol by volume than a straight shot of distilled spirits. One shot of hard liquor is equal to an entire beer or glass of wine.

Any alcohol that’s at least 40% ABV metabolizes more slowly. Therefore, while it may take fewer shots to get past your limit, it can take longer for you to stop feeling the effects of this type of alcohol.


Absinthe has 45%-89% alcohol by volume. Contrary to urban legends, this distilled spirit doesn’t have any hallucinogenic properties. Any hallucinations are from consuming too much alcohol all at once. While absinthe doesn’t top the list for most alcohol content, it’s at the top of the range for standard distilled spirits.

Everclear and Other High Alcohol Content Liquors

Everclear, Bacardi 151, Bruichladdich X4, Knockeen Hills and other spirits contain ABV levels that are 90% or higher. Spirytus Rektyfikowany is the world’s most alcoholic spirit with an astonishing 96% ABV, though Everclear is a close second at 95%. What makes these the most dangerous alcohols is the small portions needed to add tremendous amounts of alcohol to your bloodstream. Compared to a standard shot, a shot of any of these is at least two times more powerful than one serving of beer or a glass of wine.

Why and How to Control Your Drinking

Heavy drinking and drinking daily can have serious consequences. Keeping your drinking under control and limiting it to social occasions is important to avoid negative health effects and problems in your daily life. Alcoholism is always a risk when you drink too much or too frequently. Responsible drinking means limiting your total daily consumption to an average of one or two drinks, and it also means drinking occasionally, not every day.

The Negative Effects of Alcoholism

Alcohol has a long list of physical health problems that go along with heavy drinking, but it’s the social and emotional toll that can negatively impact everyday life. Drinking too much and too frequently can destroy your job performance, cause tension in relationships and, ultimately, leave you facing each day alone. Behavior that may seem fun at a party often isn’t in the aftermath, such as the physical consequences of being drunk or hung over.

If you or someone you love struggles with overconsumption of alcohol or drinks too often, contact Sunlight Recovery at (888) 402-3647 today. Our team of experienced counselors can help you take the first steps on your journey to sobriety.