• The Cabinet

The Cabinet Designer Barman: What's in unit?

Updated: Oct 15

This is the third in our series of posts written by one of our team who lives a double life between working for a drinks branding and innovation agency during the day and behind the bar at night. With a completely open brief to get whatever they want off their chest here is a unique view on what plays on a designer barman’s mind.


Today I want to talk about the confusing method of measuring alcohol consumption. With the festive season on the horizon (Lockdown 2 permitting) plenty of people will be looking to make some bad decisions and after this year who would blame them. 

However, there isn’t a hospitality professional I know who hasn’t been personally affected by excessive drinking. This isn’t a lecture but let’s just be clear, “No Alcohol” is the safe amount to drink when driving. 

My personal opinion aside the law says you can have 80mg of alcohol per 100mls of blood to be under the drink driving limits in England and Wales.

If that isn’t confusing enough lots of brands talk in units. So what is a unit?

1 unit = half pint 4% beer, 125mls 12.5% wine or 25mls 40% spirit. 

All of those measures are pretty much useless. Customers very rarely order small glasses of wine, half pints of lager or single spirit mixers anymore. In fact, most bars in London now serve doubles as standard, I don’t think I have served a “small” wine in about 5years and most people consider 4% a weak beer. 

To add to the confusion alcohol breaks down in our bodies at an average of 1 unit per hour, not to mention alcohol affects us all differently depending on, tiredness, fitness, diet, body weight, sex and stress levels to name a few variants.

So what’s my point...

Know your booze! Bartenders have an innate ability to know the strength of a drink. They don’t need to look at an ABV (alcohol by volume) calculator to know a stirred old fashioned (whiskey, sugar bitters) is going be stronger than a shaken Charlie Chaplin (sloe gin, apricot brandy and lime). 

Bartenders don’t shoot 63% white rum to stay sober! 

As a customer it’s up to you what you drink but with all decisions there are consequences. So make bad decisions wisely. Pay attention to ABV so you know what’s strong and remember “one pint” will put you over the limit! 

A strong drink isn’t automatically a good drink. If you like a WooWoo drink a WooWoo...they taste nice and aren’t super strong! 

As an industry we need to do more than put a snappy slogan on a bottle and hope guests drink responsibly. Maybe put some profits into alcohol education and support programs too? 

As a hospitality professional remember your job isn’t to get people drunk but to help them have a good time and more importantly get home safely.


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