Using "New Math" To Determine Your Drinking Habits

When a husband or wife arrives home, a bit disheveled and glassy eyed with the unmistakable odor of alcohol on his or her breath, their mate will often  start the conversation with: “and how many drinks did you have tonight?”


How Many is “Two” Many?

The response, though true is subject to interpretation. The person will often respond with: “I only had two drinks dear.” That may be a truthful response, however what the person fails to mention is that the wine glass he or she drank from held 18 oz to the brim and the bartender filled each of the two drinks he served to the fullest.

The server assume d the extra portion would increase the size of his tip, while the customer, perhaps unresponsive to the amount served, certainly should have realized that two glasses filled to the top equalled more than a standard bottle of wine. Houston, we have a problem.

Eight Is Not  Eighteen

People, men more than women, tend to think of portions, and not volume to be synonymous. That is, in their minds, a 12 or 18 oz serving is essentially the same as an 8 oz allotment.The size of the serving doesn’t count, only the number of servings consumed. This was confirmed by studies conducted by  Cornell University and Iowa State.

The studies also showed how the size and shape of a glass figured into consumption amounts as did the placement or location of the drinking vessel.. One drink can easily equal three when dimensions and shape of the glass are modified.

Researchers found that when a server poured into a glass being held up by a customer, they would on average for 12% more. The same applied when he  poured into a wide rimmed glass.

By pouring into a glass sitting on a bar or table, the amount was consistently less, by  about 12%

White or Red

White  wine drinkers usually received more than their money’s worth. The amount of white wine poured averaged about 9 percent more than the amount of red wine. The difference in serving portions has been attributed to the variances in color contrast between white and red. This study is available online on the journal entry: Substance Use and Misuse dated September 12.

Do You See What I See?

Perception plays a big roll is determining just how much a person has consumed.  We are programed to concentrate on the vertical measure rather than the horizontal. Simply stated, we tend to drink less when using a tall glass because in our minds taller indicated more volume. This assessment from Ms. Laura Smarandescu in her recent Cornell news release. We are not certain  about the number of drinks nor the kinds of glasses Ms. Smarandescu used in her experiments

For propriety’s sake, the standard measure for a serving of wine has changed dramatically. The 5 oz standard has been altered by placing beautiful hand blown balloon shaped bowls with tall stems and huge 22 oz capacities  into their ads. The effect is dramatic and appealing. The intent is to have people pour up to an imaginary “pour line.” Human reaction soon overtook common sense and the power line went by the wayside and portions increased dramatically over the decades. The wine industry decried the change in habits, but quietly sat back and counted the increase in profits that resulted.

These changes in our drinking habits were noted by the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, as the 5 oz standard went the way of the wild goose. The increase in Alcohol related problems in the States can certainly be traced to the evolution of our drinking styles. People find it very difficult to regulate the amount they pour  and one man’s  one drink can vary significantly over what his neighbor might pour. A drinker has no set standard to rely on.

How Then Can We Regulate Our Drinking?

  • One suggestion  is to control the portion size by using taller, narrow wine glasses. This style uses the psychology of vertical imagery we discussed earlier. Taller glasses represent more volume to a drinker even if the opposite is true.
  • Secondly, in addition to using a narrow wine glass, don’t follow your guests around, bottle in hand looking for an opportunity to refill the their glass. You may think you are being the perfect host, but in reality you may be doing harm to your guests.
  • Wait until the glass is placed down on the table or bar in an obvious “refill please” gesture, or at the point when the guest presents his glass to you in anticipation of a refill.

There are polite ways to slow the pace of consumption. Remember, friends don’t allow friends to overdo.


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