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What is Proof in Alcohol?

Knowing what alcohol proof means is one thing. Knowing the history of how it came to be is a way to dazzle your friends while you’re all getting toasted and recovering with IVs in the Keys with Hangover Hospital.

Proof is the measure of alcohol content in alcohol. Scientifically speaking, it is the measure of ethanol in a drink. However, it doesn’t work as a simple percentage. The proof of alcohol is actually twice the percentage of the ethanol content. This is because the proof is graded on a scale of 200. Therefore, 100 proof alcohol is not 100% alcohol, but rather 50% alcohol.

  • The question, of course, is why? Why would alcohol be graded on a scale of 200 as opposed to 100? The answer to that question is England.

England decided that alcohol needed to be graded on a scale of 200 as opposed to 100. But it isn’t that simple. Originally, the proof was a measure of “alcohol by volume” or ABV. In England, the proof was equivalent to around 1.75 times the amount of ABV. The Americans simplified this to 2.00 times and the rest is history.


The History of Proof as a Measure of Alcohol

What is Proof in Alcohol? - Hangover Hospital Key West | Hangover HospitalProof dates back to the very early Renaissance in 16th century England. It was used as a method of taxing alcohol depending on the alcohol content. The more alcohol, the more heavily taxed it was. Of course, the early English did not have sophisticated means of measuring alcohol content. Instead, they dipped a pellet of gunpowder in the alcohol and, if they were still able to burn it, then it was taxed “above proof” and slapped with a higher tax.

However, in order to qualify as “above proof” the alcohol content for rum would have to be around 57.15% ABV. If we’re using English standard for proof, which is about 1.75 times the ABV, that comes out to roughly 100. So, the English called that 100 proof.

  • The U.S. is the only country left on earth that sells alcohol by proof. They are also the only country left on earth that knows how many pecks are in a bushel (four).

Measuring Alcohol in Your Bloodstream

What is Proof in Alcohol? - Hangover Hospital Key West | Hangover HospitalYou may, at this point, be wondering what proof your blood is if you’ve had such and such amount of drinks. BAC measures how many grams of blood is in your alcohol stream—no wait—how many grams of alcohol is in your bloodstream per 100 g of blood. Fun fact: If the police draw less than 100 g of blood, it can artificially inflate your BAC.

So if you have a .08 BAC, then you have .8% alcohol in your bloodstream. This means your blood (by the American standard) is 1.6 proof. Yum!


Talk to the Hangover Paramedics

What is Proof in Alcohol? - Hangover Hospital Key West | Hangover HospitalThe Hangover Hospital has been helping the hungover manage the deleterious side effects of a fun night out. For more information, give us a call and find out about our custom-tailored packages that will rid you of your hangover within 45 minutes.