Beer Versus Liqueur: What Are the Effects Behind the Wheel?

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When it comes to drinking and driving, does one alcoholic beverage differ from another? Does it matter whether you have beer, liquor or liqueur? It is important to understand the composition of alcoholic beverages in order to understand how alcoholic beverages affect your blood alcohol concentration and what kind of effect it might have on your driving. The most important fact to know, right off the bat, is that any alcoholic beverage can impair your driving.

For example, some might think that a glass of wine might affect them more than a can of beer. Or just because a Grand Marnier or Crème de Menthe, which are liqueurs, sound more sophisticated, it doesn’t mean they contain any less alcohol. When it comes to alcohol content, the rule of thumb is that 12 ounces of beer equals 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of liquor, which is the amount in a shot glass.

Alcohol Content in Beverages

The alcoholic content of drinks is generally measured by something known as alcohol by volume or ABV. This refers to the volume of ethanol as a percent of the total volume of the drink. The ABV for beer, for example, is 4.5 percent. For wine, it’s 11.6 percent and for liqueur, it’s 37 percent. For example, the ABV for Grand Marnier is 40 percent and the ABV for Crème de Menthe is 25 percent. For Kahlua that number is at 20 percent.

So, what affects the alcohol level in each beverage? That depends on the fermentation process in which yeast converts sugars into alcohol. Wine requires a longer fermentation process compared to beer. This means it takes a longer time for the yeast to convert sugar into alcohol. Liquor, for example requires an additional process to accomplish its higher alcohol content.

Liquors go through a process called distillation, which separates the water from the alcohol. This essentially results in higher alcohol concentrations. Liquors such as vodka contain 40 percent ABV. That’s not to say some beers don’t have higher alcohol content either. For example, Samuel Adams Utopias, has an ABV as high as 27 percent. It has also been reported that several beer companies have started looking at ways to push the alcohol limit in their beer. Some Scottish brewers have been able to create beers with 32 percent ABV by freezing a 10 percent ABV beer and then removing the ice containing the non-alcoholic ingredients leaving behind a much higher concentration of alcohol.

Effects Behind the Wheel

Any amount of alcohol in your blood could impair your ability to drive. Alcohol could slow your reaction time, which means the risk of a crash increases. Consuming alcohol also leads to lack of eye, hand and foot coordination. Without such skills, it might be pretty hard to take evasive action on the road. Alcohol, no matter how much or how little you drink, can also have an effect on your concentration and vision and inhibit your judgment.
In addition, it could lead to a DUI arrest the consequences of which include jail time, probation, taking alcohol education classes and driver’s license suspension. The severity of the penalties usually depends on the damage the crash caused such as property damage or injuries/fatalities. If you have been arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, it would be in your best interest to contact an experienced Los Angeles DUI defense lawyer who can help protect your rights and fight the charges.