What is safe level of alcohol consumption for Indians?

Find out ‘how much’ and ‘how often’ in terms of common Indian drink sizes!

If consumed in low/moderate amounts and safe conditions , drinking alcoholic drinks can stay as a recreation/fun activity with friends. But alcohol abuse can disrupt your health, family life/work life and even lead to fatal accidents!

Therefore, if you drink alcohol,  you should understand  ‘the standard drink size’ and ‘low risk drinking’ defined in terms of numbers of standard drinks per day or per week. But there is no risk free or absolutely safe drinking!

We have based our recommendations on WHO guidelines;  WHO defines low risk drinking for men and women as less 10 drinks or less  in week (2 drinks on average/day, but two alcohol free days in a week).

Also, alcohol is a significant source of calories in your eating out: one standard glass of wine, pint/can of beer or ‘large’ whiskey will give you nearly 130-140 calories, equal to a can of coke, and cocktails can give as much as 500 calories in one go, so take care to count them in your meal when thinking of calories

Here is a table showing how to keep to ‘low risk drinking limits’ and watch alcohol calories

Drink Standard drink size (WHO definition= 10 gms of alcohol)  Common order sizes Low risk drinking Calories in common serving sizes
Beer (5%w/v strength) 250 ml=3/4th pint=

40% of bottle

1 pint or can= 330 ml= 1.3 drinks1 bottle=650 ml=2.5 drinks If you drink 1-2 times in a week or lessFor men: no more than 2-3 pints or nearly 1.5 bottles

Women: 1.5-2 pints or  less than one bottle

On any single occasion (,6 standard drinks for men and less than 4 for women)

For men: No more than 4.5 pints or nearly ~2.25 bottles

Women: No more than 3 pints or 1.5 bottles

1 pint has ~ 140 calories1 bottle has 275 calories
Hard liquors (Whiskey, rum, vodka etc.), strength 40% w/v ~ 30 ml=one small


1 small = 30 ml1 large = 60 ml If you drink 1-2 times in a week For men: 3-4 small

Women:  2-3 small

On any single occasion

For men: No more than 6 small or 3 large

Women: No more than 4 small or 2 large

1 small (30 ml) has 64 calories1 large (60 ml) =128 calories
Wine (12% w/v) 105 ml 1 small glass= 125 ml= 1.25 drinksA standard glass= 150-175 ml= 1.5-1.7 drinks

1 large glass= 250 ml= 2.5 drinks

A large bottle = 750 ml= 7.5 drinks

If you drink 1-2 times in a weekFor men: no more than 2-2.5 standard glasses

Women:  no more than  1.5 standard glasses

On any single occasion

For men: No more than 3.5 standard glasses or half a bottle

Women: No more than 2.5 standard glasses or 1/3rd bottle

1 small glass: 85 calorieslarge glass: 180 calories
Cocktails Usually contain 2 standard drink= 60 ml of hard liquor 1 cocktail For men: 2 suchWomen:  1 such Varies as per ingredientscheck out the


Even low risk drinking can be harmful if you:

  • Have medical problems such as heart rhythm/rate problems, persistent pain, liver problems or psychiatric/mood disorders
  • Are on drugs for medical conditions, since some of the drugs interact with alcohol
  • Have a parent, sibling or other blood relative who suffers from alcohol addiction (the risk of addiction increases with family history)
  • Drive or operate machinery under the influence of alcohol
  • Alcohol has a permissive effect on other substance abuse such as smoking and illicit drug use, especially in young people

Find out whether you are at risk of alcohol dependence/abuse. ALSO, read about harmful effects of alcohol on the body

Do not get confused by different definitions of ‘standard drink size’!

Definition of one standard drink and limits for low risk drinking vary across countries, because of their population characteristics and cultural preferences. For India, the WHO definitions are more valid because of our smaller build on average than westerners and low traditional consumption levels.

The Indian authorities such as NIN, ICMR etc. have not come out on any guidelines on consumption of alcohol, but many guidelines including WHO, NIAAH (USA) and NHS (UK) exist which vary in how they define one ‘standard drink’ of alcohol.

WHO ‘standard’ drink= 10 gms of ethanol

NIAAA ‘standard’ drink= 14 gms of alcohol

NHS ‘standard’ drink= 8 gms of alcohol

We have based our recommendations on WHO guidelines;  WHO defines low risk drinking for men and women as less 10 drinks or less  in week (2 drinks on average/day, but two alcohol free days in a week). However, the US (NIAAA) and UK (NHS) agencies are a bit more liberal in case of their men, as per them


  • Drink less than 20 standard drinks ( WHO ‘standard’  drink sizes) in a week AND less than 6 on any given day. However men with low weight/BMI should keep to the limit of 10 standard drinks per week


  • Drink less than 10 standard drinks in week AND less than 4 on any given day


  • Have at least two alcohol free days in a week

Also read : harmful effects of smoking and how to quit smoking

CHECK OUT: Our references for recommendations on diet