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  • A fifth is a term used to measure hard liquor like vodka or whiskey. But when someone says they drank a fifth of vodka or a fifth of whiskey, what do they actually mean?

    The Fifth & Liquor Bottle Sizes

    People started saying a fifth of liquor because that was the standard bottle size. Liquor was measured in gallons, and one-fifth of a gallon simply became a fifth. 

    In the late 19th century, some stores in the US sold bottles that were called quarts but actually contained less than that. That’s how fifths became known as commercial quarts, but the term “fifths” is what stuck around.

    International Metric System

    However, the US doesn’t actually use those measurements anymore. Alcohol isn’t measured in gallons nowadays. 

    They have switched to the international metric system and changed to milliliters and liters for consistency. Alcohol bottle sizes have also changed. Not everything comes in a fifth of a gallon or a 750 ml bottle. They are either bigger or smaller. 

    A Fifth Of Whiskey

    A fifth of whiskey actually means a fifth of a gallon (750ml bottle/25.4 fluid ounces). 

    Until 1980, a fifth meant a whole bottle of liquor as that was the standard size. Now a bottle can hold more or less than 750 mL. However, if someone says they drank a fifth of whiskey, it means they drank quite a lot. 

    How Many Shots Are In A Fifth Of Whiskey?

    A standard shot in the US is about 1.5 fl oz. There are about 16-17 1.5 ounce shots in a fifth of alcohol, including whiskey.

    How Many Drinks Are In A Fifth Of Whiskey?

    Since a standard drink size for whiskey is the same amount as a shot, there are 16-17 standard drinks in a fifth of whiskey.

    However, the alcohol by volume (ABV) of the whiskey you drink must be around 40% ABV or 80 proof, which is the alcohol content of one standard drink of hard liquor.

    There may be whiskeys that are more than 80 proof and that could change how many drinks or shots are in the bottle.

    To learn about our treatment options for alcohol addiction, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Alcohol and Public Health FAQs
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Alcohol Use and Your Health

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on May 27, 2022
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