The amount of alcohol in a distilled spirit — for instance, vodka or whiskey — is known as the ”proof.”

Different countries have different standards for an alcoholic beverage’s proof. In the United States, a spirit’s proof is double its alcohol by volume (ABV).

Alcohol by volume (ABV) is the number of millimeters (mL) of pure ethanol in every 100 mL or 3.4 ounces (oz) of fluid (fl).

This way of communicating a distilled spirit or liquor’s potency helps distinguish the product from other alcoholic beverages.

The use of proof as a measure for the amount of alcohol present in a beverage dates back to the 1500s, making this unit of measurement as old as Renaissance artists like Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo.

The British government created the system to distinguish between liquids of varying alcoholic potency and put a tax on so-called “proof spirits” with a proof of 100 or more.

Proof is traditionally used to measure the alcohol level of distilled spirits like:

Generally, the higher the proof, the higher the amount of calories.

Alcohol manufacturers in the United States are no longer required to list a product’s proof on its label. Manufacturers who do wish to include the proof must adhere to set standards.

The proof system was devised to measure the alcohol content of high-potency beverages.

Beer, cider, and wine typically have far less alcohol content than spirits or liquors.

Beer, cider, and wine are measured by ABV instead of proof.

In the United States, proof is calculated by doubling a spirit’s ABV.

Although alcohol manufacturers in the United States aren’t required to list or label a product’s proof, theyre required to list its ABV.

It’s important to note that proof and ABV calculations aren’t the same in each country. In France, for example, proof is equal to ABV.

SpiritTypical ABV RangeTypical Proof Range

Proof is a useful measure for the strength of a distilled spirit like brandy, gin, rum, tequila, vodka, or whiskey.

In the United States, a product’s proof is double its ABV. Most spirits are 80-proof or higher.

John Loeppky is a disabled freelance journalist who currently resides in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada on Treaty 6 territory. His work has appeared for CBC, FiveThirtyEight, Defector, Insider, and a host of other publications. He can be reached at and his goal in life is to have an entertaining obituary to read.