The amount of whiskey poured for one drink is quite small and yet it contains a relatively large number of calories. This was an issue for me because I like whiskey, but I don’t like calories. That’s why I wanted to find out why whiskey is so high in calories and what I could do about it.
Whiskey is high in calories because it contains alcohol which has seven calories per gram – almost twice the number of most of the other sources of calories. It’s also because whiskey is a distilled spirit, so it contains a lot of alcohol – with seven calories per gram.
Let’s go into that in more detail.
Whiskey Is High in Calories
In case you think I’m making a big deal out of this, I want to compare the number of calories in whiskey with the number of calories in other regularly consumed foods and drinks.
|Portion Size||Number of Calories|
|Glass of whiskey||2fl oz||131 – 222|
|Cup of coffee||6fl oz||1|
|Slice of white bread||25g||66|
|Serving of pasta||57g||75|
|Glass of coca cola||8fl oz||88|
|Serving of tuna||85g||112|
|Serving of vanilla ice cream||66g||137|
|Portion of meat||100g||143|
|Medium sized baked potato||173g||161|
As you can see from the table above, a relatively small 2fl oz glass of whiskey (which is the standard neat pour) has between 131 and 222 calories. This is more calories than a slice of bread, a serving of pasta, and even a glass of coca cola. And it’s about the same number of calories as a portion of meat, a medium sized baked potato and incredibly, a serving of vanilla ice cream!
How can such a small amount of whiskey contain the same amount of calories as things that are much bigger and much heavier? Here’s how.
Why There Are So Many Calories in Whiskey
The reason why there are so many calories in whiskey is because it contains the source of calories with the second largest number of calories per gram – alcohol. It’s also because whiskey is a distilled spirit, so it contains a large amount of (7 calories per gram) alcohol.
There are actually four sources of calories, and each source contains a certain number of calories per gram as you can see in the following table.
|Source||Number of Calories Per Gram|
As you can see, proteins and carbs contain about half the number of calories per gram than alcohol and fats, so it starts to make sense that a smaller amount of whiskey can have a similar number of calories to foods and drinks with carbs and proteins.
Not only that but part of the whiskey making process is to increase the amount of alcohol it contains. When the sugars of grains are fermented, they become alcohol – but only 5% – 10%ABV. When that is then distilled – meaning concentrated, it becomes 65% – 95%ABV. Whiskey is eventually bottled at a lower ABV but as it’s between 40% – 68%ABV that’s still quite high.
That means even with the relatively small standard neat pour of 2fl oz, you’ll have a lot of alcohol and therefore a lot of calories. In a 40%ABV whiskey that means 18.67g of alcohol and 131 calories. And if the ABV of your whiskey is higher, the grams of alcohol will be higher too as will be the number of calories.
The following table shows the grams of alcohol and the number of calories for common whiskey ABVs.
|ABV||Grams of Alcohol||Number of Calories|
This is why whiskey is so high in calories.
What To Do About the High Number of Calories in Whiskey
While you obviously can’t reduce the number of calories in whiskey, there are several things you can do to reduce your intake of calories when drinking whiskey.
1. Drink Lower ABV Whiskeys
One thing you can do is drink lower ABV whiskeys. As you can see from the previous table above, a glass of 40%ABV whiskey is more than 30 calories less than a glass of 50%ABV whiskey and almost half the number of calories of a glass of 68%ABV whiskey.
2. Reduce The Size of Your Drink
Another thing you can do is to reduce the size of your drink. The following table shows the number of calories in a 1fl oz and 1.5fl oz drink for common whiskey ABVs.
|Number of Calories In 1fl oz||Number of Calories In 1.5fl oz|
Obviously, reducing the size of your drink by half to 1fl oz will halve the number of calories you consume, but even reducing the size of your drink to 1.5fl oz will make a significant difference. A 1.5fl oz drink of 40%ABV is more than 30 calories less than a 2fl oz drink of the same whiskey, and a 1.5fl oz drink of 68%ABV is almost 60 calories less than a 2fl oz drink of the same whiskey.
3. Drink Good Quality Whiskey
The last thing you can do about the high number of calories in whiskey is to drink a good-quality whiskey. Now this may sound counter intuitive because a good-quality whiskey is usually drunk neat with a 2fl oz pour for a more substantial drink, whereas lower-quality whiskeys are usually drunk in smaller 1fl oz or 1.5fl oz shots. Also, if it’s a good-quality whiskey there’s a strong chance you’ll want to drink more of it.
However, since drinking whiskey neat takes longer than drinking whiskey shots – you need time to detect the aromas and flavors of the whiskey and time to savor them, you’ll probably have fewer neat drinks than you would have had shots, and end up drinking less (but better quality) whiskey overall.
Whiskey Is Not as High in Calories as Beer & Wine
It’s worth remembering that although whiskey is high in calories relative to some other foods and drinks, it’s not high in calories relative to other alcoholic drinks. Whiskey has the same number of calories as other distilled spirits, but less calories than beer and wine.
That’s because the same distillation process that condenses the alcohol and increases the ABV of whiskey, also removes any of the other sources of calories (mostly carbs) from the ingredients. Since beer and wine aren’t distilled other sources of calories won’t be removed.
And although whiskey has a far higher ABV than beer and wine, so you would think that having a second (and lower) source of calories wouldn’t give beer and wine more calories overall, since the standard drink size for each type of alcoholic drink is adjusted to ensure that each has the same amount of alcohol (14g), it does. The following table shows what I mean.
|ABV||Drink Size||Grams of Alcohol||Calories|
This table shows the standard (US) drink size for beer, wine and whiskey. As you can see, the higher the ABV the smaller the size of the drink which ensures that each standard drink has the same number of grams of alcohol.
With 7 calories per gram of alcohol, every standard alcoholic drink will have at least 98 calories, and with no other sources of calories that will be the number of calories in a standard whiskey. But a standard beer and wine has 25 and 50 calories more respectively because other sources of calories weren’t removed like they were for whiskey.