Calories in alcohol

If you like piña coladas, and looking down at the scale.

People with drinks

It’s 2019, and there’s still no such thing as fat-free alcohol. Whether we count liquid happy hour calories or not, do we have any clue about the calories our drinks are packing?

To find out what Americans know about calories and alcohol, Finder asked 2,068 adults for their best guess on the calorie count of 11 popular alcoholic beverages.

BeverageOuncesLiquor OuncesCalories
Champagne4 oz.90 cal
White Wine5 oz.116 cal
Rosé5 oz.82 cal
Red Wine5 oz.121 cal
Budweiser12 oz.145 cal
Budlight12 oz.110 cal
Twisted Tea12 oz.220 cal
Spiked Seltzer12 oz.140 cal
Vodka + Sprite12 oz. of Sprite1.5 oz. of vodka240 cal
Margarita4 oz.90 cal
Whiskey + Coke12 oz. of Coke1.5 oz. of whiskey90 cal

Which drinks were Americans closest to guessing calories for?

If Americans were to bet the bar tab on how many calories are in a specific drink, smart money would be on Spiked Seltzer. Of the 11 alcoholic beverages in our survey, the fizzy drink was the only one for which the average response was within 10 calories: a guess of 132 calories to the actual 140 calories.

A bottle of Budweiser is actually 145 calories, and yet the average guess from Americans is 175. Despite the guessing gap, the King of Beers boasts the largest percentage of people (11.7%) among all other drinks who could guesstimate its caloric content within 10 calories.

Four other popular potables that Americans came within 25 calories of guessing:

BeverageGuessActualDifference
Spiked Seltzer1321408
Margarita21424834
Bottle of Bud Light13311023
Glass of white wine14111625

What drinks present the largest guessing gap among Americans?

According to our survey, the wines win, which could just be the excuse you need to pop another bottle on cheat day.

The average American in our survey pins a glass of rosé all the way up at 145 calories. In reality, the brunch fave comes in at a light 82 calories. As for Champagne, the average guess is 148 calories — or 58 calories higher than its actual 90.

Other alcohols we’re overestimating calorie counts for are:

BeverageGuessActualDifference
Bottle of Budweiser17514530
Bottle of Bud Light13311023
Glass of white wine14111625
Glass of red wine14712126

Vodka with Sprite and whiskey with Coke are two mixed drinks most Americans couldn’t come close to approximating calories for. Of the 11 alcoholic beverages in our survey, these two are actually the most calorie dense.

Vodka and Sprite weighs in at 240 calories, and yet the average American guesses it’s around 187. Whiskey and Coke has an even higher calorie count at 265, though Americans guesstimate an average 217.

Other drinks Americans underestimate the calorie count for include:

BeverageGuessActualDifference
Spiked Seltzer1321408
Margarita21422814
Twisted Tea18322037

Which gender calls accurate calorie shots more often?

Men may think they know beer better. But an estimated 11% of women surveyed could call Budweiser within 10 calories, and some 11.4% were inside 10 calories for Bud Light. Compare that to the 12.3% of men who guessed within 10 calories for Budweiser, and 8.1% of men guessing within 10 calories for Bud Light.

A margarita, whiskey and Coke and Twisted Tea are high in calories, and yet men are more likely to underestimate the calorie counts of these drinks when compared with women. Women tend to overestimate calories for all drinks other than vodka and Sprite, whiskey and Coke, Spiked Seltzer and Twisted Tea.

In effect, women are more on the ball across the board when counting alcohol-related calories. Some 9.7% of women compared with 8.5% of men guessed within 10 calories for all of the alcoholic beverages we asked about.

Barroom heroes: Old-timers vs. newer generations

About 10.5% of baby boomers guessed within 10 calories for all of the 11 drinks in our survey, whereas some 8.7% of Gen Xers and 7.9% of millennials were able to do the same.

Of actual drinks, 15.1% of baby boomers guessed within 10 calories for a bottle of Budweiser, and an estimated 12.1% could tell you the caloric content of a glass of red with a 10-calorie cushion.

Gen Xers are most accurate within 10 calories for a glass of rosé and a bottle of Budweiser: 10.8% for the King of Beers and 10.1% for rosé.

Millennials are the least accurate guessers across the board, but what they know most about shouldn’t raise an eyebrow. About 9.6% of millennials guessed within 10 calories for a bottle of Bud Light, while 9.4% guessed within 10 calories for rosé.

Methodology

Our data is based on a recent online survey of 2,068 US adults ages 18 to 91 commissioned by Finder and conducted by Pureprofile in August 2019. Participants were paid volunteers.

We assume the 2,068 participants in our survey represent the US population of 253.9 million Americans who are at least 18 years old according to the 2018 US Census Bureau estimate. This assumption was made at the 95% confidence level with a 2% margin of error.

The survey asked people to guess how many calories were in a variety of drinks. For each drink, we calculated the mean number of calories guessed by all of the survey participants. We then calculated how much the mean guess differed from the actual number, as well as what percentage of participants guessed within 10 calories of the correct answer.

To avoid outliers skewing the data, we included in the calculations only answers between 10 and 1,000. For example, one participant guessed 50,000 calories and above for all of the alcoholic beverages, and so it wasn’t calculated as part of the mean.

We define generations by the age of participants at the time of the survey:
Millennials — ages 18 to 34
Generation X — ages 35 to 54
Baby boomers — ages 55+

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