What’s the Difference Between 0.0 and 0.5 Proof? Deciphering Alcohol-Free and Nonalcoholic Drinks

Posted by Boisson Staff on

When you start exploring your options for nonalcoholic drinks, the terms can get confusing. Most people don’t realize that there’s alcohol in more things than just those that are labeled alcohol, and a small percentage of alcohol (such as 0.5% alcohol by volume) may not be quite as effective as you think it is. Here is an explanation to help you understand the labels of your favorite liquor alternatives.

Glossary of Alcohol Terms 

When it comes to lowering your alcohol intake, you’ll see a lot of options. For example, something labeled “alcohol-free” may contain up to 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) depending on what country you’re in. Here in the United States, 0.5% ABV is dubbed a “trace amount of alcohol” by the FDA. Because of this, these drinks are only legally allowed to be labeled non-alcoholic and never alcohol-free. 

In the U.K., it’s a bit more confusing. The labeling regulations and licensing laws are inconsistent with each other so something with 0.5% alcohol could be labeled as “non-alcoholic” or “alcohol-free.”

Another term you might see is “dealcoholized.” This is a drink that contains up to 0.5% alcohol by volume. However, unlike some alcohol-free drinks with the same ABV, dealcoholized beverages exclusively refer to drinks that started out with alcohol and had the alcohol removed. So something that has naturally occurring alcohol but has not had that alcohol removed cannot be termed “dealcoholized” even if the alcohol content is less than 0.5%.

Something that’s low-alcohol will have more than 0.5% ABV but no more than 1.2%. To be alcoholic, the drink must contain more than 1.2%. For comparison, a few prominent alcohols have the following ABV:

  • Hard cider or beer – 4% to 7% ABV
  • Wine – 10% to 12% ABV
  • Liquor – 40% to 50%

Can You Get Drunk Drinking 0.5% Alcohol?

Nope! If your goal is to avoid intoxication and the hangover that follows, you can rest assured you will be alright with 0.5%. No matter how many drinks you might have at 0.5% proof, you cannot become intoxicated.

In fact, alcohol content that’s above 0.5% could be lurking in your favorite fruit juice. For example, you could be getting as much as 0.86% ABV in grape juice or 0.73% ABV in orange juice. Certain types of bread or rolls can have an even higher percentage. While every person will have different views or preferences when it comes to drinking something that’s 0.5% alcohol by volume, it’s interesting to see low ABV in the context of other everyday food and drink items.

Is Non-Alcoholic Drinking Right for You?

While you can’t get drunk on a trace amount of alcohol, there are many reasons why you may opt out of drinking any alcohol – including something that’s labeled “non-alcoholic.” For example, if you’re pregnant, you may want to be extra cautious. But if abstaining from alcohol is a personal choice, choosing to drink or not drink is completely up to you. Either choice is valid!

If you are sober, there isn’t a clear-cut answer on whether or not something that’s imitating an alcoholic drink but contains very little to no alcohol is a good choice. For some people, simply the fact that the beverage will not get you drunk is all they need. But for others, they may have a hard time not viewing alcohol-free drinks as a gateway into alcohol. It’s always a good idea to talk to your sponsor, support group, or loved ones before making this decision.

Does Zero Proof Exist?

Since alcohol in trace amounts is in so many drinks, you may start to wonder: does zero proof alcohol even truly exist? The answer is “yes!” Look for a label that says 0.0 ABV. If the liquor is American, it should be also be labeled “alcohol-free.” A few favorites include:

Looking for Alcohol-Free and Nonalcoholic Drinks? Order from Boisson!

At Boisson, it’s important to us that our customers feel empowered to make thoughtful choices about what they drink. This is a judgment-free zone! No matter what place you’re in, we want to support you to make more informed purchasing decisions. 

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