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September 2, 2009

What is "moderate" drinking?

ohboywhatbeer.JPGOK gang, I've got a question: How much alcohol do you consume on the average weeknight? And what kind of alcohol?

Granted, this varies, depending on what you're doing. If you're at a restaurant, you might drink a little more, because, well, you're out and about.

Personally, I tend to drink less if I'm out to dinner on a Tuesday night (unless it's a special occasion), because it costs so much.

But if I'm chilling at home on a Tuesday night, I'll have a beer. Maybe two beers. Or a glass of wine. In the summer, I like a gin and tonic before bed (extra lime, of course). Tonight, I'm planning on having a cigar, which means I'll probably have a glass of scotch.

The reason I ask all this is, I consider a beer or two (even if it's a high-test beer like Clipper City IPA) to be "moderate drinking."

Now, when I go out on Friday nights and down an entire bottle of Courvoisier in 27 minutes -- I call that "heavy drinking."* ...

Then I read this New York Times piece about studies of how drinking can help the mind (oh yeah, baby). The studies defined "light to moderate" drinking as having 1 to 28 drinks a week.


1-28 drinks a week? That's a pretty big window, buddy.

That's the difference between one glass of Courvoisier and a whole bottle (depending on the size of the glass, of course). I drink mine out of a large bull's horn. But that's beside the point. 

The point is, I feel like one or two drinks on a weeknight is "moderate," and four drinks on a weeknight is a bit more than "moderate." What are your weeknight drinking habits, and what do you consider "moderate"?

*My lawyers have advised me to formally note sarcasm in my blogs. That way, I can't be sued for libel, slander or self-deprecation.

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 2:13 PM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Two drink maximum does not mean first and last.

When I went to a new doctor recently, he asked me, "Do you drink more than socially?" I loved that way of putting it.

I think their scale is so large because it's difficult to quantify drinks even when you use the most obvious of quantifiers, i.e. numbers. Four beers does not equal four red bull & vodkas.

Anyway, to answer your question, on an average weeknight (if I drink) I'm at 2 - 3 glasses of wine. Usually at home, so that the bottle lasts me 2 nights.

A nurse once told me that "binge drinking" is defined as more than three drinks at a time consumed every once in awhile.

But she worked in a brain injury unit, and I'm pretty sure she just wanted to lecture somebody.

Forget the medical definitions; I'd call 1-2 drinks light, 3-4 moderate and 5 or more heavy. I don't think your liver cares what day of the week it is.

i drink because i'm unhappy and i'm unhappy because i drink.


The last couple of years I've been trying not to drink at all during weeknights. (unless there was "big game" or something special going on.)

But before that, I'd drink a glass or two of wine every night. I considered that to be moderate.

I'd agree with Rich B (for a per day count); starting "moderate" at 1 drink seems a little silly since it doesn't leave any room for a "light" designation. And 28 drinks in a week? I don't care if that's 4 drinks every night, or 10 drinks each on Friday and Saturday, 4 on Thursday, and 1 each Sunday - Wednesday - that sounds like more than moderate to me.

The weekly basis for counting always bothers me when I run into it on a medical survey. If you asked me today (can't remember what I put the last time I had to fill one out) I'd probably say 6-8 drinks - a drink with dinner a couple of times during the week, and 2-3 drinks out somewhere one or two weekend nights. I'd classify that as light to moderate, but if I drink them all in one night it sounds more like heavy drinking.

[Now, get me in a beer tasting environment and that estimate goes out the window...I'm looking at you, Flying Dog. Can't wait for Baltimore Beer Week!]

I am not prepared to admit this in a public forum.

I'm taking belts of scotch from a flask all day at my desk so it's hard to keep track...

All these labels have a puritanical bias.

For a weekend, I would re-label them:
1-2 Still talking about work
3-4 Let me tell you what's wrong with the world
5+ I love you, man

In my experience it is not possible to accurately count past 5. Enter asparagus.

I think I've heard of this "moderate drinking" thing before. Sounds wild, I'd love to learn more about it.

Moderation is for people with no opinions.

I prefer zero drinks to one in the way I would would rather not eat than just have a salad.

There are so many problems with the way that these research questions are framed. Essentially, the answers are in the questions. I worked for many years in research that surveyed behavior and i HATED categorical questions and analysis. It's the tool of lazy or dishonest researchers. I myself was never dishonest because I am too lazy.

What was the question? Bartender! I wouod like a moderate amount of bourbon and make it a double.

Who counts?

Mark T:

Check out for a listing of Flying Dog events already scheduled for that week.
If you need an immediate fix, Wine Source Friday, Beltway Saturday, & Frisco Grill in Columbia for 5 FD styles next Wednesday!

It only takes me one drink to get drunk... the problem is that I can never remember if it's the 11th or 12th.


Recently, some friends and I were laughing at a USAToday article that said 5 drinks in one sitting was considered binge drinking. There was no time-frame or strength of the drinks included in the calculation. I think 5 beers during a Ravens game is moderate drinking. 5 shots in the first hour at a bar might be a little excessive. What one person consideres moderate, another person (the AMA) considers binging.

To coin a line from Taxi:

Jim Ignatowski - At the bar looking buzzed, staring into a bowl of pretzels:

"I stop drinking.. when the pretzels start dancing"

-long pause

"..The Foxtrot"

Something to factor into the general assessments:

I was told by a hospital worker (Radiology) that it is standard practice for physicians to ask a patient his or her typical/average alcohol consumption, and then mentally increase the given figure by 50% to come up with a more ACCURATE assessment of the person's alcohol consumption.

Think about it. You probably came up with an estimate of your own consumption by the time you read this. Go down your actual week and take notes. You may be surprised. Unless you literally document every serving of alcohol you drink, you're probably cheating as well.

I used to lie during Confession when I was a kid – and that was when God was watching and knew the truth (in His Mind). Do you think I'm telling my doctor the truth? I just assume that he/she knows I'm lying. If I can't tell God the truth what chance does my doctor have? Stupid? Mos def.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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