What’s a Whisky Dram? And How Much Whisky Is in It?

by Dane Wilson | Last Updated: August 18, 2022

Hey there! This site is reader-supported and we earn commissions if you purchase products from retailers after clicking on a link from our site.

Whether it’s a “tot”, “nip” or “wee one”, there are a wide variety of different terms that are used in regards by most whisky drinkers. However, a “dram” is probably one of the most unusual but commonly used terms. In fact, even a modest whisky drinker sometimes talks about wanting a “wee dram” of whiskey. However, if not a regular whiskey drinker or someone from Scotland, you may be wondering what a whiskey dram is? Along with how much whiskey is in one. If so, don’t fear as all will be revealed below.

Table of Contents

So What Is A Whisky Dram?

Simply put, a whiskey dram is a measurement of whiskey. In particular, the word dram will be used within the context of a quantity of whisky that can be swallowed in one go. Naturally, the amount of whiskey this entails will vary when the word is used in its original colloquial sense. The reason is that a dram could easily refer to a sip or “wee dram”.

Alternatively though, it could also mean a gulp or “healthy dram” or a large swig, otherwise known as a “stiff dram”. Within each of which of course there is also a great room for variation. This being because a wee dram you pour for yourself may vary from one a friend or bartender would pour for you.

With this in mind then, another context for the word dram is for official measurements of the amount of liquid within a fluid dram. As such, this provides a more practical definition of when restaurants serve spirits. The reason being that it makes the dram into defined and uniform measurement.

That said though even after the introduction of a more regulated dram size, a standard dram remained something of an ambiguous topic. The reason being that different regions will define a dram differently from one another.

Burns Crystal The Jacobite Dram Whisky Toasting Glass 2 floz


How Much Is Whiskey In A Dram?

As mentioned above, the amount of liquid within a dram of whisky can vary quite wildly. The reason is that to some it’s just enough to get the glass wet. Meanwhile for others, it will be closer to a large swig. As such, the easiest way to determine how much whiskey is in a dram will be to go by a more officially recognized and regulated definition. Again, this can also leave some variance as different regions of the world will define a dram of whisky differently. That said though three of the more commonly seen variations of dram whisky measurement are as follows:

  • A British Dram
  • The Scottish Dram
  • An American Dram
  • An Indian Dram

A British Dram

Within the context of the United Kingdom, the British measurement system used in bars, restaurants, British pubs and other public establishments where alcohol is served is regulated by the National Measurement and Regulation Office. As such, these establishments are required by law to use specific standardised measures for drinks. 

As a result of this, within the context of ordering a dram of whisky in a bar of a pub, it will be equated to a single measure of whiskey. The result of which being that you will receive between twenty-five millilitres and thirty-five millimetres. This equates to between a fluid ounce and one and a quarter fluid ounces of whiskey. Typically though, the actual measurement will be much closer to the lower end of the spectrum.

What's a Whisky Dram? And How Much Whisky Is in It?

The Scottish Dram

The United Kingdom will more typically use the British dram as a measurement. However, there does exist an older standardised way of measuring a dram of whiskey. This being the Scottish dram. An option that if you are personally seeking to be more traditional, is somewhat more authentic. The reason for this being said is that Scotland is the original homeland of whiskey, with scotch often being the favoured variety amongst whiskey drinkers

It’s unclear whether the measurements of a Scottish dram have remained the same or increased gradually over hundreds of years. However, this measure will truly fill someone’s mouth with forty-three millilitres. A measure equivalent to around one and a half fluid ounces or one-thirteenth of a pint.

An American Dram

Within the parameters of the United States Customary System, a dram is quite a small measurement of whiskey indeed. The reason is that the term dram is defined as being one-eighth of a fluid ounce (or just under four millilitres). Now, this is a tiny amount of whiskey, with it not even enough to fill a teaspoon. However, it somewhat keeps to the spirit of a dram being an easily swallowable quantity of whisky.

However, within the context of being served a drink in an American bar, an American dram is far lower than what a typical single measure would equate to. The reason for this being that a standard “jigger” will actually be much closer to the volume of Scottish dram. Thereby, this will measure out at approximately forty-four millilitres of whiskey (of around one and a half fluid ounces). As such, even though it isn’t officially recognised as a dram, a jigger will often be referred to as one colloquially.

Antique Whiskey Shot Glass Cup Whisky Dram Real Horn Glass Goblet Vintage Set of 2 Glasses – Christmas Gifts

An Indian Dram

Whilst it’s expected that whiskey is popular in America and Britain, a more surprising nation of whiskey lovers is India. Introduced during the British Raj era, whiskey has remained popular in India ever since.

Typically, in India, a “peg” is used as a pretty standard measure for whiskey. This measurement is approximately fifty millilitres of whiskey with a dram being half this amount. That said, another measure for a smaller measure of whiskey in India is “chhota peg” which measures thirty millilitres. 

How Many Drams Are In A Whiskey Bottle?

When it comes to serving drams of whiskey or making cocktails though, you may be wondering how many you will get out of a whiskey bottle. Of course, as mentioned above, the definition of a dram will vary between different regions.

However, with the information above it is possible to t gauge how many drams are in a bottle of whisky depending on how you personally choose to measure them. With that in mind, below is a comparison of different dram measurements to a typical seven-hundred and fifty-millilitre whiskey bottle:

  • British drams in a whiskey bottle: Approximately twenty-seven British drams
  • Scottish Drams in a whiskey bottle: Just under seventeen and a half Scottish drams 
  • American Drams in a whiskey bottle: Just under seventeen American jiggers (colloquially known as drams)
  • Indian drams in a whiskey bottle: Exactly fifteen pegs or thirty drams.

What's a Whisky Dram? And How Much Whisky Is in It?

Where Does The Term Whisky Dram Come From?

As we all know, the liquor whiskey itself draws its origins from the country of Scotland. As such, one of the most iconic and well loved variants of whiskey will be Scotch whiskey. Of course then it is logical that you may come to the conclusion that the term dram in reference to a mouthful of whiskey similarly originated in Scotland.

If so you’d be correct since whilst it’s ambiguous when the term “dram” began being used in this way, it was certainly many centuries ago and was first popularised by the scottish. This being due to the term previously being used as a weight measurement by apothicaries. 

In fact, this is a trend that can be seen as far back as Shakespeare’s day. This is shown by the line:

“Let me have A dram of poison, such soon-speeding gear

As will disperse itself through all the veins That the life-weary taker may fall dead”.

A line which is uttered by Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare also adds credence to the idea of a dram being equivalent to a shot nowadays. This being shown with modern adaptations such as the ‘No Fear Shakespeare’ version of Romeo and Juliet. Here the line reads “Let me have a shot of poison, something that works so fast that the person who takes it will die.”

Why Is It Called A Dram?

As mentioned above, the term dram was popularised in Scotland in thanks partly due to it being used as unit of measurement by apothecaries. Additionally, the term has lasted a very long time with it even being widely known in Shakespeare’s day.

However, these are not the reason for the term dram coming into existence. In truth, the origins of dram as a word are much older and do not originate from Scotland or even the British Isles at all.

In fact, the term dram is derived from a word originating in a completely different part of Europe entirely. That being Greece. The reason for this simply being due to the fact that the word dram is derived from the Ancient Greek word of “Drackme”. This being a word used for coinage or the bible as a reference to a unit or quantity of treasure.

From its Ancient Greek origins, the word “Drackme” was then translated into an assortment of different languages including Latin along with old French and old English. Following which it has endured in one  shape or form to the modern day. In particular, the word morphed into “dram” in Scotland and England where it was used by apothecaries. Later on, it was then used for whiskey, likely due to Scotch and other whiskies having a history of being occasionally used for medicinal purposes. Nowadays, as mentioned above, it is more commonly used as a simple form of slang for a shot of whiskey. 

Royal Scot Crystal Hand Cut Crystal Kintyre Tot Shot Glass Double Shot 4oz | Scottish Dram Whisky Glass

Answered: What’s a Whisky Dram? And How Much Whisky Is in It?

As established before, whiskey dram is a colloquial term. One which traditionally refers to a mouthful of whiskey that can be easily swallowed in one go. The term comes from apothecaries during the time of Shakespeare. These being medical practitioners who would use the dram as a unit of measurement for one eighth of a fluid ounce. 

However, as the phrase evolved more into whiskey oriented slang. As such, the exact measurement for a dram changed and became less precise. For example, a dram could easily refer to a sip or “wee dram”. Alternatively, it may also mean a gulp or “healthy dram” or a large swig, otherwise known as a “stiff dram”. Within each of which of course there is also great room for variation. The reason is that a wee dram you pour for yourself may vary from one a friend or bartender would pour for you.

Within the modern world though, the term dram is regulated by various government authorities around the world. However, these definitions can vary a fair amount. That said though all will ultimately hold true to the idea that dram is a mouthful of whiskey. In particular, one that can be easily swallowed in one go. As such, in the modern world, the term is often used colloquially. It means a single shot or measure of whiskey.

FAQ – What’s a Whisky Dram? And How Much Whisky Is in It?

What is a dram in whisky?

A dram of whiskey is a colloquial term for an amount of whiskey that will be easy to swallow in a single go. Historically, this used to be a very small eighth of a fluid ounce and is still legally classified as such in the United States Of America. However, nowadays, it will typically be used as slang within the context of pouring or ordering a shot or single measure of whiskey. That said though, how much you will get in a modern day dram or shot will depend on the region you are in as they will each have different regulations.

Is a dram of whiskey the same as a shot?

Within a historical context, a dram of whiskey simply means a quantity of whiskey easily swallowed in one go. This amount could vary although apothecaries and the United States government would classify this as one eighth of a fluid ounce. However, in the modern day, a dram is typically used colloquially within the context of pouring or ordering a shot or single measure of whiskey.

Why is it called a dram of whiskey?

The term dram is derived from the Ancient Greek word “drackme”. Which was translated to old English as dram. In this context it was used by apothecaries to refer to a quantity of medicine equivalent to one eighth of fluid ounce. However, in Scotland it soon became slang for a mouthful of whiskey as the liquor has sometimes been used for medicinal purposes. Following which, it has evolved to mean a single measure of shot of whiskey.

How much liquor is in a dram?

The amount of liquor that is in a dram of whiskey can vary quite widely. This being due the fact that it colloquially refers to an amount of whiskey that can be swallowed in a single mouthful. As such, there are some inconsistencies. However, traditionally by old timey apothecaries, along with the United States government it is defined as being one eighth of a fluid ounce. Meanwhile other nations such as the United Kingdom or India define it differently. In these regions it refers to a single measure of alcohol, although, even this definition can vary greatly. Ultimately though, it is typically understood nowadays that a dram is simply slang for a shot or single measure of whiskey.