I've seen this claim a few times around the internet:

The reality is that the average Russian consumes about a pint of vodka a day; or, one-half of a half liter.

Source: Russian Life, 2007

The claim isn't terrible clear about the units. (@ChrisW suggests it means a pint of vodka, which is equivalent to around 250mL of alcohol.) The most generous interpretation is that the average Russian drinks more than 250mL of vodka per day.

Does the average Russian drink more than 250mL of vodka per day?

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    Note that a pint is about half a liter, not "half of a half liter" -- that inaccuracy is enough to cast doubt on the whole quote. – Ernest Friedman-Hill Jul 3 '15 at 2:47
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    @Andrew: I think that actually answers the question, after a little calculation. The data there says the average Russian consumes 6.88 liters of alcohol in the form of spirits, per year. Assuming that all those spirits were vodka at, say, 40% alcohol by volume, we get 47 ml of vodka per person per day, a factor of 5 lower than the claimed amount of 250 ml. – Nate Eldredge Jul 3 '15 at 3:12
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    Why use the internationally recognized metric system when there are plenty of other units of measurement to choose from? – gurghet Jul 3 '15 at 4:32
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    @gurghet: Because the original claim was stated in non-metric units, so changing units in the answer would be confusing. – jamesqf Jul 3 '15 at 5:55
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    @ChrisW: OH! You are interpreting the statement as "a pint of vodka a day; which is equivalent to one-half of a half liter of pure alcohol". While the claim is poorly worded, at least that has internal consistency. I edited to suggest this. – Oddthinking Jul 3 '15 at 22:55

No, it's an exaggeration.

In 2010, Russian males (aged 15+) consumed an average of 23.9 (Confidence interval 21.1–26.8) liters of pure alcohol annually. Including women brings it down to 15.1 (13.3–16.9) liters.(WHO; pg. 5)

(Note that the break-down is 37.6% Beer, 11.4% Wine, and 51.0% Spirits)(same pdf, pg. 13)

So, to be generous, even if we only look at the men and assume all the alcohol they consume is vodka.

Vodka is apparently usually about 40% alcohol by volume. So a liter of vodka would be 0.4 liters of alcohol.

Dividing 23.9 liters of alcohol per year by 40% by volume gives us the equivalent alcohol to 59.75 liters of vodka per year.

Dividing the annual consumption by 365 gets us 163.7 mL of vodka per day.

Even with a generous interpretation of the claim we are still pretty shy of 250mL.

Looking at these US tables (which only apply to US spirits measurements), the glass size falls between a "gill" glass (118 mL) and a "half pint" glass (200 mL) (which is strangely is not half of a (liquor) pint, or half of a US pint or half of an Imperial pint)]


A more accurate (but still generous) version of the claim is to consider all adults, not just men, and discard the 49% non-spirits drinks, but assume all the spirits S are vodka.

15.1 L per year both genders * 51% spirits / 40% by volume / 365 days = 0.050 L = 50 mL.

We are far too shy of the claim for it to be true.

So does...

the average Russian consumes about a pint of vodka a day; or, one-half of a half liter.

No.

Note that "the average Russian" could be describing about the median value, not the average value. In which case, under perfectly ideal circumstances at most double our average, still being too low.

  • @Oddthinking Wow, your edit improved the readability a lot. I didn't feel like it was incredibly clear, but I wasn't sure how it could be improved. But you did it. Much better. Thanks. – Adam Phelps Jul 4 '15 at 0:50

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