What Is a Dram Of Whisky? | Whiskipedia (2024)


  1. The British Measurement System
  2. Bar Measurements in British pubs
  3. A wee dram
What Is a Dram Of Whisky? | Whiskipedia (1)

If you drink whisky regularly, you really can’t avoid hearing someone use the word dram. With good friends in the pub, at a whisky show or when touring a distillery the volume always seems to differ making a dram seem to be a rather imprecise unit of measurement. So it’s high time to get to the bottom of the measure of dram.

The British Measurement System

Our first research impulse lead us to the Anglo-American system of measurement, which is still used today in parts of the former British Empire. From 1973 onwards, it was actually planned to slowly but surely switch to the metric system common in the rest of Europe. However, the old units of measurement (yard, mile, ounce, pound, pint etc.) continue to be so popular among the population that the changeover (especially against the background of Brexit) may never be completed.

The unit of measure, dram, exists both as a measure of weight and as a fluid dram. Liquid, that sounds good to us friends of good whisky. According to the definition, a dram in the old English system of measurement corresponds exactly to 0.003551633032809 l, which corresponds to approximately 3.55 ml rounded. This amount however is about enough to moisten the bottom of a glencairn glass. So there must be another definition.

Bar Measurements in British pubs

A dram is not an actual unit of measurement, but colloquially a small amount of whisky. A few decades ago (until a reform in 1963) it was common in Great Britain to pour 1/4, 1/5 or 1/6 of a gill (1 gill = 142 ml) , 35.5 ml , 28.4 ml and 23.7 ml respectively. So a dram was a smaller or larger schnapps.

The system was simplified in 1987, and the spirits poured in English bars have since been measured at 25 ml or 50 ml (double), in Scotland the 35 ml measurement, doubled at 70ml was the norm. However this is shifting inline with England.

A wee dram

A dram is a name rather than a measure in general. Even if a standard measure is defined exactly in the catering trade, the size of a dram can vary from tasting to tasting. On distillery tours you can be extremely lucky or unlucky with the size of the drams served, depending on who does the pouring. In a private setting, however, a dram will not be poured out with the greatest scientific accuracy, and oft as not get larger the more are poured.

The simple explanation is more poetic than exact in definition: ‘A dram is a lot of whisky, which is determined by the generosity and mood of the person who is pouring it out.’


What is the origin of the word dram?

The word dram was likely derived from the greek drakhme meaning coins, but more likely originated in the latin dragme or dragma.

What is a wee dram?

Literally this means a single serving of whisky, though these are often liberally poured. This delightful term emanates from Scotland and is a variation on a 'wee drink'.

Is a dram the same as a shot?

No a shot is a standard unit of measurement while dram (in relation to alcohol) has never been an officially served quantity. Although the terms shot and dram are often used interchangeably to refer to a small serving of whisky, typically served neat (without ice).

What is a dram of whisky?

A dram is a small unit of measurement used in the United States and other countries to measure the volume of a liquid. In the context of whisky, a dram can refer to a small amount of the spirit, typically poured as a sample or served as a drink. The size of a dram can vary depending on the context and the person pouring it, but it is generally considered to be a small amount.

What is a whisky flight?

A whisky flight is a collection of several different whiskies that are served together, typically in small dram glasses or tasters. A whisky flight is often used to allow someone to sample a range of different whiskies, such as those from different distilleries or of different ages or styles. Some whisky bars and restaurants may offer whisky flights as part of their menu, allowing customers to try out a variety of whiskies without having to commit to a full pour of any one of them.

What Is a Dram Of Whisky? | Whiskipedia (2024)
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