It wasn’t until 1902 when scientists learned that alcohol has calories. Lots of them.
In that year, the “father” of American nutrition science, Wilbur Atwater, announced after meticulous experiments that alcohol has seven calories per gram. That’s nearly twice the calories of carbohydrates and protein, which have four. Fat has the most, with nine calories per gram.
This was before we knew about vitamins In those days, the value of a food was judged by how many calories it provided. Atwater himself was a strong proponent of eating the cheapest calories for physical and financial health. (He died before vitamins were discovered.)
Atwater’s finding about alcohol was controversial, to say the least.
Here was the most famous nutritionist of the day and a non-drinker himself seeming to support the idea that alcohol was a valuable food at a time when public drinking was a big social problem. But that’s what his data showed. Atwater stuck to his guns, despite fierce opposition from temperance groups and his own Methodist church who claimed he must be wrong. He wasn’t.
Here are the calories in a variety of liquors and cocktails. The differences are due to the varying levels of alcohol, carbohydrates, and yeast in these drinks.
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