We here at Bibulo.us frequently lament the movement toward excessively large cocktails. By the time one gets to the bottom of one of these nine-ounce monsters, the drink has inevitably reached room temperature and the drinker's blood alcohol content has inevitably reached "slushy."
And so it warmed our hearts to see that someone had supported our observations with data. A study to be published in September in a the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research shows that the total ethanol content of the average Northern California cocktail is 42% greater than a "standard drink". (A "standard drink" is defined as 0.6 ounces of pure ethanol, which is found in about 1.5 ounces of spirits.) The paper itself is hidden behind a pay wall, but a little math shows that the average cocktail has about 2.13 oz of 80-proof spirit in it -- so once you add that lemon juice to your lemon drop (doubling the volume) and shake it with ice (adding 25%), we're looking at almost five and a half ounces of liquid. So the average cocktail in the Bay Area must be served in a seven-ounce glass (so it doesn't slop over the side).
This finding jibes with our anecdotal evidence. While there are outliers on the properly-sized side (we've often had outstanding 3.5-oz drinks at Absinthe or Bix) and on the vat-of-booze side (but we go to Martuni's anyway), most drinks are, well, just a little bit too big.
As the study's authors point out, The Incredible Expanding Cocktail has more serious effects than inflicting lukewarm cocktails on an unsuspecting public. People have a hard time knowing how much they've had to drink when "a cocktail" at one establishment equals three cocktails at another. So if you don't regularly bring a graduated cylinder and a hydrometer along with you to the bar, take our advice: have another cocktail, and take the subway home.