I can’t say I’ve been able to work up much outrage about the government’s proposed mandatory code of practice for the licensed trade. Yes, it’s an unnecessary imposition at a time when the trade is struggling, and it’s a classic example of punishing the responsible majority for the sins of the irresponsibly minority. But a lot of it is common sense that well-run pubs are doing anyway, and so I’m not exactly motived to rush to the barricades to defend all you can drink offers and speed drinking competitions.
One aspect that I agree with is the requirement for pubs to serve wine in 125ml measures, which is perfectly reasonable as even at 12% ABV this represents 1.5 “units” of alcohol. But the proposals are strangely equivocal on the issue of spirit measures. Currently, pubs can serve spirits in measures of either 25ml or 35ml, or multiples thereof, but have to choose one or the other. These are rough metric equivalents to the old English one-sixth of a gill and Scottish one-quarter of a gill. At some point after metrication, pubs in England and Wales were allowed to opt for the larger “Scottish” measure, and a growing number have done so.
At first sight, it might be thought this would lead to increased consumption but, as the consultation document recognises, while 35ml increases the volume of a single, it might well also lead to people trading down from doubles. I very rarely drink spirits in pubs, but I’ve always found 25ml to hardly be enough to cover the bottom of the glass, whereas 35ml is a more reasonable drink. So I might be inclined to switch from a double to a single where the larger measure is served. People who are drinking spirits with mixers might not be so concerned about the actual quantity of spirit, though.
The consultation document makes no recommendations as to whether the current situation should be allowed to continue or whether one or other measure should be made a single standard. Frankly I really don’t see any problem with the current situation and don’t believe it leads to any significant confusion as to how much people are drinking. But, if there is to be only one standard spirit measure, I would suggest that 35ml is the better option as, at 1.4 “units”, it is more in line with other drinks – both a 125ml glass of 13% wine and a 330ml bottle of 5% beer are 1.6 units.