# Why is Booze Measured in Proof?

The proof of an alcoholic beverage is not simply twice the percentage alcohol.

In the 18th century and until 1980, Britain defined alcohol content in terms of proof spirit, which was defined as the most dilute spirit that would sustain combustion of gunpowder.[1] The term originated in the 18th century, when payments to British sailors included rations of rum. To ensure that the rum had not been watered down, it was "proved" by dousing gunpowder in it, then testing to see if the gunpowder would ignite. If it did not burn, the rum contained too much water — and was considered to be "under proof". A "proven" sample of rum was defined to be 100 degrees proof; this was later found to occur at 57.15% alcohol by volume, which is very close to a 4:7 ratio of alcohol to total amount of liquid. Thus, the definition amounted to declaring that:

(4÷7) × 175 = 100 degrees proof spirit

From this it followed that pure, 100% alcohol had (7÷7) × 175 = 175 degrees proof spirit, and that 50% ABV had (3.5÷7) × 175 = 87.5 degrees proof spirit.

The basic idea is that the percentage of alcohol by volume is multiplied by 1.75, which gives the number of degrees proof spirit.