A metric fifth of Dewar's Scotch whisky

A fifth is a unit of volume formerly used for wine and distilled beverages in the United States, equal to one fifth of a US liquid gallon, ​45 quart, or 25 35 US fluid ounces (757 ml); it has been superseded by the metric bottle size of 750 mL,[1] sometimes called a metric fifth, which is the standard capacity of wine bottles worldwide and is approximately 1% smaller.


In the late 19th century, liquor in the US was often sold in bottles which appeared to hold one US quart (32 US fl oz; 950 ml), but in fact contained less than a quart and were called "fifths" [2] or commercial quarts.[3]

At this time, one-fifth of a gallon was a common legal threshold for the difference between selling by the drink and selling by the bottle or at wholesale,[3][4][5] and thus the difference between a drinking saloon or barroom and a dry-goods store.

The fifth was the usual size of bottle for distilled beverages in the United States until 1980.[6] Other authorized units based on the fifth included ​45 pint and ​110 pint.[7]

During the 1970s, there was a push for metrication of U.S. government standards. In 1975, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, in cooperation with the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, proposed metric-standard bottle sizes to take effect in January 1979 and these standards were incorporated into Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations.[7][8] These new sizes were 50ml, 100ml, 200ml, 375ml (355ml for cans), 500ml (discontinued in June 1989),[9] 750ml, 1 litre, and 1.75 litre.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ E. Frank Henriques, The Signet Encyclopedia of Wine, p. 298
  2. ^ United States Congress, "Report of hearings on H.R. 16925 to Regulate the Storage of Food Products in the District of Columbia", January 24, 1910, p. 300
  3. ^ a b Municipal League of Los Angeles, Municipal Affairs 2:1 (January 1907) "commercial+quart" p. 4
  4. ^ The Southwestern Reporter 55, 1900, p. 212
  5. ^ Annual report of the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners (California), 1894, p. 71
  6. ^ testimony of Carl L. Alsberg, "Amendments to the Pure Food and Drugs Act", Commonwealth of Virginia, 1919, p. 17: "The ordinary whisky bottle contains one-fifth of a gallon, or 25​35 ounces [...] They are either marked 25 ounces, or one-fifth of a gallon."
  7. ^ a b 27 CFR Chapter I, Part 5, Subpart E, Section 5.47a Metric standards of fill for distilled spirits bottled after December 31, 1979
  8. ^ "Old Standard Fifth Due New Moniker", Indiana Evening Gazette, 16 July 1975, p. 40
  9. ^ "Packaging regulations for alcoholic beverages". Colostate.edu. Colorado State University. Archived from the original on 12 March 2015. Retrieved 12 March 2015.