The word itself is derived from the Ancient Greek “drackhme,” a term that was originally used to describe coins and treasure, notes The Single Cask. The word came to refer to the weight of objects in Old English before it was eventually used by apothecaries to measure medicine in one-eighth-ounce servings. Even Shakespeare used the term, describing Romeo as calling out for a dram of poison that could kill.
Now how exactly the word skipped from the category of medicine to whisky is unclear but leave it to the Scots to label the amount of whiskey you could swallow in one go as a dram.
And, of course, there’s a range: from a wee dram to a hearty dram and everything in between. The amount of whisky in an actual dram will vary depending on where you are and who is standing behind the bar. Though the term is common vernacular throughout the U.K., the actual measurement is less clear.
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Pubs in different regions will measure out drams according to different standards (unless, of course, the bartender is mixing an actual drink with whiskey. Cocktail Society points out the “Distance to London rule,” which means the further away one travels from London, the more whiskey is contained in a dram.
When you step up to a bar to order a dram of whisky in Scotland, you’ll be served either an ounce (28.4ml) or one and a quarter fluid ounces (35.5ml) by the bartender, per The Whiskey Wash.
Americans use the United States Customary System to spell out exactly what a dram represents; they’ve kept the association with apothecaries, but it isn’t much of a pour: a dram is one-eighth of a fluid ounce (only 3.55ml!), which is less than a teaspoon!
Of course, in Australia we have a 30ml shot as our standard dram of whisky. Looks like if you want a generous whisky neat, Australia and some pubs in Scotland are the best place to be.
Regardless of where you’re ordering drams, it never hurts to buddy up to the bartender in hopes of receiving a more generous pour.
Source: Adapted from the original – What A ‘Dram’ Of Whisky Actually Means (msn.com)