Where did the idea of pouring 30 ml, 60 ml or 90 ml in drinks begin. Is there a theory or scientific reason behind it? Have gone through this post: Peg (unit) from Wikipedia, but it does not help me.

A peg is a unit of volume for measuring liquor in India and Nepal. The terms "large peg" and "small peg" are used, equal to 60 mL and 30 mL, respectively, with "peg" simply referring to a small peg. In India liquor's alcohol content is fixed at 42.8% ABV, it follows that a peg of liquor contains 25.68 mL of pure alcohol, or 20.26 g.

And then there is this also: Patiala peg (Wikipedia).

The Patiala peg is a measure of liquor popular in Indian Punjab. It is a volume roughly equivalent to 120 ml, though the rough and ready measure is the amount of liquor needed to fill a glass equal to the height between the index and little fingers when they are held parallel to one another.[1] Even major liquor companies have started selling their products in the single drink packaging of 90 ml & 120 ml bottles in India. The name originates from the city of Patiala, which was once a state known for the extravagant ways of its royalty and extraordinary height of its Sikh soldiers.

Did it originate in India ?


The British used the Imperial system of measures from 1824 and India was part of the British Empire until 1947. 1 British Imperial fluid ounce is equal to 28.41 ml, which is close to 30 ml. Maybe this practice evolved from the specification that 1 peg equaled 1 imp. oz. and was rounded up to 30-ml after metrification.

Standard Indian-made liquor is packaged in 90-, 120-, 180-, 360-, and 750-ml bottles to make it easier to divide equally into pegs.


You seem to be asking two questions, I'll try to answer both although a lot of this is conjecture:

Why are spirits in India poured in multiples of 30ml?

This is likely due to 30ml being easy to both measure out and to drink. 30 ml is pretty standard world-wide as a small or single measure, and multiplying a small measure (rather than have, say, 30ml followed by 50ml) makes things easy. 20ish g of pure alcohol (large peg) or 10g (small peg) is right in line with many countries' "standard drink"s (e.g. the UK "unit" is 8g, but a typical drink has between 1 and 3 units).

Conceivably, the "peg" might be a semi-standardization of an old northern Indian unit of mass called the chhatank, which appears to correspond roughly to 60g, but I think that's more likely a coincidence. 4 of them made up a pao/pau/pav - but that's almost certainly a red herring and unconnected.

Where and when did this sense of the word peg come from?

Likely after and as a consequence of the British Raj. The OED's sense 12 of peg is

colloq. (orig. Anglo-Indian). Originally: a drink of brandy and soda water. Later more generally: a (usually alcoholic) drink, esp. of spirits; a measure of spirits.

The first usage they have is from John Camden Hotten's Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words. All the 19th Century quotations they have seem to refer the mixture of a spirit and something sparkling, mostly soda water. The only clearly Indian quotation they have is from 2003 and refers to the 30ml measure, but they're entirely lacking in quotations between 1939 and 2003.

It seems possible that in turn this usage came from OED's sense 2b, which has quotations going back to 1617:

Any of a set of pins fixed at intervals in a drinking vessel to indicate the quantity each drinker is to drink. Now hist.

But that connection is not made explicitly.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.