Some 85% of adults have heard of “alcohol units” but only 42% can equate the term to actual drinks.
The alcohol education charity is posting 2.3 million unit and calorie calculators to households to help improve the position.
The survey of more than 4,000 UK adults found only 30% of women and 46% of men looking at a list of drinks could correctly identify which ones roughly equated to one unit of alcohol.
The survey also suggested that less than a third of adults could correctly state the recommended daily unit guidelines for alcohol for their sex.
Drinkaware chief executive Chris Sorek said: “It’s great to see that most people have heard of the term ‘alcohol units’, but we want to help them understand the unit equivalents of their favourite drinks and relate those to the recommended daily guidelines.
“Changing the UK’s drinking culture won’t happen overnight, but providing consumers with useful tools such as the unit calculator can help them understand what a unit is and how many are in the nation’s most popular drinks,” he added.
“It’s important we challenge the norm of people unwittingly drinking to excess.”