For anyone unaware, dram shop laws exist to make bars and other establishments selling liquor potentially liable for damages, if they knowingly serve intoxicated patrons, or if they reasonably should have known. I believe most states have enacted them. Similarly, “dram drinking” was an expression used especially by 19th century prohibitionists to denote what went on in saloons. As such, it has an almost Hogarthian feel to it, e.g. his engraving of a tavern sign “Drunk For A Penny, Dead Drunk For Tuppence”
Now a dram is about an eighth of an ounce. Nobody drinks by the dram, and a couple of drams wouldn’t begin to get any typical adult drunk.
So given that a dram is so small, how did the word come to figure in expressions alluding to excessive or dangerous consumption? Were distilled spirits typically much stronger back in the day? I know they couldn’t possibly have been more than about 2 1/2 times stronger that 80-proof is today, but at least there we’re getting to a level where a couple of drams would be close to a standard 1 1/2 ounce shot.