Do different drinks give different hangovers? We bust the myths

Written by Kimberley Bond

Why do we feel worse after an evening spent drinking prosecco? Is doing tequila shots (and only tequila shots) the shortcut to avoiding a hangover? We separate the facts from the hangover myths to (hopefully) help your sore head after New Year’s Eve.

’Tis still the season to be jolly, and for many people, this may mean treating yourself to a tipple or two… or six.

In a survey by DrinkAware, nearly two-thirds of drinkers in the UK claim they tend to overindulge during the festive period, with the average woman pouring back four and a half alcoholic beverages a day.

It’s little surprise, then, that one in five of us admit to having more hangovers during Christmas time and the new year.

While everyone has a so-called hangover cure they swear by, or hints or tricks to bypass any unpleasantness, we spoke to an expert about the hangover myths we all hear of – and if there is any truth to any of them whatsoever.

Myth: does wine cause the worst hangovers?

Wine is commonly thought to be the nation’s favourite alcoholic beverage. Its often heady qualities may be why people believe a bottle of white or red wine is the cause of many a killer hangover.

According to published clinician and culinary medicine and fitness coach Dr Sunni Patel, there is a grain of truth as to why this is.

“There is some understanding that lower quality ingredients or poorer distillation methods can lead to greater impurities and trace alcohols (like methanol) in your drink, which may lead to increased health risks and worse hangovers,” he says.

Wine is widely believed to be one of Britain’s favourite alcoholic drinks

“It is also thought that wines – in particular, those that come from countries with more fluctuations in climate – can vary in quality and could contain significantly more hangover-inducing compounds in a bad season.”

However, it’s less the type of alcohol, and more the sheer volume of consumption that fuels a hangover.

“The worst hangovers happen because of overconsumption, which causes dehydration and hence worse symptoms the morning after the night before,” Dr Patel says.

Myth: drinking clear liquids or spirits prevents hangovers

Again, there is some truth in this cliché, with the fermentation process responsible for adding chemicals that can exacerbate our hangovers.

This process sees chemicals called congeners added as a by-product; a type of alcohol our bodies can’t process and makes us feel sick.

“These congeners help to create the distinctive taste in darker drinks such as whiskey, red wine or brandy and are thought to cause worse hangovers,” Dr Patel says. “Generally speaking, darker drinks with higher alcohol concentrations are more likely to cause hangovers than beer or wine.”

“According to one report in the British Medical Journal, the drink that produced the most hangover symptoms was brandy, followed by red wine, rum, whiskey, white wine, gin and vodka. Another study showed that bourbon was twice as likely to cause sickness as the same amount of vodka (as it can have 37 times more congeners).”

However, it isn’t simply a case of swapping out whiskey and coke for vodka on the rocks and bidding our hangover goodbye, especially if it looks set to be a heavy night.

“Drinking too much alcohol of any colour can still make you feel bad the next morning,” Dr Patel says. “Greater levels of ethanol intoxication leads to poor sleep quality, gut irritation and the inflammatory effect from acetaldehyde – a toxic compound released from the liver breaking down alcohol.”

Myth: is being ‘Baileys drunk’ a legitimate thing?

The Irish cream liqueur is a festive favourite, often added to hot chocolate as a nightcap.

While people have reported Baileys can make them feel more intoxicated compared to a glass of wine,Dr Patel argues that it’s down to just how drinkable Baileys is.

“The reality is that drinks and mixers like Baileys are easier to ‘down’ and drink more of in a shorter space of time, but they sadly also have a greater alcohol by volume percentage (ABV %),” he explains. “The combination of sugar, cream and whiskey with an ABV of 17% in Baileys makes it all too easy to drink more of than other alcoholic drinks like wine and hence leads to worse hangovers the next day.

“The ease of drinking can cause worse hangovers due to the amount of alcohol drunk in the amount of time, which is further exacerbated depending on how hydrated you are and if you have eaten.”

Why does prosecco give such badhangovers?

Myth: drinking fizzy alcohol worsens your hangover

Prosecco is often the drink du jour during New Year’s Eve, with many people reaching for a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the stroke of midnight.

But raising some champers, or even a drink with a fizzy mixer, can leave you feeling rubbish in the morning – and it’s all due to the bubbles and their effects on our insides.

“It is thought that drinking spirits with fizzy mixers (or even fizzy alcoholic drinks) can lead to higher blood alcohol levels because the added drink volume from the bubbles causes the stomach to release its contents to the small intestine quicker, where alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream sooner,” Dr Patel says.

“Prosecco, carbonated mixers and other fizzy drinks contain higher levels of sugars, which have been shown to affect gastric emptying and also alcohol absorption rates.”

Myth: does mixing alcoholic drinks make your hangovers worse? 

Despite the old ‘beer before liquor’ adage we have previously relied upon, the order of the alcohol you drink, and mixing drinks in general, does not make your hangover better or worse.

“Though it would be nice to see some truth behind this common adage, the truth is far from it I am afraid,” Dr Patel says.

“Drinking behaviours in regards to how frequently you drink and how much – as well taking into account if you have eaten and the presence of congeners – will affect hangovers more so than the order in which you drink.

“Remember, as soon as alcohol reaches our stomach it will begin to be absorbed into the bloodstream and regardless of the order we drink, if the amount of alcohol is the same, and in excess, the hangover symptoms will still occur or be the same the next day.

“It could be that those that start off with beer before spirits drink more as it means they can pace themselves during the night, but that being said, they will still likely experience a hangover.”

Lead image: Getty

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