The truth about ‘beer before wine makes you feel fine’, and other drinking myths

Gin may make you sad, but there’s no science to back you up


We’ve all grown up with largely unfounded and experiential understandings of The Rules of Drinking. “Beer before wine makes you feel fine, wine before beer makes you feel queer” along with gin making you sad and tequila making you crazy. But is any of it scientifically true?

The effect of alcohol on the blood is highly examined and largely understood, however the effects of different types of alcohol – less so. To get to the bottom of all this, we’ve accumulated educated theories and studies so we know what the true way to get drunk, in a wholesome manner.

Beer before wine makes you feel fine

The trusty BBC tells us: “Beer is only between a third and half the strength of wine, so starting on it leads to less intoxication if followed by the stronger stuff. But if a person starts on wine or spirits, then their judgement may be impaired enough to drink more heavily later.”

Basically, due to the lower alcohol content, you’re less likely to chuck the drinks back once you switch, and will therefore feel less drunk and unwell.

The truth: It seems likely, due to the lower alcohol content.

Wine before beer makes you feel queer

It is an unconfirmed-by-science belief that carbonation increases alcohol absorption. So in drinking beer after wine, you’re causing alcohol already in the stomach to rush into the small intestine, where it is more quickly absorbed.

Danubian Sailor, of the StackExchange, says: “Beer contains a lot of CO2, and CO2 causes the alcohol to ‘hit to the head’ much faster. It’s not a good idea to drink any high-CO2 drink after drinking wine or stronger alcohols.”

The truth: Starting on wine, with a higher alcoholic volume wine, is likely to make you drink the lower alcoholic beer quicker – thereby feeling sick. The bubbles are also thought to make the alcohol enter your system quicker.

Mixing drinks gets you drunk quicker than sticking to one type

The general perception here, is that if you’re mixing your drinks you’re on for a big one.

Carlton K. Erickson, director of the Addiction Science Research and Education Center at the University of Texas College of Pharmacy, says: “The pattern, more often, is that people will have beer and then move on to liquor at the end of the night, and so they think it’s the liquor that made them sick.

The truth: According to Erickson, “simply mixing them really has nothing to do with it.”

Mixing drinks gives you a worse hangover

The general consensus is that people who mix their drink have more extravagant and excessive drinking habits.

There’s certainly evidence that people are not good at judging their own drunkenness. At low levels people overestimate the amount of alcohol in our blood, but after a few drinks they start to underestimate it.

The truth: There’s no evidence to back this up, but normally if you’re mixing drinks you’re drinking more. In which case, yes you will be more hungover.

Coffee sobers you up

Caffeine masks the sedative effects of alcohol which would cause you to cease from drinking. It may make you feel more awake the following morning, however your body will still take on average approximately one unit per hour.

The truth: No, it just makes you temporarily more alert.

Tequila makes people crazy/very drunk/angry

The narrative of a night including tequila very rarely includes the lack of other alcohol on board, or “just the one shot”. Firstly, to have a tequila shot in the first place, it’s assumed that one is already quite refreshed, and intends on heading even further in that direction. Therefore the outcome of a night including tequila will often cause people to exhibit the extreme of their drunk selves.

The truth: Yeah probably, but it’s more likely that you’ve gone crazy because you’re on a mad one.

Tequila tequila

Tequila hangovers are worse than any other hangover on God’s Earth

Tequila contains lots of cogeners, which are the product of fermentation other than the desired type of alcohol, ethanol. This is what gives some spirits their darker colour, and adds to flavour. However so does beer, whiskey and any other brown-coloured drink.

The BBC tells us: “Beyond the ethanol that triggers intoxication, the other key ingredients that affect hangovers are what the beverage industry calls congeners. These are the other substances produced during fermentation, such as acetone, acetaldehyde, fusel oil and the best-known, tannins, which give darker drinks their colour and part of their flavour. Bourbon whisky, for example, contains 37 times the quantity of congeners as vodka.”

Paired with the fact, as mentioned above, tequila is often paired with excessive alcohol consumption.

The truth: You’ll have a bad hangover after drinking tequila, but it’s more likely to be due to overall alcohol consumption, rather than tequila itself.

Drinking vodka soda keeps you hydrated

The low sugar content of sugar in vodka soda can make you drunk quicker, as your blood sugar content is lower, meaning your blood alcohol content is higher. The good news being that not only just vodka soda have few calories in, but it gets you drunk quicker too – win win.

The truth: Not really, it just makes you get drunk quicker.

Gin makes you sad

Alcohol is a depressant, so any alcohol in large quantities can lead to “feeling melancholy”.

Science tells us, gin in particular making you cry just isn’t true. There isn’t one study to back the claims of hundreds. Experience tells a different story. Aysha tells me, “perhaps there’s just no one that wants to find out the hard truth”.

The good news is, gin apparently doesn’t give you such bad hangovers. The BBC says: “Clear drinks such as white rum, vodka and gin tend to cause fewer and less severe hangovers because they contain relatively low levels of congeners.”

The truth: It may make you cry, but there’s no science to back you up.

Drinking on an empty stomach is a terrible idea

In a recent article on blackouts from drinking, Aysha told The Tab: “Blackouts are due to a spike in blood-alcohol content (BAC), not necessarily the amount you’ve drunk”. This explains why you can drink the same amount on two different occasions, one time having no memory and the other being fine.

The truth: Eating before you drink will cause you to get drunk steadily, rather than spike and probably have to go home early.


The bubbles in champagne make you drunk quicker

An article on the New Scientist says: “During a controlled study of 12 volunteers at the University of Surrey’s Human Psychopharmacology Research Unit, half were invited to drink fizzy champagne and six were given flat champagne, purged of bubbles with a whisk.

“Psychologist and experiment co-ordinator Fran Ridout found alcohol levels rose much faster among the bubbly drinkers.”

Psychologist, Fran Ridout told the BBC: “Champagne has 250 million bubbles per glass potentially.

“Drinking fizzy water with your wine could potentially have the same effect as champagne.

The truth: Yes, it seems to be the case.

Red wine makes you feel more promiscuous

My friend Grace once said to me, “red wine just makes me slutty”. We laughed about it, but its veracity has played on my mind for months. But now it’s proven: a recent Italian study has shown that a couple of glasses can make you better in bed.

It’s because red wine is full of quercetin, a type of flavanol, which increases your libido. It also boosts production of testosterone, an injection of masculine hormones that can escalate your desire to have sex.

The truth: Hell yeah it does.

Are hangovers from drinking VKs worse?

Again, not a subject area with any particular study attached. However, Body Ecology asks us the question: “Did you know that sugar can also cause hangovers?”

I didn’t, but I do now. Turns out that one of the key causes of a hangover is depleted blood sugar. This is due to the high sugar content in alcohol causing a surge of insulin to be created by the pancreas, to stabilise the amount of sugar in the blood.

Because the sugar content in alcohol is so high and concentrated, your pancreas produces too much insulin, causing blood sugar to plummet. That blue VK your clutching isn’t helping matters – it’s driving your insulin levels even higher.

Many thanks to Dr Archard for that info in the Daily Mail.

The truth: Yes, the sugar in VKs makes your hangover worse.

Eating pizza/chips/a kebab will prevent or lessen your hangover

The reason we get hungry after drinking is because of the spike in insulin mentioned above.

You are forcing your liver not only to have to break down the alcohol you’ve consumed, but also the oily food you’ve just devoured.

The truth: Your body has to work much harder to break down the oil and fat in the food, on top of the alcohol.

Being sick before bed will stop you getting a hangover

Absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream begins as soon as it hits the stomach.

The truth: Unless you’ve literally just downed a pint of spirit, for example – will not rid you of a sore head the next.

So there we have it. Ultimately, the only real factor in you being drunk, crazy, sad and hungover is drinking too much. But that’s not fun advice for anyone, so have a big one and a good weekend peeps.

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