Does Beer Before Liquor Actually Make you Sicker?

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Beer before liquor, never been sicker.

What exactly is the story on this saying? Is there any truth to it, or can it be filed under ‘sayings that circulate with no real basis in reality,’ like most of what comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth?

Once again, here we are: trying to assist you in avoiding the unpleasantries that come along with the enjoyment of booze. Our first instinct here is to say, “just stick with wine!” But when thoughts of a perfect margarita or an ice-cold IPA drift into our minds we are reminded that we cannot live on vino alone.

The truth behind this phrase has less to do with science, and more to do with common sense. While this rule is not an absolute, it is mostly accurate. Let us break down exactly why:

The Scientific Argument 

Hard liquor (averaging around 40% alcohol by volume) is absorbed into your blood stream faster than beer, which averages around 4-6% ABV. This means two things: the alcohol hits you faster, but it also gets  processed by your faithful (and neglected) liver right away. What does this mean?

Start with mixed drinks, and your body basically says: “Oh, snap! We gotta get to work!” immediately. Beer, lower in alcohol, lulls your body into complacency. If you start with beer and then move on to a liquor drink, the slow processing of the beer could essentially catch up with the fast processing of the liquor- and you could get hit with both simultaneously. No bueno.

 

The Common Sense Argument

Have a mixed drink or two, and you’re going to immediately feel the effects. Your body’s will plea “for the love of God, slow down!” Thus, you’re more likely to listen, maybe drink a glass of water and remember that it’s only 5:30 and you need to pace yourself. Part two of the common sense rule takes into account the reckless attitude we all fall victim to after throwing back a few: you think its a great idea to drink faster once you’re already buzzed. Although “sense” is somewhat out the window at this point, here are your two scenarios:

A.) You’ve started with liquor and switch to beer. Even if you do drink faster, the lower alcohol content of the beer still means you’re consuming less overall booze. Unless you’re a shotgunning or keg stand pro (and didn’t we all outgrow that in college?), drinking beer faster is just more difficult. Add in that full, bloated feeling we’re all familiar with, and odds are your total consumption is down. Which in case you’ve forgotten, will always make you less drunk.

B.) You’ve started with beer and switched to liquor. You’ve had a few beers and are feeling tremendous. Your brain is fogged over and you’re no longer heeding its warnings to slow down, so shots seem like the best idea. It’s simply easier to overdo it by accident once you switch to liquor. Plus, think about your poor stomach: you’ve filled it with beer, and now are increasing the overall alcohol content by adding liquor, creating a giant mixed drink sloshing around (seriously, worst feeling ever). So once again, your actual alcohol consumption can go way up, way fast in this situation.

 

The takeaway? Drink fast then slow, not slow then fast.

We’d also like to offer the suggestion to not mix types of alcohol at all. Time and again, this seems to result in a less disastrous end. Also, don’t get the actual saying backwards. Pretty sure that has happened to us all.

 

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