How to prevent a Memorial Day hangover: Avoid these drinks

How to prevent a Memorial Day hangover: Avoid these drinks

When it comes to alcohol, everyone has an opinion on what to drink and which to steer clear of to avoid hangovers. Many give the “worst hangover” award to red wine, while others put the blame on the bubbles in champagne. Others blame tequila or sugary drinks.

While these opinions may be based on personal experience, we thought it was better to trust the experts in food science and enology (the study of wine) to clear up the myths and misconceptions when it comes to alcohol and hangovers.

Congeners can take the blame

Hangovers range in severity, depending on what kind of alcohol you’re drinking. And the reason for this is something called congeners, which are byproducts of fermentation


Since all alcohol can dehydrate you, all of it can give you a hangover. Thankfully hangovers range in severity, depending on what kind of alcohol you’re drinking. And the reason for this is something called congeners, which are byproducts of fermentation. They may add to a drink’s color and flavor but are also hard for the liver to break down, which can give you hangover symptoms like pounding headaches.

Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, an enology professor and wine chemist at the University of California, Davis, explains congeners.

“Yeast produces these chemicals during fermentation, and a brewer or winemaker doesn’t have a lot of control over the amounts of them, which is why beer has very little amounts,” he says. “But distillers do have a lot of control—they can either exclude congeners totally or include them to affect the flavor, color and aroma of the spirit, and that’s part of the craft.”

The more distilled a liquor is, the more congeners are filtered out. That’s why a triple distilled Irish whiskey can taste lighter than a Scotch whisky that is distilled twice. By managing the heat in the still, distillers can cause congeners to evaporate or stay, depending on the temperature.

The distiller will control which stay and which are removed because some may taste pleasant but others will taste disgusting. Congeners are removed from vodka and gin to give them neutral flavors. But darker spirits keep the congeners to add flavor and that nice, dark color.

According to Czarena Crofcheck, Ph. D, a food science professor at the University of Kentucky, “brandy has the highest amount of congeners, followed by dark alcohols like whiskey and red wine.”

What about the bubbles?

Champagne bubbles are a big cause of hangovers.


This one is true! Sorry, champagne lovers, congeners aren’t the only things giving you a hangover. Though they exist in small amounts in sparkling wines, your champagne hangover is directly related to the bubbles.

“The carbon dioxide in Champagne helps the alcohol get absorbed into the bloodstream faster,” Waterhouse says.

Any alcohol mixed with carbonated beverages, like the rum and coke, will have some affect, but sparkling wine has more carbonation than soda. Since champagne is often served when you enter a party, before the food is served, it can cause that nasty hangover. You may pace yourself later on, but if you drank a few glasses of bubbly early on, with an empty stomach, the damage is done.

Sugary drinks and cheap liquor

Sugary drinks do not actually contribute to hangovers.


This one is a myth! The sugar found in mixed drinks isn’t to blame for the hangover, though it may contribute to how much you drink.

“The body is actually really good at processing sugar, compared to alcohol, so sugar doesn’t affect a hangover,” Crofcheck says. “It’s just that sugary drinks are so much easier to drink, so you can lose track of how much you’ve had and push it too far.”

Though many like to blame cheap liquor, it won’t make your hangover worse than the good stuff.

“Cheap vodka will still have no congeners, so the myth of well drinks causing worse hangovers is probably just because people are drinking more of it at one time since it’s cheaper,” Waterhouse says.

Beer before liquor, never sicker…

Drinking beer before liquor can cause hangovers.


Mixing your drinks throughout the night isn’t to blame for the hangover, but the order you drank them in is. You know that old saying, beer before liquor, never sicker? Well, this one’s true.

“When you start drinking, you’re going slower and your body is able to process it pretty easily,” Crofcheck says. “But the more you drink, the harder it is for your body to keep up. If you start with beer and end with shots, your body can’t process the hard alcohol as easily. But if you go in the other direction and drink harder alcohol in the beginning of the night when your body can process it the fastest, you’ll be fine when you move to beer later at night.”

As anyone who’s been drunk knows, the more intoxicated you get, the more your judgment is impaired. As Crofcheck explains, the more drunk you get, the more you want to drink, “but it’s harder to do that as quickly with beer because it fills you up so much.”

Just try and remember the rhyme before you go drinking: “Beer before liquor, never been sicker; liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.”

Moderation is the key

Drinking anything in moderation will help avoid Memorial Day hangovers.


As with most good things in life, moderation is key. If you know you’ve got an early morning meeting and can’t risk a debilitating hangover, beer is a good choice, according to Crofcheck. If you can’t stand beer, Waterhouse suggests white wine or spirits without congeners, like vodka or gin.

That’s not to say you should dump your brandy down the drain, just drink in moderation. If you drink slowly, eat enough food and stay hydrated, both scientists agree you should be able to keep that hangover at bay. Getting a lot of sleep will help ward off the nasty hangover as well.

Also read: Ariana Grande to hold benefit concert for Manchester bombing victims

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