Schwasted Science: How Your Favorite Alcohols Affect You Differently

by Alexia LaFata

At one point or another, you've probably tricked yourself into thinking different kinds of alcohol make you feel different kinds of drunk.

You might say whiskey makes you frisky, tequila makes you crazy and wine makes you actually whine -- but the truth is there's no scientific evidence proving any of this.

It's possible you feel all these different emotions based on a variety of other circumstances, such as how much alcohol you drank and how quickly you drank it, your mood, the context in which you usually drink this specific alcohol and your associations with the specific alcohol.

Memory associations in human beings are particularly strong. For example, maybe your first drink in college was a gin and tonic, so now you always associate gin with a good time.

Maybe you drank vodka when your boyfriend dumped you, so now vodka makes you sad and angry.

Aside from those kinds of associations, though, whiskey doesn't make everyone who drinks it frisky. Just some of us.

Yet, while there's no proof different kinds of alcohol make you act differently while you're out, they do make you physically feel differently, especially when you're hungover.

We all know the classic hangover symptoms: headaches, nausea, dehydration, tremors and fatigue, all of which interfere with your ability to concentrate, pay attention and respond to your environment.

The severity of these symptoms, however, depends on what kind of alcohol you consume.

This is certainly a less fun way of differentiating between your favorite kinds of booze, but hey, at least this knowledge will better prepare you for what to expect the next morning -- and help you decide if you should have another drink or just call it a night.

Dark Liquors: Whiskey, Tequila, Dark Rum

Dark liquors like these will give you the most intense hangovers.

The severity of your hangover from an alcoholic beverage depends on the amount of congeners -- or complex organic molecules -- that are produced while the alcohol undergoes fermentation in your body.

Congeners also give drinks their distinct colors and deeper flavors.

Darker liquors, therefore, happen to have a lot of congeners. Bourbon, for example, has 37 times the amount of congeners vodka has.

One study demonstrated 33 percent of people who drank bourbon felt hungover the next morning, compared to only 3 percent of those who indulged in the same amount of vodka.

It doesn't take a lot of these drinks for you to experience the symptoms of a bad hangover. And you'll be more tired from a dark liquor hangover than you will be from a light liquor hangover.

Light Liquors: Vodka, Gin, Light Rum

Hangovers from these lighter liquors will still give you the same symptoms as hangovers from dark liquors. The symptoms, however, won't be as intense.

The good news is you have to drink more light liquors to experience the same kinds of horrible hangovers from dark liquors.

This means a hangover from two glasses of vodka won't be as severe as a hangover from two glasses of whiskey, so you can afford to drink more vodka during your night out. (But this isn't a PSA for binge-drinking, so know your limits, OK?)


Beer, in addition to the common hangover symptoms, will make you extra bloated and gassy, both while you're drinking it and during your hangover the next morning.

This is because beer is highly carbonated and has lots of gas-producing properties, all which build up in your intestines, leading to those uncomfortable, gross, bubbly feelings.

And beer doesn't just expand your waistline with bloat. It turns out having a "beer belly" is a real thing. When you drink, your liver burns alcohol instead of burning any fat from food intake, so it's easy to gain weight if you drink any kind of alcohol.

People specifically blame beer for their weight gain, however, because of its high caloric content.

For example, a shot of 80-proof vodka is just under 100 calories, but a 12-fluid-ounce can of Budweiser is 145 calories. Therefore, five beers will cost you far more calories than having five shots.

You can stick to lighter beers if you want -- Coors Light has 102 calories -- but know lighter beers have less alcohol, so you'll end up drinking more to get as drunk anyway. Beer belly, here you come.

Red Wine

Like those dark liquors, red wine has a high amount of those congeners to give you the most severe hangovers.

And the cheaper the wine, the higher the amount of congeners, and the worse the hangover (this is a general rule of thumb for alcohol, but it's especially true for red wine).

Franzia lovers beware: Red wine is already guaranteed to make you feel like sh*t the next day, so don't make it worse.

Additionally, red wine can make you the sleepiest out of all alcoholic beverages.

This is because the skin of the red grapes used to make red wine has high levels of melatonin, the natural chemical present in your bodies helping you fall asleep.

So, be cautious if you're looking to pregame with red wine. You probably won't make it out the door.

White Wine

A hangover from white wine will be similar to a hangover from light liquors.

It may also make you drowsy due to the presence of some melatonin from grapes, but the drowsiness won't be as intense as the red wine.


This favorite party staple might seem innocent, but beneath those bubbles are a whole lot of trouble.

There's some evidence suggesting champagne really does get you drunk faster based on the high levels of carbon dioxide absorbing the alcohol into your bloodstream more efficiently.

This doesn't necessarily mean it'll make your hangover any worse. But it does mean you're probably more likely to pass out earlier than you would have if you had another kind of drink, since you got drunk too early.

Look on the bright side: You may get more sleep that way!