Beer before wine and you’ll be fine?

Does drinking order dictate hangover intensity. Cambridge scientists investigated...
21 May 2019


Beer bottles


Throbbing head; feeling nauseated; Sahara Desert in your mouth? Yup, you are hungover! And you think to yourself: “If only I had that beer before the wine, not after, I wouldn’t be feeling this way…”

Most of us have heard the folk wisdom that drinking wine before beer gives a more severe hangover than if the two different types of drinks are consumed in the reverse order. But does the science support this hypothesis, or was it dreamed up by someone who’d clearly been over-imbibing full-stop?

Previous studies have poured cold water on the claim, concluding that the dose makes the poison, not the order. However, no one had actually conducted a properly controlled study to find out. Until now. And thanks to a team of scientists from the University of Cambridge, working with colleagues in Germany, the ultimate experiment has been conducted, to test whether drinking beer after having wine really does lead to stronger hangovers.

In the study, participants were split into three groups. The first group drank two and a half pints of beer followed by four large glasses of wine.  The second group drank the same amount of alcohol, but this time they had wine before beer. The third group was a control, in which participants drank only beer or only wine (no mixing).

If folk wisdom has any merit in this matter, then the second group should get the biggest hangover. The experimenters went a step further and invited the same participants back into the lab a week later, but this time drinking order was reversed. If the participants originally drank beer first, they would now have the wine first. Those who drank only beer or only wine, now had the other drink (still no mixing though).

If they had tested participants only once, the researchers’ conclusions would have been incomplete. What if those in the wine-first group suffered worse hangovers in general, and ended up in the same group by chance? The results wouldn’t be accurate. By testing the participants a second time, each acted as their own control and the researchers could say whether or not a wine-first hangover was worse for participants, relative to their beer-first hangover. Pretty genius if you ask me.

The results showed… drumroll please… that hangovers in all three situations were just as bad. Drinking wine before beer did not seem to produce lighter hangovers, and mixing alcohols in general did not lead to stronger hangovers. Men seemed to handle the hangovers a bit better than women, but the order in which alcohol was consumed did not affect hangover intensity for either gender. Hangover intensity could not be predicted by physiological markers (blood and urine tests) and life factors such as age, gender, weight, drinking habits and hangover frequency. However, vomiting and subjective reports of feeling more drunk led to a heavier hangover. So, the best way to tell if you’ve had too much to drink, is whether you feel like you’ve had too much to drink.

The conclusions are clear – the order in which you drink different alcohols is not likely to affect how well you’ll feel in the morning. If you want to avoid a hangover, keep it medicinal!


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