Clear vs. Dark: Liquor Type Can Affect Hangover Severity

Posted By: Harvard DAPA

There are numerous factors contributing to the alcohol “hangover,” a state characterized by numerous physical and mental symptoms including fatigue, headache, nausea, irritability, and increased sensitivity to light. One significant hangover-inducing factor that you may not have thought about is the presence of congeners in your drink.

Alcohol congeners refer to biologically active compounds produced alongside ethanol during fermentation of alcoholic beverages. These congeners contribute to the distinct taste, smell, and appearance of individual liquors, but certain congeners, like methanol, have been implicated in increased severity of hangover symptoms.

Congeners are found in highest concentrations in dark liquors such as brandy, tequila, whiskey, and red wine. In contrast clear liquors, such as vodka, rum, and gin, have fewer congeners. In one interesting study, it was reported that 33% of subjects who were given controlled amounts of bourbon (dark liquor, high congener content), but only 3% of subjects given the same dose of vodka (clear liquor, lower congener content), showed symptoms of severe hangover (Chapman, 1970).
So the next time you pick up a drink, you might want to consider the color.

JG Wiese, MG Shlipak, WS Browner. The Alcohol Hangover. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2000.
R Swift and D Davidson. Alcohol Hangover. Alcohol Health and Research World, 1998.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.harvarddapa.org/2011/09/clear-vs-dark/


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