Do Different Alcoholic Drinks Give You Worse Hangovers?

Natasha Hinde

With Christmas party season on the horizon, you’d be forgiven for feeling apprehensive about the onslaught of hangovers. So, is there any way to avoid an absolute killer of a headache (or worse) while boozing through December?

You have some obvious options: steer clear of alcohol altogether, drink less, eat to try and absorb some of the alcohol, and have a glass of water between your bevvies (your mum wasn’t wrong!). But there might also be a scientifically-backed way to avoid an even worse hangover – and, interestingly, it’s all to do with the colour of your drink.

While research around hangovers is rather limited, we do know the higher the count of congeners in your booze, the worse your hangover is likely to be. Congeners are a byproduct of fermentation and distillation during the alcohol production process. Some types of booze have far higher concentrations of congeners than others – and this tends to correlate with the colour of your drink.

Researchers at Brown University followed 95 people aged 21 to 33 years old, who were all classed as “healthy, heavy drinkers” across two nights of drinking.

The first night, participants in the study drank either bourbon (which has a higher number of congeners) or vodka (which has a lower count). On the second night they had a placebo. The study revealed that hangover severity was associated with a high congener count – bourbon was more likely to cause the mother of all hangovers compared to vodka.

If you apply this to a wider number of drinks, it’ll probably go some way to explaining why darker beverages like red wine, bourbon, brandy, beer and whisky can leave you with a banging head, compared to lighter (or clear) beverages like gin, vodka and white wine.

The research did not show links between congener levels and different types of hangover – the ‘feeling sick’ type, the banging headache one, or the hangover where you’re just more tired than you’ve ever been in your life.

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