"Beer Before Wine" Hangover Myth Finally Explained by Alcohol Researchers

"If you think you're intoxicated, then you probably are."

Across societies and in different languages, the same drinking tip is passed on from one drunkard to another. Whether it’s in German (Wein auf Bier, das rat ich Dir — Bier auf Wein, das lass sein), French (Bière sur vin est venin, vinsur bière est belle manière), or even English (Beer before wine and you’ll feel fine; wine before beer and you’ll feel queer), the same truth remains — each one is terrible advice. Ensuing hangovers likely served as fact-checks before, but a new study officially disproves these bits of folk wisdom with science.

In a paper published Thursday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recruited 90 people to participate in a noble cause: Get drunk in the name of science. It had been a project that senior author and University of Cambridge senior clinical fellow Kai Hensel, M.D., had been considering for a while. Over beers and during sports, Hensel and his other researcher friends contemplated a question: How could they do a study that was both really fun but also very rigorous?

That question, Hensel tells Inverse, led him to the scientific examination of “grape or grain, but never the twain.” After seeking advice from senior professors, securing consent from ethical committees, and developing a scrupulous study design, Hensel’s team recruited participants between the ages of 19 and 40 and asked them to get drunk.

wine time
Ladies, be warned.

The strength of this study is in its crossover design: One group consumed two and a half pints of lager beer (donated by Carlsberg) followed by four large glasses of white wine. The second group consumed the same, but in the opposite order. A week later, the study groups were asked to come back and drink in reverse order. Meanwhile, a third control group consumed either only beer or only wine.

Throughout the process, participants reported their general sense of wellbeing, as well as how drunk they felt on a scale from zero to 10. They spent the night at the study site, and before they went to bed, they each received an individualized amount of refrigerated drinking water tailored to their body weight — really the dream for any soon-to-be hungover person.

In the morning, as the participants settled into the nauseous, dizzy fatigue that is a hangover, the researchers realized that none of the three groups had a significantly different hangover score. The women had slightly worse hangovers than the men, but that was in line with previous research. The order of the drinks meant nothing, despite the cute rhymes.

“After doing all the blood tests, urine tests, and the marginal regression analysis, the only thing that was actually a predictor of a hangover the next day was the participants feeling drunk,” Hensel pauses, “and then vomiting.”

In this one situation, don't be Leslie.

He recognizes the irony in it all: The best way to know you’re going to feel miserable from being drunk is by feeling drunk. But as obvious as that might seem, acute alcohol-induced hangovers are still considered a significant, yet understudied global hazard and mystery. Commercial hangover cures like coconut water and Pedialyte are peddled to customers, who consume them in droves without any evidence that these “cures” help. College kids are swindled by the “drunchies,” and despite serious scientific efforts, no solution to the hangover has been found. The only thing that seems to be verified is hangxiety — one of the negative symptoms of a hangover.

Hydration, Hensel points out, can help, but it “can’t magically make a hangover disappear.” He says what’s nice about this study, compared to other clinical research, is that they were able to answer a question and not end up with more questions than they had before. Despite what you may want to believe, there are no drinking techniques that can “hamper your hangover” — and it all goes back to the increasingly understood fact that no amount of alcohol is good for you.

“If you think you’re intoxicated, then you probably are,” Hensel says. “Take your pain or your gut feeling seriously, and just respect that.”

Partial Abstract:

Background: Alcohol-induced hangover constitutes a significant, yet understudied, global hazard and a large socio-economic burden.Old folk wisdoms such as “Beer before wine and you’ll feel fine; wine before beer and you’ll feel queer” exist in many languages. However, whether these concepts in fact reduce hangover severity is unclear.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of the combination and order of beer and wine consumption on hangover intensity.

Full abstract here.