A common saying about drinking is this:

Beer before liquor, never been sicker.

Sometimes this is followed by:

Liquor before beer, you're in the clear.

Is there any merit to this? Assuming one drinks the exact same amount of beer and harder alcohol in the exact same time period, all other things being equal, does it matter whether they drink the beer first or drink the shots first?

There are also many other common ideas people have about what gets you sick drinking- one guy might be convinced that having tequila and gin in the same night is a recipe for disaster, while another might feel that mixing wine and beer is. Does the type of drink/combination of drinks matter, or is it strictly a function of the raw amount of alcohol consumed (and the other standard factors such as how long it takes to consume it and if you're drinking on an empty stomach, etc.)?

Reference: http://www.google.com/search?q=beer+before+liquor+never+been+sicker turns up 10000 hits; the top ones all seem to be debunking the first claim.

  • 1
    Beer isn't a type of alcohol. It's a beverage that contains among other things alcohol.
    – Christian
    May 9, 2011 at 22:14
  • 1
    obMythBusters: mythbustersresults.com/dirty-vs-clean-car
    – TREE
    May 10, 2011 at 0:43
  • 2
    Just a note on the question as worded: Absolutely, consuming different types of alcohol can make you sicker. Consuming methanol (wood alcohol) can easily be fatal. Consuming ethanol on the other hand can be quite enjoyable. But I think it's understood that you mean different types of alcoholic beverages. :) May 10, 2011 at 3:23
  • 3
    Wine before beer makes you feel queer. Beer before wine makes you feel fine.
    – MSpeed
    May 10, 2011 at 9:48
  • Different types of drink cause alcohol to be absorbed at diffent speeds which might account for some of the difference. Cold, fizzy drinks lead to fast alcohol uptake (which, apart from anything else means you can get drunk a lot faster, perhaps faster than you can cope with). So you should never drink cider mixed 50:50 with Guinness or you will be very ill, very quickly.
    – matt_black
    Nov 11, 2011 at 10:45

1 Answer 1


According to both the Mayo Clinic and Medical News Today, hard liquors contain ingredients known as congeners, which can contribute to a hangover. Different drinks have different congeners, so the same quantity of two different spirits could plausibly produce different after effects. It is at least plausible that mixing your drinks could mean drinking a lot of different congeners, producing a more severe hangover.

At least one controlled study found that drinking bourbon led to more severe hangover symptoms than drinking vodka.

The amount that congeners contribute to a hangover is not specifically known. What is generally agreed on is that you cannot avoid a hangover by not mixing your beverages, the ethanol itself is the greatest contributor to hangover symptoms. So in that sense, it probably isn't true that the order you consume your beverages in is going to prevent you from feeling sick the next day.

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