Food & Drink

The 9 Most Common Drinking Myths, Busted

Mark Yocca/Supercall

Over the years, you’ve probably heard your fair share of liquor lore. These time-honored tippling tidbits help generations of drinkers prepare for the debauchery that lies ahead, whether it’s how to cure a head-splitting hangover or if liquor or beer should come first. But the problem with this “wisdom” is that much of it is, to put it bluntly, bullshit.

To set the record straight—and prevent you from passing down dubious drinking mythology—we took a look at a few of the most common drinking myths to find out which theories are bunk, and which are worth sticking to.

Beer before liquor, never been sicker; liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.

Does it really make any difference if you drink two beers before three shots of liquor, or drink three shots of liquor before two beers? Short answer: No. What you drink and the order in which you drink it is typically less important than how much you drink—and how quickly you drink it. There is absolutely no hard evidence to back up this theory, so we made up an alternate rhyme that’s just as catchy (well, almost) and light years more helpful to coming generations: “Too much too quickly, it comes back up bigly.”

Tequila makes you crazy.

Remember that one time in college when you drank five shots of tequila and got arrested by campus security for streaking the green? It wasn’t the tequila’s fault—it was yours for drinking so much of it. Tequila is made up of ethanol—just like whiskey, vodka, rum and any other hard liquor. And while it is made from agave rather than wheat or grain like most other spirits, the fact that you’re more likely to take quick, successive shots of tequila instead of sipping it over ice mixed with tonic or soda is enough to account for your crazy behavior—just ask professional drinker and writer Wayne Curtis.

Drinking through a straw will get you drunk faster.

Straws play a big part in cocktail history—that’s a fact. But the idea that drinking booze through a straw will get you drunk faster—that’s a theory. The myth does have some weight to it; you’re more likely to put a drink down fast if you’re slurping it through a straw. But nothing about the straw itself makes the drink more intoxicating, so this claim is ultimately bunk. [Author’s note: This recently came up when my grandfather rejected a straw for his Bourbon and Tonic, saying: “You don’t drink liquor with a straw! That’d make me drunker than a skunk.”]

Absinthe makes you hallucinate.

It’s been more than a century since absinthe was first “banned” in the United States, but, despite all the hubbub surrounding its reintroduction into polite company in 2012 when regulations were lifted, the Green Menace can’t quite shake its illicit reputation. In the last few years, we’ve heard from people who think it does everything from making you hallucinate to causing brain decay (no kidding). But none of these exaggerated claims are true.

Wormwood—the ingredient to which people attribute absinthe’s perceived hallucinogenic properties—does not have negative effects on people’s brains when distilled into the spirit. This claim, propagated by a smear campaign sponsored by the wine industry and politicians in the early 20th century, was the subject of a study by German scientists published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2008: “All things considered, nothing besides ethanol was found in the absinthes that was able to explain the syndrome ‘absinthism.’” Our best guess is that absinthe’s high proof (often hovering around 120, or 60-percent ABV) and its mysterious green hue help the myths persist.

Gin makes you sad.

Like absinthe, gin has had a hard go of it. Since 18th century England, the stuff has gotten a bad rap. It was often referred to as “Mother’s Ruin” and blamed for a diminished moral compass and all the bad feels. But gin tears are no more a thing than whiskey or vodka tears. Alcohol is a natural depressant, and avoiding this juniper-infused spirit won’t help suppress your feelings during a booze-soaked night out. So if you want to keep the waterworks at bay, avoid alcohol altogether—but when you really feel like you need a good cry, any cocktail will do.

Eating a mezcal worm will make you trip.

Go into a liquor store and take a gander at the mezcal selection. You’ll notice two things: First, most of the bottles probably don’t have a worm bobbing around at the bottom. Second, the ones that do—to put it nicely—are lining the bottom shelf. If you’re tempted to assault your palate by drinking an entire bottle of bottom shelf mezcal just so you can find out if the worm really does have hallucinogenic properties, we’ll save you the trouble: No Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas moment awaits you. While there are various theories as to why producers add invertebrates to their bottles—including one that claims the worm gives the mezcal flavor—the truth is this tradition was most likely born out of a marketing ploy to help sell cheap mezcal to tourists in the 1950s. The worm (aka gusano) is the larva of insects that live on the agave plant. Though bizarre, it boasts no trippy qualities.

Hair of the dog: Having a drink the morning after will cure a hangover.

So, you overdid it last night and now your body is exacting its revenge. Grab a Bloody Mary, right? Wrong. Our advice: Drink some water instead. Though anyone who suggests a nip of the “hair of the dog that bit you” means well, there’s no science to back up the practice. Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, consultant in addiction psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic, told Men’s Health that drinking more alcohol will “provide a numbing effect, but all you're doing is prolonging the inevitable, and it will likely make your headache worse."

“Breaking the seal.”

We’ve all been there. You’ve had a few beers, and no more than five minutes after you take your first bathroom break, you feel like you have to go again. You “broke the seal,” so you’ll spend the rest of the night waiting in line for the bathroom between beers. But just like “beer before liquor,” this rule only makes it halfway to the truth.

Though there’s no actual seal to break, a night out drinking will increase your need to relieve yourself—just like drinking an entire pot of coffee in the morning would. Alcohol is a natural diuretic, but it also suppresses the hormone vasopressin, which is released by the kidneys to help send water back into the body, rather than into the bladder. Essentially, the act of giving into your bladder won’t keep you in line for the bathroom all night, but the act of drinking will.

Greasy food is best for a hangover.

When you wake up feeling like you’ve survived a battle with a grizzly bear, greasy fried food is—contrary to popular belief—the last thing you want in your system. Rather than curing your hangover, it will irritate your stomach even more. Your body is busy breaking down alcohol, it can’t handle breaking down a greasy diner burger on top of that.

That said, fat can actually help your hangover, but there’s one catch: You have to eat it before you go out drinking. A big meal will prevent you from getting drunk so quickly, and certain foods, like eggs and other proteins, contain things like amino acids that help line your stomach. Whatever you do, don’t forget to stay hydrated before and after you go out drinking. Water is a hangover’s worst enemy.