Has this ever happened to you? You had a couple drinks with friends hours ago. You feel completely sober. All outward signs of revelry have faded, but then a boozy belch rises from deep within you, delivering the stench of the bottle to any nose in the room. “You smell like a brewery!” says your boss/lover/coach/parole officer/childhood hero. Well, boy have we got a solution for you. Say goodbye to embarrassing booze breath forever with these liquor breath hacks.
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Sorry, despite the reassuring tone of the infomercial above, there’s no real way to beat booze breath. But there are a few ways to somewhat cover it up. You just have to know what will actually have an effect and what’s total myth.
Myth: Chew Gum or Mainline Mints
Booze breath is the special snowflake of food odors because alcohol is a toxin, which your body processes differently from other foods. The smell doesn’t come from residual booze in your mouth but from your lungs, where alcohol in the blood leeches into the air you exhale (which is how breathalyzers detect blood alcohol levels). Minty freshness may cover the smell for a moment, but ultimately it’s about as effective as throwing a paper towel on a flood. You’re going to need a bigger towel.
Cover Up: Eat Something Equally Smelly
While you can’t stop the smell of liquor with a fresh scent, you can fight fire with fire by eating something equally awful smelling. You might not win any friends smelling of garlic or fish or blue cheese—oily smells that will hang around longer than a Tic Tac—but no one will get close enough to smell the alcohol.
Myth: Breath Perfume
Many cultures end a meal with an herbal chew to perfume away foul smells. Mukhwas in India, for example, not only help digestion, but freshen the breath with anise, fennel and coconut. Unfortunately for lovers of the growing Indian liquor scene, these breath perfumes are about as effective against the smell of alcohol as your standard Altoid.
Cover Up: Brush Your Teeth
Booze breath may not live in your mouth, but bacteria certainly do, and they thrive in the desiccated, munchie-strewn cave that your mouth became over the course of a night. If you wake up in the morning with a wicked oral stench, brushing your teeth to scrub out the bacteria certainly can’t hurt. Get your tongue and the roof of your mouth too for good measure.
Myth: Drink Neutral Smelling Liquor
If the smell of booze came from your stomach, you could reason that drinking neutral smelling booze like vodka or herbal digestifs wouldn’t cause foul odors from digestive breakdown. But since the smells come from your lungs, beer, wine and spirits all create a similar sickly sweet scent totally divorced from the other ingredients in your drink of choice.
Cover Up: Help Your Body Process the Booze
You can’t speed up the hourly rate at which your liver metabolizes alcohol, but you can prime your body for success. Eat properly, hit the gym, and stay hydrated. The more you help your liver, the more it’ll help you.
It’s hard to get behind a product with a name like AntiPoleez, which not-so-subtly suggests you can beat a breathalyzer by sucking down a little tablet. Setting aside the legal discomfort here, AntiPoleez simply doesn’t work. The tablets combine a strong smell of menthol with a saliva-inducing lozenge, and are meant to refresh your breath by watering your mouth. Too bad you can’t spit shine the inside of your lungs.
Cover Up: Cover Your Holistic Bases
It’s not just your imagination—you are sweating whiskey. The smell of alcohol doesn’t just emerge from your throat, but also through the pores in your skin. Take a quick shower, then apply any combination of lotion, baby powder and deodorant necessary to avoid sweating. A spritz of cologne or perfume could help as well.
Myth: Charcoal Tablets
Like AntiPoleez, charcoal bounces erroneously around the drinking community as a hack for beating a breathalyzer. A bag of coal concealed in your mouth is thought to absorb the alcohol as you blow clean air into the tester. But it just doesn’t work; not only because breathalyzers have evolved beyond chemical analysis to infrared spectroscopy, but also because you’d need to literally blow through the charcoal, which is a bit impractical. Since swallowing the charcoal would land it in your stomach, where it may or may not effectively absorb odors as it’s broken down by stomach acid, a tablet will do little good against the breath coming from your lungs. (See: literally every other myth on this list.)
Cover Up: Deploy a Red Herring
While you can’t actually eliminate the smell of alcohol on your breath, you can trick everyone around you. Lean into the smell by swishing with an alcohol-based mouthwash or scrubbing your hands with an alcohol-based antibacterial hand wash. Then, when someone tells you that you smell like alcohol, just say, yes, I like to keep a clean temple.
The Only Actual Solution: Apologize for Your Breath and Move on
You’re an adult. There’s no reason to be ashamed of a few cocktails (as long as you didn’t drink so many that you’re now acting like a fool, in which case your bad breath is the least of your problems). Quit worrying, embrace your smelly breath with pride, and no one else will really care.