We all know the trusted adage: “Beer before liquor, never been sicker, but liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.” If there’s one rule people stick to in order to avoid a hangover, it’s that whatever you do, don’t mix different types of alcohol. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
A review of previously published research shows that it doesn’t matter if you chase your Gin Martini with tequila, whiskey or any other type of alcohol. The hangover that you get depends on how much alcohol you drink, not how many types.
The primary factors in a hangover are dehydradration, imbalance in hormones like aldosterone and cortisol, and a disruption in the immune system that causes nausea, headache and fatigue, according to the BBC. Alcohol itself is the root cause, and the more you consume in a given amount of time, the worse you feel the next day.
So where does the liquor before beer myth come from? The answer is all in the timing.
“Most people do not drink a lot of beer after they’ve had liquor,” Carlton Erickson, a professor at the University of Texas College of Pharmacy, told the New York Times. “The pattern, more often, is that people will have beer and then move on to liquor at the end of the night, and so they think it’s the liquor that made them sick. But simply mixing the two really has nothing to do with it.”
Another answer lies in the type of alcohol consumed. Darker drinks and liquors distilled fewer times have more of a fermentation byproduct called congeners. Clear, neutral spirits like vodka have most of the congeners removed through multiple distillations, whereas something like a double distilled Scotch whisky has more.
“Brandy has the highest amount, followed by dark alcohols like whiskey and red wine,” Czarena Crofcheck, a professor at the University of Kentucky, told Supercall. “Their high levels of fusel alcohol make them much harder for the body to metabolize.”
In other words, it’s not the mixing that’s the issue. It’s the choice of beverage at any point in the night. So bring on the variety—in moderation and with plenty of water, of course.