What alcoholic drinks/cocktails are less sedating?
March 28, 2010 4:28 PM   Subscribe

What kinds of alcohol are least and most sedating? Whats a good strategy to enjoy a few drinks in an evening without the sedating effects? More details inside.

I find that when I'm socializing with friends and I drink wine or beer, the evening pretty much has to end within two hours and its such a bummer. As a result I am always one of the first people to leave a party or gathering. I really enjoy wine and beer but I hate how it makes me feel afterwards, particularly if I've had a few drinks, I can always feel it the next day. I am fully aware that because I take anti-depressants - wellbutrin (300mg) and fluoxetine (10mg) that alcohol is metabolized by the liver quicker. While I do drink in moderation, and am conscientious about eating and having a full stomach, staying hydrated, etc. I still end up having to end the evening early. I'd like to find a drink that doesn't make me drowsy so soon. Any suggestions? I'm female if it matters. Your anecdotal experience is welcome. If I were to ask my doctor she would flat out say do not drink. I would like to enjoy a drink or two with my friends on the weekend so I'm trying to work around that obvious solution.
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
There are some people for whom alcohol has this effect. My dad calls it the "Asian flush," and despite his not being Asian, he gets it. He pretty much hasn't drank for 25 years because of it. One time, we were at some function where he was harangued and harangued until he had just a little glass of wine, and within an hour he was passed out on the couch.

Hope you're not afflicted with this, but if you are, I'm sorry.
posted by Jon_Evil at 4:42 PM on March 28, 2010

I would wager it is absolutely the Wellbutrin, and unfortunately, there isn't much to do to mitigate that.

Mixed drinks with caffeine might be a good option - jack and Diet, Red Bull and vodka - if it will affect you enough to keep you awake. I would stick to liquor rather than wine or beer, because then you can mix something with not a lot of alcohol (if you're at a bar, ask for a drink in a tall glass but not a double; then, you can ensure it's more dilute) and stay out.

Best of luck.
posted by quadrilaterals at 4:44 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you tried light beer or wine spritzers? Less alcohol = less need for a nap.

On a similar note, if you're having cocktails, alternate one mixed drink followed by a glass of just mix, e.g. rum and coke, plain coke, etc.
posted by DaveP at 4:44 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a lightweight, too. I've found that my best bet is either to nurse a beer, or else to have a weak mixed drink that I make myself (e.g. gin and tonic and tonic and tonic).
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:45 PM on March 28, 2010

Avoid IPA and other beers that are highly hopped.
posted by cog_nate at 4:48 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Alternate your alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks.
posted by Miko at 4:53 PM on March 28, 2010

(in my partyin' heyday, a number of us generally followed the plan "for every glass of beer, a full glass of water". Don't start on the next beer until you've finished all the water, too.
posted by Miko at 4:54 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Anecdotal advice: Avoid sugary cocktails and carb-heavy beers. Try a pear-flavored vodka and soda water.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:31 PM on March 28, 2010

I find Rum + Coke helps, since the coke has sugar and caffeine to keep you alert. Be aware that diet drink will get you drunk faster.
Later in the evening you can mix in less rum, and people will just assume you are still drinking alcohol.
posted by lundman at 5:32 PM on March 28, 2010

There are some people for whom alcohol has this effect. My dad calls it the "Asian flush,"

What the OP is describing is not what's known as Asian flush. Asian flush is when a person gets red or blotchy when they drink.

I would avoid red wine - it always makes me tired.
posted by amro at 5:43 PM on March 28, 2010

Alcohol is alcohol (or, in this case, ethanol is ethanol) , the effect is the same regardless of where it comes from. So less alcohol is your main weapon. Your liver is currently very efficient at metabolising alcohol making you a lightweight (I'm like this naturally) so besides the things you're already doing, eating, staying hydrated etc, there isn't really anything you can do to stop that.

What is with the alcohol will have an effect too. I find beer can make me sleepy just because it fills up my stomach, anything making me feel bloaty will do the same thing regardless of ethanol content. If you don't get this effect then maybe a low alcohol beer would work for you, there are a few here at least that look and taste just like the full strength stuff.

Mixed drinks could also be good because you can mix down the alcohol content and add caffiene. If you don't like rum and coke or whatever then maybe some kind of wine spritzer where fruit juice or soda water is used to dilute the wine without making it obvious you're drinking something different. A friend of mine adds apple juice or lemonade to her wine because she's a superlightweight too, and no one watching her can tell what she's drinking (although I think it tastes weird).

Alternating is good too because it reduces the number of your drinks which are alcoholic. Same goes for nursing one drink, or anything else that reduces the overall alcohol intake.
posted by shelleycat at 5:49 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Alternating alcoholic with non-alcoholic drinks and having mixed drinks with caffeine in them are two excellent suggestions and could make a real difference. I take Wellbutrin, too but have not had the increased drowsiness effect. Alcohol does hit me harder and quicker, though, and suddenly all at once, meaning my night can easily go, "I'm good, I'm good, I'm good, why am I not feeling these drinks at all? Oh crap, I am incredibly drunk," and in a way I do not want to be. Well, at least it did until Adderall was added to my daily regimen (which for me, seems to negate the effect of alcohol almost entirely if drinking at a normal pace, but that's neither here nor there).

The only other suggestion I can think of is, when you have advance notice of being out & about, take a nap (or at least lie low for an extended period of time before heading out). You may find that the alcohol is increasing a tiredness that's already there, and a little catnap or downtime might help you recharge so you can be out longer. You will eventually figure out the exact equation of what you can drink, how much, and what you can do to mitigate any negative effects, but it may take a little trial and error. Best of luck!
posted by katemcd at 6:14 PM on March 28, 2010

Entirely anecdotally (and I've never taken any kind of medication for depression so can't comment on how this would mix with those) I find gin and tonics in moderation don't make you too drowsy or whatever unless you really overdo it.
posted by Abiezer at 6:36 PM on March 28, 2010

You can just not drink. Order a bottled sparkling water. (I would avoid sodas at bars because the mix in the gun is calibrated to go with alcohol and it's sticky sweet.) But, it's ok to not have alcohol if you don't like it.
posted by dejah420 at 7:13 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would recommend getting a rum and coke, or vodka tonic, or whiskey and coke, and just alternate. If you're at a bar, follow the advice above and get a tall, but not a double. Only you will know that you're alternating, as to everyone else, it just looks like coke or tonic.

Also, nursing a beer is fine when in social situations. I'd shoot for a beer an hour or so, if you can keep it from getting too warm.

Finally, I don't see how alternating between beer and something non-alcoholic would garner any askance looks from anyone at a bar that isn't also in a frat or something. You're making your own choices with your drinking, and it's your choice, not theirs. If anyone gives you a hard time about not DRINKING FASTER, PUSSY! you can just roll your eyes and enjoy your rum-less coke.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 7:17 PM on March 28, 2010

cog_nate, what makes you think that hop content has anything to do with this?
posted by craven_morhead at 7:24 PM on March 28, 2010

Try mixed drinks with a less alcoholic base and a non-alcoholic mixer. One shot of Campari, for instance, will have less alcohol than one shot of spirits, because the Campari is only 24% alcohol by volume (48 proof), whereas most commercial spirits are 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof). And many people find that they nurse a Campari-based drink because it's bitter. I like Campari and orange juice, the Americano (1 oz. Campari, 1 oz. sweet vermouth, top off with seltzer water), or the Negroni (1 oz. each Campari, sweet vermouth, and gin)--the Negroni is not a light drink but for a cocktail without a mixer it has less alcohol than a Manhattan or a martini, and you can stretch it out with seltzer if you like.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:38 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Avoid red wine - it has a higher alcohol content, and you may be affected by the preservatives in it.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:42 PM on March 28, 2010

Seconding not drinking. Sometimes, it's just not worth the hassle.
posted by smoke at 7:42 PM on March 28, 2010

I've read that alcohol is a sedative only when your blood alcohol concentration starts to drop, so one way to look at it is that drinking in moderation is going to make you sleepy. 20 minutes after your last drink of the night, you're going to want to pass out.

The way to work around this: keep your blood alcohol concentration constant or moving up. The way to do this would be to start with one strong drink and drink it fast -- maybe do a shot. Then, switch to something you can sip slowly over an hour, like a beer. You want to drink just fast enough to replace the alcohol your liver metabolizes, but not too fast that you get really drunk.
posted by AlsoMike at 7:51 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I stick to grain alcohol. I love red wine, but I finally figured out that I am allergic to the sulfites used to preserve wines. I get a sick headache.
posted by effluvia at 8:02 PM on March 28, 2010

It`s not about what `kind`of alcohol but the concentration and how quickly you drink it. And what you currently have in your stomach. Slugging down 3 beers in 15 minutes is (almost) equivalent of downing 3 shots in 15 minutes.

I`m a heavy alcohol drinker. I`ve been on wellbutrin for about the last month (smoking cessation) and I`ve noticed my alcohol `tolerance` has gone down dramatically. I lose control much faster than before I was on Wellbutrin, but I can keep drinking as much (if not more) than before.

To answer your questions - space the drinking out longer. Drink less fast or drink lower alcohol percentage drinks.

I *don`t* have `drowsy` issues, but instead of redbull there`s this thing called `5-hour-somethingortheother and it`s actually not bad. Caffeine + alcohol cuts my night short, which is exactly what you`re avoiding. The 5-hour stuff (and I hate to shill) doesn`t do that.
posted by porpoise at 9:08 PM on March 28, 2010

cog_nate, what makes you think that hop content has anything to do with this?

I have no empirical evidence to support this claim, but according to my own anecdata, hoppy beers make me a lot sleepier and a lot foggier as well.

I'd stay away from wine, and steer toward lightly hopped beers or white liquor.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:21 PM on March 28, 2010

hops are medicinally used as a sedative a/o sleep aid. At least in folk medicine, anyway. Whether that matters in beer or not, dunno.
posted by janell at 9:40 PM on March 28, 2010

I find that two beers is plenty for a night of social drinking in terms of alcohol. Don't feel like you just have to keep chugging down the alcoholic beverages. Have a couple really good beers and drink 'em slowly.
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:17 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just take longer between drinks or use mixers with soda. Don't drink more. Don't look for ways to drink more. Fluoxetine, prescribed to me by a psychiatrist who didn't bother to tell me that it interacts poorly with alcohol (even though I told her I routinely drank to excess), turned my usual SAD/mild depression and anxiety into a complete suicidal breakdown. Trust me. Being really drunk on Prozac is like being in a black hole. I wouldn't recommend it to my worst enemy.
posted by SputnikSweetheart at 12:06 AM on March 29, 2010

As a long-time Wellbutrin user, I sympathize. If you wish to still imbibe, this would be a good opportunity to become a knowledgeable scotch drinker. Scotch is the perfect alcohol to linger over. One can easily coax a couple of fingers of single malt for a good long time, while enjoying its complexities.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:12 AM on March 29, 2010

Jagermeister is disgusting, but does exactly what you're looking for.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:53 AM on March 29, 2010

Some non-alcoholic beers aren't too bad--maybe you could switch off to one after a regular beer or two. Haake Beck and St. Pauli NA bottles look more or less like the brands' regular labels, so you don't feel like you're conspicuously abstaining. With Clausthaler or O'Doul's you generally have to deal with a lot of ribbing from people, both because the labels are more likely to be recognized and because they are generally crappier beers (O'Doul's is an Anheuser-Busch product and therefore really only consumable at a temperature barely above freezing).

You say you really enjoy "wine and beer" so I'm not clear if you're asking about harder stuff too. Another strategy is to order a drink you don't like. You'll find yourself taking smaller sips over a longer period. I can carry around the same scotch all night because anytime the glass gets near my face and I catch a whiff of it, I'm reminded of how very much I don't care for scotch.
posted by cirocco at 12:32 AM on March 30, 2010

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