How much do you have to drink to get boozy breath or pores?
April 28, 2014 1:21 PM   Subscribe

What's the bare minimum amount of alcohol that will show up on a person's breath and/or body scent? One drink? Enough that they'd be drunk? If someone shows up somewhere with a faint booze scent, is it possible that they had the "one glass of wine" as claimed, or is it a safe bet that it was much more?

I am aware that everyone's body chemistry is different, which is why I'm curious about individual experiences and opinions on this. This isn't a question about alcoholism, and I'm well aware of AA, Al-Anon, etc. Just curious about this aspect of metabolizing alcohol.*

*Especially as the weather is warming up, and I don't want to show up somewhere inadvertently smelling boozy if I've just been to a mostly-innocent garden party. For example.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
will show up on a person's breath

One drink will be enough if you're close enough to them.

and/or body scent

Gonna depend a lot on the person's weight, I'd think.
posted by Jahaza at 1:24 PM on April 28, 2014

My friend Donna smells like whatever she drank within an hour. She can drink a lot though. I don't believe that I've ever had that smell. Not even when I drank all that tequila.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:28 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is sort of a subjective thing to determine, as everyone will have a different baseline for smell detection. But anecdotally one beer is enough to smell like beer, assuming it was consumed recently, and especially if the drinker of the beer burps.
posted by deathpanels at 1:29 PM on April 28, 2014

If this is really just about you personally, then the answer is experimentation. Get a friend you trust, and a party you enjoy, and find out! My guess is that less than three drinks and more than one hour of post-drink time will put you in the clear (especially with breath mint). Google turned up this page which claims that the concentration of alcohol in breath vs blood is 1:2300 (although it says nothing about sweat, which is another route for the smell).
posted by Phredward at 1:35 PM on April 28, 2014

I can smell even a sip on someone's breath, if they drank it recently and I'm very near them. A drunk person's breath is pretty unbearable. But I'm very sensitive to scents.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 1:39 PM on April 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

I knew someone who was a heavy drinker and they smelled like wine to me almost all the time. It wasn't their breath, but their body scent.
posted by soelo at 1:39 PM on April 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

It even depends on the day. I know someone who can REEK of alcohol after one beer; same person can have many many many beers and not reek. They are not, to my knowledge, alcoholics.

Same person also smells of butter immediately after eating butter.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:39 PM on April 28, 2014

If you drink a beer with dinner and cuddle me 3 hours later, I'll taste it.
posted by jjmoney at 1:42 PM on April 28, 2014

The type of alcohol also has an impact on this. I generally find beer to be much easier to detect on someone's breath than most other types of alcohol, and vodka to be particularly difficult to detect.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:52 PM on April 28, 2014

I know someone who, even after one light beer, has the scent utterly oozing out their pores. This is not limited to alcohol; spicy or pungent food affects them the same way, and most of our friends can smell the evidence.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 1:54 PM on April 28, 2014

Don't quote me on this, but I think it's diabetes that can cause a condition that can make your breath smell like you've been drinking even when you haven't had anything to drink at all. Which obviously might not apply to you, but just in general, there are other bodily processes that can produce certain odors, too, so it's really hard to say that a certain number of drinks equals a certain result.
posted by Sequence at 2:05 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sequence is probably thinking of diabetic ketoacidosis, one type of ketosis which can also be caused dy drinking among other things.

Anecdotally I can report that a few years ago I was stopped at a DUI checkpoint riding home immediately after having a single beer with dinner. The deputy who checked me out smelled and waved me over for a breathalyzer, which I passed easily. He got pissed off and made me blow at least 3 more times before concluding that the machine "must be broken because I smell beer on you." (I had admitted to the proverbial one beer. He reluctantly let me go.) So it doesn't take much to smell beer on my breath and the smell apparently doesn't correlate to intoxication.
posted by TedW at 2:17 PM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's no way to generalize that smelling booze on someone means they've had a lot to drink. In my experience, a lot of people give off the smell of alcohol after just one drink. My theory is it depends on the drinker's personal body processes and also on the ability of the smeller to detect alcohol (some people's noses are more sensitive than others; also, I know at certain times of the month my sniffer is calibrated to "I can smell everything from about 50 metres away").
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:21 PM on April 28, 2014

If I drink a glass of wine you can smell it a few moments later, if you're up close and personal enough. But to smell it the next day at work, it would need to be quite a bit more alcohol.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:22 PM on April 28, 2014

It may also depend on the smeller: I'm not a drinker and can easily smell one serving of beer or wine on most people for a few hours after they've had it.
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:09 PM on April 28, 2014

Especially as the weather is warming up, and I don't want to show up somewhere inadvertently smelling boozy if I've just been to a mostly-innocent garden party. For example

This is something you'll have to get feedback on from a close friend/S.O.

I for example, am one of those people who has the annoying problem that if i have even maybe 2 beers i'll stink like booze, and especially when i start sweating. Same if i eat spicy/garlicy things, or consume ganja in any way.

I also have several friends who can drink utterly mindblowing amounts over the space of an entire day and just sort of smell like person at the end.

most people seem to fall somewhere in the middle. I've found that 3 cocktails, even over the space of a couple hours, is generally the amount at which nearly anyone will start smelling like booze.

People who make assumptions about this are sort of assholes though, but then again that's coming from a bitter guy whose gotten confronted many times like "dude, have you been drinking all day?" when i'm a couple sips in to my third beer and it's 80 degrees out.

So basically,

If someone shows up somewhere with a faint booze scent, is it possible that they had the "one glass of wine" as claimed

Yes. And i know both a really petite lady and a fairly tall not-tiny guy who are this way.

i also find it rather curious that this has no relation to how much you can or can't drink/how well you hold your liquor... since both of those people can really hold down the bar.
posted by emptythought at 5:05 PM on April 28, 2014

I can smell a sip of anything on my husband, who's the only person I get all that close to. One of my dogs will drink unattended Bailey's and I can smell when she's done that too. And I'm a recent ex-smoker of 25 years, I barely have a sense of smell.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:10 PM on April 28, 2014

Mostly when I've smelled that boozy smell on a member of the general public, it's been very apparent from their behavior that they've had more than one drink.

If you're very concerned about the possibility that someone would be able to tell if you've had even a single drink, I would be much more wary of having a glass of red wine than I would worry about That Liquor Smell. You can tell by looking at someone's lips and teeth if they've been drinking even the smallest amount of red wine. Limit yourself to a glass of white wine at that garden party and you're probably fine.
posted by Sara C. at 8:31 PM on April 28, 2014

« Older Gift for a departing nutritionist   |   I don't wanna stare out the window, I wanna play... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.