Beer/Liquor or Liquor/Beer?
December 16, 2007 12:18 AM   Subscribe

"Liquor then beer, you're in the clear; beer then liquor, never been sicker." Is this true, and if so, why?

Google search of the phrase turned up fairly vague answers, mostly just saying something about how people generally measure their beer intake better, but there was no real evidence. I'm wondering if there is any truth to this saying (besides my own anecdotal evidence), and if so, what are the reasons behind it. Does it have anything to do with the make-up of these different beverages and the way the body processes them? Is their a behavioral component? Do the types of liquor/beer affect this?
posted by papakwanz to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, "beer before liquor, never sicker." Because, theCO2 in the beer irritates the lining of your stomach; thus, more alcohol (being of higher proof) drank is absorbed quicker into the blood stream.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:33 AM on December 16, 2007

I did a quick search of Google and virtually every link I could find calls this a myth. Here's one such example.
posted by Swifty at 12:54 AM on December 16, 2007

CO2 is a vasodilator. It permits alcohol to be absorbed faster. That's why champagne gets you drunker, faster, than wine, which has the same alcohol content.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:58 AM on December 16, 2007

I thought it was an old wives' tale; that if you get hammered over a long period of time drinking beer, following it with the quick-acting shots will spell disaster.

The "right way", so I'm told, is that you drink the shots first, so you'll get the fast-acting hard stuff out of the way and can better moderate your drinking with the beer. The theory being that since it takes more beer to get shitfaced, you can more easily moderate your intake, to that perfect level of falling on the floor but not puking in your date's hair.

But I have found myself leaned over the toilet with both liquor and beer in any order, so I think it's all a pile of shit. Just don't drink too much and you can have whatever you want in whatever order.
posted by jstef at 1:02 AM on December 16, 2007

If the CO² thing was correct, wouldn't any carbonated beverage have the same effect?
posted by XMLicious at 1:56 AM on December 16, 2007

A similar rhyme in German goes: "Wein auf Bier, das rat' ich dir. Bier auf Wein, das lass sein." It's about mixing wine and beer; the recommendation is to drink beer before, never after wine. The rationale is that if you start with wine, you end up thirsty, guzzle the beer too fast, and bad things happen.

I've found this to be true.
posted by muckster at 1:57 AM on December 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

@ XMLicious: Yes. Carbonated, alcoholic beverages, such as a rum and Coke, tend to inebriate the drinker faster than their non-carbonated counterpart, precisely because of the CO^2, which - as mentioned - is a vasodilator [wiki].
posted by prophetsearcher at 2:31 AM on December 16, 2007

"Wein auf Bier, das rat' ich dir. Bier auf Wein, das lass sein."

I've heard this in English as "beer and wine, fine; wine and beer, oh dear".
posted by greycap at 2:47 AM on December 16, 2007

There really isn't any difference if you take it from a total view - 10 drinks in any mix or order is going to hurt.
My own take is if you end with spirits your judgement is poorer, and it is easier to overdo it with the smaller volumes.

So if you finish with beer you might retain enough sense to say no when you have had to many, where you can cram two or three spirit drinks into the same time period, resulting in higher total consumption.
posted by bystander at 3:35 AM on December 16, 2007

There's also 'don't drink grain before the grape'...

There was feature on the BBC last week about alcohol myths and one of those is that 'mixing your drinks gives you a worse hangover' and they dismissed it.

The darker the drink the worse the hangover though... so stick to vodka larger or white wine rather than red wine or brandy or bourbon
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:50 AM on December 16, 2007

All theories about mixing drinks being worse for you are myths. As pointed out above the only thing to watch out for is dark drinks such a rum, red wine etc which will give you a more serious hangover.
posted by fire&wings at 4:11 AM on December 16, 2007

The darker the drink the worse the hangover though

I've never found this to be the case with Guinness though. I get the worst hangovers in the world, so by rights Guinness should basically kill me, but it actually always results in a much lower scale hangover than if I'd got trashed on lager.
posted by influx at 4:53 AM on December 16, 2007

My policy is to stay with the girl you brought to the dance, so to speak. Usually when I start mixing alcohol types, bad things happen regardless of which comes first.
posted by Shohn at 5:35 AM on December 16, 2007

Bier auf Wein, das lass sein.

I've heard the version which ends as "trinkt nur Schwein".
posted by mi at 5:52 AM on December 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

yeah, i agree with the above, i think it has to do with concentration more than bubbles. the alcohol is generally more dilute in beer than liquor, so you consume it more slowly. starting with liquor and then switching to beer effectively slows you down, and maybe even lets you sober up some before the end of the night (not that i'd drive or anything, but it probably means the difference between puking and blacking out on the toilet vs. making it home to pass out in your own bed.)
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:53 AM on December 16, 2007

Wine + beer, never fear.
Beer + wine, also fine.
Prestone and gin, think again.
posted by planetkyoto at 6:03 AM on December 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

"Hard before beer, nothing to fear; beer before hard, you sleep in the yard."

It always seemed to me that this was good advice, if for no other reason than "hey, let's do shots" might seem like a good idea at the end of the night if you're already loaded and looking for a change of pace. If, on the other hand, you start off the night with a few shots (to give you a boost, say), and then maintain and modulate a buzz over the course of the evening with beers, you've got a fair bit more control over just how polluted you get.
posted by willpie at 6:08 AM on December 16, 2007

It's not true. Just stay away from brown liquor. That puts you on pace to blackout.
posted by thetenthstory at 6:58 AM on December 16, 2007

Regarding the mixing of different drinks throughout the night, I think the problem isn't with the chemical reactions in your stomach, but rather that if you switch at some point, you're simply more likely to drink more. Especially if it's to shots at the end of the night.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:59 AM on December 16, 2007

It's not the combination itself, it's that it tends to be part of a bigger behavior pattern. Like craven just said about switching -to anything, with the fresh start on a new beverage you might end up drinking longer. And changing from beer to liquor is part of a general trajectory toward hard stuff. Not necessarily, but more often than not.

I personally haven't run independent tests with control groups and such, so I'll just say that the stuff about dark-colored drinks makes my b.s. detector tingle a bit.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 7:31 AM on December 16, 2007

I don't think there's any valid scientific explanation (I don't buy the CO2 one; it's not like you're injecting it into your bloodstream.), but there is a logical one. People consume beer more slowly than they consume shots. If you do a few shots and then switch to beer, you're slowing your rate of alcohol intake as you get more intoxicated. If you drink a few beers and then start doing shots, you're increasing your rate of intake as you get more intoxicated, which is a recipe for trouble.
posted by emd3737 at 7:53 AM on December 16, 2007

The version I learned was German dialect humor: "Beer on vine, das ist fine, vine on beer, das ist fear!"
posted by escabeche at 8:01 AM on December 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

The rumors about darker liquors giving you a worse hangover typically comes from the fact that darker liquors have more congeners (impurities, flavorings,etc) and those things are what "pollute" your system (combined with the alcohol of course) and = you get a worse hangover.

The Beer/Liqour vs. Liqour/Beer debate is (obviously) a controversial one. My personal experiences seem to agree with it. For this reason my rule is now to stick with one all night (either all night with beer, or all night with liqour) and to also drink a glass of water between each liqour beverage.
posted by jmnugent at 8:25 AM on December 16, 2007

Just stay away from Golden Pear and you'll never have a thing to fear.
posted by kowalski at 8:39 AM on December 16, 2007

I'm sure it's a myth, and all, but I've always assumed it had a little to do with hydration, as well. Might not hold true if your early drinks are vodka and cranberry juice, or similar, but beer has more non-alcohol liquids in it, so if you're drinking that towards the end of the night, you're at least partially hydrating yourself, or at least, not dehydrating yourself at the same rapid pace as you would be if you were drinking scotch on the rocks.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:43 AM on December 16, 2007

Just don't be an idiot and you're fine. Yes, carbonated drinks will cause you to absorb alcohol faster, but the key here is moderation and knowing your limits.

The more intoxicated you get, the slower you are to notice the effects of subsequent drinks, which sometimes causes people who are in the middle stage of drunk to stack their drinks faster to get over the hump. This, of course, can be a disaster, and is why the "beer before liquor, never been sicker" thing came about. If you drink, say, 1 beer every 20 minutes, and then take a shot, it's going to take you longer to feel the effects of the shot than if you had just started off with the hard stuff. So some people have their 3 beers in the first hour, take a shot, and don't feel anything right away (like you're "supposed to"). In fact, the alcohol is having the same impact on them (although it is getting absorbed slightly faster), but because they're already slightly intoxicated, they just don't feel the shot's effects immediately. So they go and have 2 or 3 more shots, and by the time they start feeling the first one its already too late.

So in reality, as long as you keep in mind that you're going to take more time to feel the shots when you've already been drinking, you can drink whatever you like in whatever you like and be just fine. Problems occur when people start pounding Jaeger Bombs after their 3rd beer. The big trick here is to put more time between your shots than you do beers.

On preview, emd3737 has it.
posted by baphomet at 9:06 AM on December 16, 2007

In my experience, it's not so much mixing beer and liquor. Occasionally I'll have a beer then a gin and tonic or something, but once you're already buzzed on beers and it progresses to shots, you're well and truly fucked.
posted by electroboy at 9:29 AM on December 16, 2007

It's really all ml of alcohol. However, my personal experience is that when one starts out with beer it takes the edge/burning off the liquor and possibly prompts you to very quickly consume an enormous amount of alcohol. Starting with liquor it hurts a bit in the throat and stomach and makes you slow down.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:41 AM on December 16, 2007

What so many already said about judgment at the end of the night. It's a lot easier to do "just one (ha!) more" shot than a beer. The parties I have the haziest memories of always ended with the group doing shots, and lots of 'em.
posted by Opposite George at 9:53 AM on December 16, 2007

Wijn op bier is plezier, bier op wijn is venijn. Apparently the dutch have different stomachs.

posted by Skyanth at 10:10 AM on December 16, 2007

Beer before peyote, you're a coyote.
posted by apostrophe at 10:23 AM on December 16, 2007 [6 favorites]

I think mostly you just drink more if you start going for the hard stuff when you're already drunk on beer, whereas if you switch to beer after becoming pleasantly intoxicated from shots you'll moderate more because of the lower (and standard) alcohol content.
posted by dagnyscott at 12:37 PM on December 16, 2007

I don't buy the "dark drinks have more impurities and therefore greater hangover" as some sort of universal truth. A nicer-quality rum will treat me far better than one of those Smirnoff Ice monstrosities. And it sure ain't the polyphenols in the wine giving you a's the alcohol.

I do find that some people just tolerate some types of alcohol or even certain brands better than others. And for me, mixing will give me a headache when the same or lesser amounts of all one alcohol will not. Trial and error for me personally...not saying the same goes for everyone.

I agree that any "truth" to be found in the old adage is because ending the night with "a" shot inevitably turns into "several" shots, which tend to hit you like a train 20 minutes later.
posted by desuetude at 3:34 PM on December 16, 2007

"Hard before beer, you're in the clear. Beer before hard, you're in the yard"

I've always assumed that it's to do with volume; if you switch from beer to spirits you'll tend to drink the spirits quicker because you'll subconciously tend to match the 'throughput' you were achieving with beer. Going the other way, the opposite - if you've been sipping spirits then you'll tend to sip your beer, rather than pound it.
posted by primer_dimer at 10:57 AM on December 17, 2007

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