Learn to like liquor again?
April 23, 2008 4:10 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to get over my aversion to liquor?

About four months ago, a few of my buddies and I went on a drinking binge of idiotic proportions (we're talking black-out, vomiting, &c). Now, I can't seem to drink liquor at all.

A little while after the unpleasantness, I tried to drink a shot of spiced rum and threw up seconds later. Just now I tried to give it (ie liquor) another shot, pulled out a bottle of whiskey, and even smelling it turns my stomach.

Is there any way to get over this aversion to liquor? I don't want to overdo it again, but I'd like to be able to have a shot or two without shuddering or throwing up.
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (29 answers total)
Drink something else that you can stand, like beer or wine, until you've dulled your senses a little bit. Then try sniffing the whiskey. If it doesn't turn your stomach have a little sip. If it does have another beer. Repeat.
posted by Alison at 4:19 AM on April 23, 2008

In my experience switching between beer and liquor back and forth always left my stomach in worse shape. However dulling your senses is certainly good advice. Perhaps you could make a very weak mixed drink, 1 part liquor to say 7 parts something else, then slowly make the drinks stronger as time goes on.
posted by genial at 4:31 AM on April 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

If this was your first binge with such unpleasant effects, the aversion could stick for a while. I had a very bad experience with Southern Comfort at an impressionable age and even now, over 20 years later, I wouldn't (and couldn't) touch the stuff again. I recall that I stuck to beer and wine for a few years after that ordeal. Misadventures of the same type in later years had no such long-lasting effects, however.
posted by misteraitch at 4:35 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Genial is right about switching back and forth, this technique is just so that you can get used to the taste again. So, go easy on the liquor even if you find yourself able to stand it.
posted by Alison at 4:37 AM on April 23, 2008

I once drank a quart of Jaegermeister and to this day the thought of it makes me sick. We have a strong instinct to not eat things that made us puke in the past. Consider it a gift...
posted by gjc at 5:06 AM on April 23, 2008

I think misteraitch and gjc are on the right track in terms of noting that you really can develop a long-term and difficult to "cure" aversion after a major drinking binge, but in my experience it seems like it's usually limited to the particular type(s) of liquor that you binged upon. So for instance, I have no problem with whiskey or tequila, but could not drink anything that tasted of vanilla vodka if you paid me.

My point being, are you sure you've been put off of liquor altogether, or are there specific types that turn your stomach? Were whiskey and spiced rum the drinks you binged on in the first place? If that's the case, you might have better luck trying small amounts of some other liquor that doesn't much resemble either of them. It might also be useful to start off with a mixed drink rather than a straight-up shot of whatever you choose - I might give a gin and tonic a try, for instance, or perhaps a nice vodka martini or what have you. Take it easy and don't try to force the matter, just let yourself sip it over an extended period. If you're still up for it after trying that, then maybe you could try a little bit of whatever particular liquors actually "burnt" you before, if you're determined to regain your taste for those particular ones ...
posted by zeph at 5:28 AM on April 23, 2008

Pretty much everyone has The One Thing You Can't Drink, actually, in my experience. I can hardly even stand to watch someone do a shot of whiskey. For most people it seems to end up being tequila, it depends on your particular formative horror episode. I don't have a lot of anecdotes about people getting over it, though. Poisoning yourself to near-death has lasting consequences, psychological and physical.

I think it has a lot to do with how very clearly identifiable particular liquors are, as opposed to beer or wine. Those specific chemicals hit your olfactory bulb and your brain says NO. Generally when one's body has waves of nausea, it's for a good reason, so think about it before you go through the effort of trying to train yourself out of it.
posted by blacklite at 5:52 AM on April 23, 2008


My father had a lesser but similar thing happen in his early thirties, he's now in his mid seventies and he still can't stand the smell of whisky. He drinks red wine in moderation but that's about it.
posted by ceri richard at 6:02 AM on April 23, 2008

Why do you want to do this? It's not like liquor is essential, right? Your body is telling you something, why not listen to it?

If all you want to do is get intoxicated, there are things like beer, wine and flavored malt beverages that will do the trick and taste nothing like whatever your body is reacting to. No one (worth listening to) is going to think less of you if you're not pounding down the shots of bourbon.
posted by tommasz at 6:22 AM on April 23, 2008

I had a very bad experience with Southern Comfort at an impressionable age and even now, over 20 years later, I wouldn't (and couldn't) touch the stuff again.


Besides having the exact same experience as that...I also avoided tequila for a long time because of silly overindulging way back when. Nowadays there seem to be better tequilas available, and that's helped me get over the aversion. So in addition to what other people are saying, when you're ready to get your feet wet again, a step up in quality might make it better, too. Sip less, enjoy it more.
posted by gimonca at 6:28 AM on April 23, 2008

It's gin for me. First thing I puked on. However I think it stands to reason that you might try a mixed drink with the target liquor. Gradually overtime you can use less mixers and see if that helps.
posted by mmascolino at 6:39 AM on April 23, 2008

Well I can't touch (or smell) rum without it making me sick after a similar episode to yours, and that must have been over 10 years ago. Not touched a drop since and I doubt I ever will.
posted by fire&wings at 6:42 AM on April 23, 2008

Vodka is my kryptonite... as is tequila... and rum. I am pretty much a beer drinker now. The only liquors I can drink are those that I never had during those formative experiences. Scotch, bourbon and gin are fine in moderation.
posted by zadiecharbon at 6:48 AM on April 23, 2008

mmascolino: "It's gin for me. First thing I puked on. "

Me too. It was three years before I could even stand the smell of gin, though I still drank other liquors, beer and wine. Finally after three years of avoiding gin, I had a gin and tonic on a whim and really enjoyed it. That was what it took for me, some time apart then a pleasant unexpected meeting in a drink I loved.
posted by Science! at 7:07 AM on April 23, 2008

At 19 I had two, err, "incidents" with beer. After that, I couldn't drink it.

At least once a year I would force myself to have a sip, to see if the aversion was still there. It wasn't until 14 years later that the sip didn't make me shudder and feel nauseous.

So, I declared the summer of 2006 "The Summer of Beer" and started out by getting a beer flight at a brew pub, and taking notes on what I liked and didn't like about the beers. Then I stocked up on single bottles of mostly microbrews, and drank a few beers a week and wrote about it. I didn't force myself to finish any beers I didn't like, but I gave 'em a fair shake before pouring them out.

I poured out a lot of beers, and I ended up losing the notes I took. But I now really enjoy beer, I love trying new ones, and, most importantly, I feel no pressure to finish one if I don't want to.

The short story is: it might take you a long time to appreciate hard liquor again.
posted by limeswirltart at 7:07 AM on April 23, 2008

Shots are basically an invitation to throw up. If you have to drink liquor, try some mix. A little run and coke maybe?
posted by GuyZero at 7:32 AM on April 23, 2008

I threw up goldschlager when I was 19 and I wasn't even able to chew cinnamon gum for three years (before and currently, I chew it daily).

I still can't do shots, but I slowly mixed in other mixed drinks... start with a shot of liquor mixed in with something easy, like water (whisky), soda or tonic (vodka); sugary mixed drinks (coke, sprite, juice, hurricanes or whatever) are hard on your stomach. I'd actually start with a vodka and soda and work my way up from there.

During the 3 years I couldn't stomach liquor, I drank beer, as others have said, and after I started back on light mixed drinks I was able to move on up to several martinis a night. However, after various bad experiences (10 shots of tequila in an hour nearly killed me once), I stick to the cleaner stuff, like just vodka or beer.

Good luck!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:54 AM on April 23, 2008

Mod note: A few comments removed; this really shouldn't turn into either a "my least favorite booze" or a "why you shouldn't drink, period" roundup, so please stick to answering the question asked.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:55 AM on April 23, 2008

Twice in my youth I experienced the horrible effects of one-shot-too-many.

In each case, it took me some practice to get back to a cozy relationship with the beverages in question.

- Slowly is better than quickly. Take your time and don't push it.
- cocktails & mixed drinks offer a way back. Gin in a martini or rye in a manhattan.
- quality matters. It's harder to un-learn an aversion with cheap/shoddy versions of a liquor.
posted by Crosius at 9:11 AM on April 23, 2008

One thing that I found helped me get over my pathological aversion to tequila was to force myself to slow it down. Most of the time w/ shots, you're trying to down it as quickly as possible. I think this "frantic" style of drinking often causes the drinker to tighten up and anticipate the unpleasantness, which in turn likely increases the possibility of gagging (or worse).

When I decided to try tequila again, I forced myself to let the drink sit in my mouth, and I swallowed it at a normal speed, not like I was drinking poison or medicine. It turns out tequila has a taste, and in fact a taste that I don't find completely repugnant. It took a few occasions, but I can now sip tequlia like a gentleman, and even enjoy the sensation.

So, maybe it would help if you took the panic out, and started thinking of the shot as a drink, not a "feat of strength".
posted by joelhunt at 9:52 AM on April 23, 2008

try sipping, not shooting. and just accept that there may be one liquor you'll never be able to stomach again.
posted by killy willy at 10:08 AM on April 23, 2008

The sickest I ever got was from peanut butter; there was something bad in a can of peanut butter we got from the Scouts (it was surplus food from summer camp, originally government surplus... ie, VERY surplus), and it made me incredibly sick. Very nasty. My last clear memory before sinking into two weeks of high fever was an emergency run to the toilet to throw up; I didn't quite make it, and made a hell of a mess with partially-digested peanut butter. ("Projectile vomiting" actually does exist!)

For a decade, I was entirely unable to eat the stuff. Even the smell was enough to nauseate me so badly that I wouldn't be able to eat for an hour or more. I had previously loved peanut butter and was disheartened; I tried acclimating myself in a number of different ways, but there was just no way I could convince myself to eat it, even though it had previously been one of my favorite foods. It was about as useful as trying to break down a brick wall with my head. My system WOULD NOT accept the stuff, and I finally gave up.

Over time, the revulsion does eventually die down. About ten years later, I was able to resume eating peanut butter without much fuss; I had a very slight averse reaction to the smell, but got over it quickly, and once again have come to love PBJ sandwiches. I tried any number of different things in that first year, and it just wasn't happening. Sometime between year 1 and year 10, things changed. Just when, exactly, it happened, I don't know.

Short answer: if your experience mirrors mine, for some period of time, you will not be able to drink liquor. You'll probably have to stick with beer and wine instead. It's likely to last at least a year. Beyond that, I'm not sure. Someday, you should be able to drink the hard stuff again, but it'll probably be longer than you like.
posted by Malor at 11:09 AM on April 23, 2008

What you are experiencing is called "self preservation." The best thing about it, is sometimes our bodies will jump in and do it for us when our brains refuse to contemplate it. I too used to jump on the Whiskey Train - and I can finally, after 20 odd years, SIP a shot of whiskey. If I try and slam it - it will claw it's way back out if possible.

Embrace this. This will save your life. Shots are for saps anyway, and it's an insult to fine whiskey. Discover mixed drinks - sip your whiskey slowly - stick to beer - you're probably not going to want to do shots anytime again soon.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:31 AM on April 23, 2008

@misteraitch: I don't know what it is with Southern Comfort... But I haven't had a drop of that crap in ten years due to the OP's very scenario. It *still* turns my stomach.
posted by jimmyhutch at 1:24 PM on April 23, 2008

Conditioned Taste Aversion. Some more academic references. Yay! My 12 credit hours in psychology haven't gone to waste!.

It's the same mechanism that makes people say "Ugh. I can't eat Chinese food ever since that time I got food poisoning." Your body has associated liquor with getting sick, and so it tries to defend itself from ingesting it. Some people can work through it. Most, in my limited life experience, can't. I have a friend who had a bad SoCo experience and he can't get near any whiskey without nausea. Another friend, it's tequila.
posted by jeversol at 2:03 PM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

I drink off and on, sometimes not having a drop for months and some periods when I drink a little every night, and some nights a lot. I'd been in one of those periods recently when I went to a friends' house one night and proceeded to get hammered out of my mind. Long story short, I had my first ever two-day hangover from this event. It actually depressed me for several days afterward, and I quit drinking altogether for at least a month. But I got over it, and I'm back to my somewhat random routine. Your body can adapt, especially if you're healthy (eating right, exercising). Maybe don't overdo it with whiskey, start slow with beer. But don't mix! Stick with the same drink all night long.
posted by zardoz at 11:34 PM on April 23, 2008

Do what teenage girls do; drink it with soda and build up a tolerance, then you should be able to get back into it.
posted by oxford blue at 4:07 AM on April 24, 2008

Nthing this with vodka, and wraps. Can't eat either due to 2 similar experiences described above. Go with mixed, and wait a couple of years. I'm still waiting (3+ years and counting for both...)
posted by olya at 8:47 PM on April 27, 2008

* or drink either
posted by olya at 8:47 PM on April 27, 2008

« Older First Communion gift ideas   |   Name the video Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.