If you’ve ever consumed alcohol in your life, there’s a good chance you’ve probably heard a certain rhyming phrase: “Beer before liquor, never been sicker.” And you've likely heard the second part of the saying, too: “liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.”
It’s the type of expression people repeat during a night out. Many people wholeheartedly believe in the sentiment and swear by starting with hard alcohol before transitioning to beer and wine. But is it actually based on facts?
We’re breaking down everything you need to know about the “beer before liquor” phrase: from its origins to the science behind how our body metabolizes alcohol.
Where Does The Phrase Come From?
We ultimately don’t know where this phrase comes from, because it’s been around for centuries. There are derivatives of the “beer before liquor” sentiment in different languages around the world.
The general philosophy claims that if you start drinking beverages with a lower amount of alcohol before transitioning into higher-proof spirits later in the night, you’ll end up with a nasty hangover.
According to the New York Times, some arguments blame carbonation for the sickness. Beer, sparkling wines, and other carbonated drinks supposedly irritate our stomach lining, which speeds up alcohol absorption and allegedly makes you drunker faster.
Is It Actually True?
It’s time to clear the air: the “beer before liquor” saying is just a long-standing myth. It's not true. Every claim that validates the theory is rooted in purely anecdotal evidence. There is no scientific proof that indicates that the order in which you consume different alcoholic beverages has an impact on how it affects your body. In fact, one 2019 study dispelled the concept entirely.
There are two main factors that actually make a difference when it comes to a hangover the next day. The most important one is simply the quantity of alcohol you consume. Experts estimate that this is actually the underlying explanation behind the "beer before liquor" phrase. The saying likely came to be after a long night of drinking multiple forms of alcohol, except the order wasn't the culprit; it was the amount.
Another factor that comes into play and can have an impact on your body's metabolism is the amount of food you're eating. Gastroenterologist Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa told the New York Times that having food in your system slows the absorption of alcohol and can minimize the sickness you feel. Conversely, drinking on an empty stomach can get you drunker much faster.
So next time you hear the phrase, "beer before liquor, never been sicker," don't let it impact your night of drinking. Just make sure to eat enough food and drink in moderation.
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