The hangover is your body’s natural way of shaming you for dancing on tables the night prior. While a night of drinking always carries the risk of waking up feeling ill, there are some things you can do to prevent your hangover pain (besides drinking water). Turns out, some types of booze carry less of a hangover risk than others. Here’s why:
While clear liquor like vodka has a reputation as being basic and unsophisticated, it’s actually less likely to make you feel like death than, say, drinking bourbon. The reason for this is the presence of congeners, chemical components which arise during the alcohol fermentation process. While there are many different types of congeners, our bodies don’t love all of them. In fact, often congeners are toxic. They can mess with “cell function,” leaving you with a headache and a mounting wave of nausea. Congeners also relate to how much complexity is in a spirit – they affect how a spirit looks, tastes, and smells. Simply put, congeners are “impurities,” which give flavor to various spirits.
Now, think about which spirits are most flavorful, certainly not vodka, which is extensively filtered. This filtration causes the lack of distinct tastes and impurities – i.e. congeners – that’s made vodka the ideal flavorless mixer. And that lack of taste and smell also means that a shot of vodka has less “toxicity” than a shot of bourbon and will therefore leave you with less of a hangover. For example, one research study had 95 people between the ages of 21 and 35 drink either Absolut vodka or Wild Turkey bourbon. Both spirits had the same amount of alcohol content, but the bourbon had 37 times more congeners than the vodka. While each group of people were equally foggy the next day, the bourbon drinkers had worse hangovers than the vodka drinkers.
Beyond the example of bourbon versus vodka, dark liquor in general is more likely to leave you feeling horrible than clear liquor – with the exception of tequila (but you could have told us that). So, if you plan on going hiking the next morning after a night of drinking and need to feel dandy, you’re probably best off drinking clear spirits like white rum, vodka, gin, and colorless brandies instead of bourbon, Scotch, dark rum, or Cognac. No matter what you choose to drink, alternate boozy sips with water and food, and drink in moderation. Or, don’t plan on going hiking the morning after a night out. That’s what we would do.