11 Things You Think You Know About Alcohol (That Are Totally False)
There are countless urban legends about drinking, from supposed wisdom about what gets you drunk the quickest, to tips on how to avoid a hangover, to rules of thumb for how you should buy and serve a fine wine. Many of them, however, aren’t rooted in science or data, but rather are elucidated from always-reliable field tests that tend to include several rounds of tequila shots. Passed down for years by elder fraternity brothers, teens sneaking their parents’ hooch, and other tipsy teachers, these myths are as stubborn as they are baseless. Here are 11 things you’ve heard about alcohol and drinking that aren’t actually true.
MYTH 1: CHAMPAGNE SHOULD BE CHILLED.
Most people serve champagne cold, but a 2014 study by a French university found that bubbly remains more, well, bubbly if it’s closer to room temperature. Champagne is fizziest at around 65 degrees Fahrenheit (your fridge should be below 40 degrees).
MYTH 2: HARD ALCOHOL WILL GET YOU DRUNK QUICKER.
Yes, hard liquor has a higher alcohol content than beer. But as long as you’re drinking them at the same speed, a shot of liquor in a mixer should give you the same buzz as a 12-ounce beer. Shots tend to get people more drunk because they take them more quickly than they would drink a beer or a glass of wine.
MYTH 3: EVERYONE GETS HUNGOVER.
Studies continuously—and controversially—show that about 25 percent of people don’t get hangovers. Lucky folks! It’s possible that this is because they don’t drink as much as they think they’re drinking, or it could be because of some as yet unknown genetic quirk. One study of Australian twins found that genetics were responsible for 40 to 45 percent of the difference in hangover frequency between people.
MYTH 4: BEER WILL GIVE YOU A ROUND BELLY.
There isn’t anything inherently more fattening about beer than any other alcohol. All alcohol is caloric and can lead to weight gain. The reason people associate a big gut with drinking too many brewskies might be because beer is consumed in larger quantities than liquor or wine. Or maybe people who drink beer just happen to also love subsisting on nacho cheese and hot dogs.
MYTH 5: MIXING BEER AND WINE WITH LIQUOR WILL MAKE YOUR HANGOVER WORSE.
There’s a myth (and popular rhyme) that drinking hard alcohol after you’ve had a few beers will make you sick, while drinking the hard stuff before beer will leave you “in the clear.” But the order doesn’t matter. Your body is going to try to process that alcohol no matter the order you drink it in, and if you drink too much for your body to handle, you’ll end up with a hangover (unless you’re one of the lucky 25 percent mentioned earlier).
MYTH 6: YOU SHOULDN’T MIX LIQUORS.
Just like mixing red wine and bourbon is perceived as a recipe for next-morning disaster, some advise against drinking a number of different liquors (chasing gin with rum with tequila). Certain liquors do have a higher likelihood of giving you a hangover thanks to chemicals called congeners, which are found in greater quantities in darker liquids like bourbon. Brandy is more likely to give you a terrible hangover than vodka, but mixing vodka and gin shouldn’t make things any worse than drinking the same amount of gin alone. Go ahead and get that Long Island iced tea.
MYTH 7: DRINKING KILLS BRAIN CELLS.
Long-term hard drinking isn’t great for the brain, but alcohol doesn’t kill brain cells like your mother warned it did. It does, however, impair brain function over time. Drinking can damage the ends of neurons, making it more difficult for them to relay signals. But that’s not quite the same thing as destroying entire cells.
MYTH 8: ALL CHAMPAGNE IS MADE IN CHAMPAGNE.
If you know nothing else of Champagne, you probably know that it’s bubbly and it has to be made in the Champagne region of France. The French take their wine appellations so seriously that they wrote a clause into the Treaty of Versailles to protect them. But America never signed the Treaty of Versailles, and an entire Champagne industry grew up in California. In 2005, an agreement was signed between the U.S. and the European Union to limit the use of the word “Champagne,” but any producer before that date was grandfathered in and allowed to keep labeling its bubbly as Champagne.
MYTH 9: A GIN AND TONIC WILL HELP PREVENT MALARIA.
While the drink’s origin does lay in making quinine (which was dissolved in tonic water) go down more easily, modern tonic water contains hardly any quinine at all. You’d need to drink gallons and gallons of the stuff to get any anti-malarial protection.
MYTH 10: SAKE IS A RICE WINE.
You would be forgiven for thinking this, as sake is often sold as a rice wine. But in fact, it’s more like a rice beer. Wines are alcoholic beverages made from fermented grape juice, and some expand that definition to include any and all fruit. But the process to make sake, which includes milling the grains of rice and fermenting them for weeks, is more akin to the beer-making process.
MYTH 11: YOUR MIXER DOESN’T MATTER.
You probably think that it’s the rum in your rum and coke that makes you drunk, but the soda pulls a surprising share of that load. A recent study showed that people who use diet mixers have higher Breath Alcohol Concentrations than people who use sugary sodas. Usually, our bodies consume sugary sodas and treat them as a food, absorbing all of the delightful sugar that slows down the rate our body absorbs alcohol. The lack of sugar in diet sodas means our bodies absorb the alcohol much faster. But more disturbingly, the study found that although the diet soda drinkers were substantially more drunk (they had higher BACs), they didn’t feel any more impaired.