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Alcohols That Give You the Worst Hangover 

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Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 9/07/2022

Millions of people around the world experience hangovers at least once per year. Hangovers occur after drinking an excessive amount or after bouts of binge drinking. While every type of alcohol will give you a hangover if you consume too much of it, some alcohols give you the worst hangovers. 

Alcohols that give you the worst hangovers are high in alcohol content (ABV) and feature additives. Additives that increase the risk of a hangover include caffeine, sugar, and artificial sweeteners.

We’ll take you through what alcohols give you the worst hangover and how to avoid them. When you learn about these alcoholic beverages you’ll mitigate the risk of having a hangover after drinking.

1. Champagne

Champagne is a sparkling wine that comes from France. It’s from the Champagne region of France, which is where it gets its name. Most of the world’s champagne is made 80 miles from Paris and it’s been around since the 17th century.

Champagne is also an alcoholic beverage that causes hangovers. It causes hangovers because of its carbon dioxide bubbles. The carbon dioxide bubbles cause the body to absorb alcohol faster, which rapidly raises blood alcohol concentration (BAC). When BAC rises and falls quickly, hangover symptoms occur.

Champagne also has a high alcohol concentration, which increases the risk of hangovers. Its alcohol concentration is upwards of 12% (on average). People will also mix champagne with orange juice and other sugary Mixers. Depending on the mixers, mixing champagne with additives increases the risk of a hangover.

2. Red Wine

Red wine headaches are a common phenomenon. Many people who consume wine report headaches and other hangover-like symptoms. While red wine can cause a traditional hangover, it also has unique properties that create unique hangovers.

Red wine primarily causes headaches because of tannins and other plant chemicals. These chemicals interact with the brain and release serotonin. For some drinkers, too much serotonin leads to headaches. Depending on the person and the amount of red wine, hangovers may occur the next day or a few hours after drinking red wine.

So, how much wine is too much? Red wine has an alcohol percentage of 13.5%. Some red wines will have ABVs between 12% and 15%. Ultimately, alcohol content varies depending on the grapes.

3. Tropical Drink

Tropical drinks are alcoholic beverages that have tropical properties. The definition of tropical varies but in most cases, tropical refers to locations near the equator. Properties of tropical locations include warm weather, clear water, surfing, and other island activities.

A drink is tropical when it includes tropical fruits, mixers, and juices people associate with tropical islands. Some examples of tropical drinks include piña coladas, coconut rum, Malibu Bay breezes, and Bahama Mamas. Depending on who makes the drink and the type of liquor, tropical drinks have alcohol percentages between 5% and 25%.

Tropical drinks cause the worst hangovers because of the combination of ingredients. Mixing sugars from fruits with alcohol increases the risk of dehydration, which causes hangovers. The inconsistent alcohol percentages also increase the risk of having the worst hangover.

The last thing to note about tropical drinks is that they don’t taste strong. Essentially, many people don’t taste the alcohol and that leads them to misjudge the alcohol percentage. When this happens, people accidentally consume more alcohol than necessary, which creates a hangover.

4. Dark Liquor

A dark liquor is a type of liquor that’s darker than clear-color liquors. It’s made differently than clear liquor and has more congeners and impurities. Also, there’s a range to the darkness of liquor. It varies from brown to almost black.

Dark liquor causes some of the worst hangovers because of congeners. Congeners are byproducts of the fermentation process and alter the flavor of alcohol. For example, congeners help dark liquor like brandy and bourbon stand out from clear liquors like vodka and gin.

While safe to drink, dark liquors are less pure than clear liquors. These impurities also increase the risk of developing a hangover. The average alcohol concentration in dark liquor ranges from 40% to 60%.

5. Caffeinated Drinks

A Caffeinated drink is an alcoholic beverage that contains caffeine. Individuals add caffeine to alcoholic drinks by mixing alcohol with coffee or energy drinks. The most common examples of caffeinated alcoholic drinks include Espresso Martinis and Vodka Red Bulls.

Alcoholic drinks with caffeine cause hangovers because alcohol and caffeine are diuretics. Diuretics cause the kidneys to release more water into the bladder, which leads to dehydration. One of the main hangover causes is dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration-induced hangovers include headaches, dry mouth, and fatigue.

Another reason that alcoholic drinks with caffeine cause hangovers is that caffeine stimulates the brain. Mixing a stimulant (caffeine) with a depressant (alcohol) leads to adverse effects and allows people to drink more alcohol without showing signs of intoxication. Therefore, mixing alcohol and caffeine increases the risk of overdosing on alcohol or drinking too much alcohol, and drinking too much alcohol is the primary cause of a hangover.

Lastly, caffeinated alcoholic beverages cause hangovers because of the alcohol percentage. Caffeine is typically mixed with liquor, which has an ABV between 30% and 96%. The high alcohol concentration makes it easier to drink too much alcohol.

6. Well Liquor

Well liquor is unique because it’s not a specific type of liquor. Instead, it’s low-cost liquor that bartenders use to create mixed drinks. An example of a well-liquor is a bartender making a vodka soda with Tito’s Handmade Vodka instead of Grey Goose or Kettle One. Bars serve well liquor because it’s affordable and the lack of flavor is masked by mixers.

Well liquors cause hangovers because the quality of the alcohol is below average. A dark liquor well liquor, for example, will have worse congeners and more impurities. These subtle differences cause some of the worst hangovers.

Well liquors also have high alcohol percentages. The range is from 30% to 96% (on average). Plus, mixing alcohol with mixers makes it easier to consume more alcohol.

7. Sugary Mixers

A sugary mixer is a mixer you add to alcoholic drinks to change the taste. Sugary mixers vary from artificial sugary mixers to natural sugary mixers (like fruit juice). People will also add garnishes to mixed drinks, which are typically fruits that contain sugar.

Sugary mixers cause hangovers for a few reasons. First and foremost, the sugar masks the taste of the alcohol. When a drink tastes like it has less alcohol, people are more likely to consume more alcohol. High amounts of alcohol consumption contribute to dehydration and hangovers.

That said, there’s another reason that sugar mixers cause hangovers. People who have diabetes or insulin resistance experience changes in blood sugar levels that cause headaches, fatigue, and other hangover-like symptoms. People without these conditions will also experience changes in blood pressure that contribute to headaches and hangover symptoms.

What is a Hangover?

Hangovers occur after excessive drinking and usually start a few hours after someone’s last drink. A hangover occurs because of dehydration, how alcohol interacts with the body, and because of the congeners. In most cases, hangovers are self-diagnosable and last for three to twenty-four hours. However, some hangovers last for up to 48 hours.

Hangovers may happen to anyone and symptoms vary in severity. Mild hangovers have symptoms like headaches and fatigue, while severe hangovers cause nausea and vomiting. The severity of a hangover symptoms and causes depends on how much alcohol is consumed.

What Causes a Hangover?

Several factors contribute to and cause hangovers. Ultimately, it depends on how much alcohol you drink and whether or not the alcohol contains additives. For example, alcoholic beverages with mixers increase the risk of developing a hangover.

Below are the causes of a hangover.

  • Alcohol causes the kidneys and bladder to release more water, which causes dehydration. Dehydration leads to hangover-like symptoms.
  • When someone drinks alcohol, it causes an immune response in the body that creates inflammation. Inflammation causes muscle soreness, fatigue, and other hangover symptoms.
  • In the stomach, the acidity of alcohol irritates the gastrointestinal tract. Because of this, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting will occur.
  • Consuming alcohol results in changes in blood sugar, which includes symptoms of dizziness and headaches. Drinking sugary alcoholic beverages also increases the risk of blood sugar changes.
  • After alcohol causes blood vessels to expand, headaches occur. Symptoms last until the blood vessels return to normal.
  • Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, so it makes people tired. Fatigue and drowsiness are also hangover symptoms.

Depending on the alcoholic beverage, the symptoms of a hangover will vary.

How Long Does Alcohol Last in Your Body?

Alcohol lasts for between 6 hours and 90 days in the body. In the blood, alcohol lasts for about 6 hours but it lasts in hair follicles for up to 90 days. Alcohol also lasts for 12 to 24 hours in someone’s urine saliva, and breath.

The length of time alcohol lasts in the body also varies on the amount of alcohol consumption and several biological factors. Someone who consumes large quantities of alcohol will have alcohol in their system for several hours. On the other hand, someone who drinks one beer will have almost no alcohol in their bloodstream after one or two hours.

What Alcohol Percentage Will You not Cause a Hangover?

Any alcohol percentage will cause a hangover if you consume enough of it. However, most non-alcoholic beers and wines have an alcohol percentage that’s less than 1%. These beverages have the lowest risk of causing a hangover because you have to drink dozens of them to reach alcohol intoxication.

Keep in mind that alcoholic drinks with high ABVs are more likely to cause hangovers. Dark liquor like bourbon also increases the risk of getting a hangover the next day. Mixers will also increase the risk of developing hangover symptoms.

How do Alcoholics Deal with Hangovers?

Alcoholics deal with hangovers by drinking more alcohol the next day or by treating the symptoms with medications like Aspirin. It’s also important to note that people struggling with alcoholism develop worse hangovers. 

Alcoholics develop the worst hangovers because the mind and body rely on alcohol to maintain balance. Therefore, symptoms of withdrawal begin several hours after drinking. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal make hangover symptoms more intense because alcoholics also experience withdrawal symptoms.