It’s a curious thing, really. Sometimes, you have a huge night on the drink and wake up the next day feeling fine; other times, a moderate evening can leave you completely wiped out the following day.
There is no doubt that the dreaded throbbing headache, inability to perform basic movements and all-too-familiar taste of regret lingering in your mouth are truly horrible symptoms.
You’ve probably tried chugging a glass of water between drinks, eating a big meal before you start hitting the sauce or even calling it quits early to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, but it turns out that what you drink may have just as much of an effect as how you drink.
Now, the basic formula is actually pretty simple (alcohol + time = hangover), but a 2010 study found that chemical compounds called congeners have a strong link to hangovers.
The chemical that gives alcoholic drinks their buzz is ethanol, which is produced during fermentation. However, fermentation can also lead to the creation of congeners, the toxic byproducts of the process.
So how exactly can we detect cogeners? Well, they are actually pretty easy to see. No, literally – you can check congener concentration in the colour of your alcohol.
The general rule is the darker the alcohol, the more congeners it has. That’s why bold red wines have the most notorious reputations for a painful recovery the following day.
Lighter, clearer alcohols such as white wine or gin have fewer toxic congeners, but the drink with the fewest may actually surprise you: vodka!
That’s right, despite its reputation as a near tasteless party drink for mixing with sweet fizzy drinks, vodka contains the fewest congeners and should cause the mildest hangovers (if drunk in moderation).
Something else to note: when choosing liquor, reaching for the cheapest possible bottle might not be your best move. Why? Basically, the process of distilling liquor can actually reduce congener levels.
Cheaper booze tends to be distilled fewer times, meaning you’ll have a higher chance of copping more congeners than usual.
But don’t let all this congener talk distract you from the fact that dehydration is still an important ingredient for any hangover.
The best counter to a hangover is, of course, to not drink the night before. But if you must, follow these rules and you’ll have the best chance of pulling up sensational the next day:
- Avoid dark-coloured drinks when possible (think “clear drinks for a clear head”).
- Drink plenty of water in between beverages and before bed.
- If you can afford to, buy the good stuff.
And there you have it! Just keep in mind that no matter your poison, drinking a lot is almost always going to result in a hangover. Shocking, right?