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Is Certain Booze Hangover-Proof? We’ve Got Answers

© Franciacorta Consorzio

Two weeks frolicking around Franciacorta, Italy’s under-the-radar-but-about-to-explode sparkling wine region, taught me several valuable life lessons. For starters, it’s completely acceptable to drink bubbly at any time of day, and Franciacorta is a wine that practically screams “day drinking.” Free-flowing like water, the wine never made me feel ill the next day, unlike some of its sparkling cousins around the world.

So why no hangover? According to the Franciacorta Consortium, the blend is “low in sugar and made without any chemicals to create the prized bubbles (instead it’s made naturally with second fermentation in the bottle), so the bubbly is easy to drink and easy on you the next day.” Franciacorta’s Dosage Zéro is the lowest in sugar and Satèn, the silkiest and smoothest style.

In Tequila, Mexico last year, I consumed one too many rocks glasses worth of tequila (neat, of course.) Again, no hangover, and I consumed a lot of tequila. “Quality in a spirit is essential to avoid the painful morning after,” Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo, the founder of Casa Noble, said. “By using the best ingredients and triple distilling, therefore using the heart of the distillation, as we do with Casa Noble, you reduce the ‘bad’ alcohols that have unpleasant effects on our bodies.”
If you’re not drinking the fancy stuff in fancy places with fancy people, there are certain rules you should follow. Here, experts offer insights on what to drink and what to avoid, so you can minimize hangovers as effectively as possible.

The darker the alcohol, the worse the hangover.

“As a rule of the thumb, the darker the alcohol the more severe the hangover will be,” says Sloane Davis, a certified nutritionist and personal trainer. “Vodka is known to be the best alcoholic beverage for the most minimal hangover. Gin, light rum and white wine are runner-ups—with brandy and whiskey being at the bottom of the list. There have been studies that show that certain congeners (small amounts of different chemicals in alcohol) contribute to the severity of a hangover.” Ultimately, avoiding a hangover means avoiding booze, but certain spirits can be less severe.

“A light beer will always be a better choice than dark, and white wine will triumph a glass of red to curb the dreaded hangover,” Davis says. “The sugar and sulfates in wine tends to keep people up at night.” She recommends trying sulfate-free wines and steering clear from anything dark in color, including dark rum, red wine, whiskey, brandy and dark beer.

Opt for lower alcohol wines.

Sommelier Liz Martinez, of soon-to-open Prime + Proper in Detroit, Michigan, suggests low-alcohol, Old World white wines “for a less brutal hangover.” Muscadet from the Loire Valley, she relays, is a lean wine with lower alcohol content, while Txakolina from the Basque region of Spain is “spritz-y, with precise acid, light in style, and again, very low in alcohol.”

Hydrate, and eat foods with these nutrients.

Meg Mangano, a sports dietitian and functional nutritionist (and, ahem, team nutritionist for the LA Clippers), says that hangover severity depends on the individual, but a key factor in preventing a brutal one is to hydrate and eat well before throwing back drinks at happy hour. Allergies and intolerances play a key role here, too. For instance, those sensitive to sulfites should stick with organic wine, “or avoid wine and beer and choose triple-distilled liquors.”

If time allows, eating a nutritious meal could tremendously help. “Include foods that are rich in the vitamins and minerals lost when drinking and a balance of quality carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats which help to keep energy levels stable and slow the absorption of alcohol in the body,” says Mangano. Seek fresh fruits and vegetables that contain Vitamin A, Vitamin B and magnesium. A solid pre-drink nosh that comes highly recommended? Salmon with sweet potatoes and olive oil roasted asparagus.

Warning: obvious answer ahead. The best way to prevent a hangover is to drink in moderation or not at all. But you’re probably not reading this for that advice, right? Well, according to the pros (you know, actual MDs and RDs), there are lots o’ ways to ensure tomorrow’s hangover ghosts before you even get to the pregame. Thanks, science!

Oh, already feeling a lil tipsy? NBD, there are still things you can do prevent feeling like death tomorrow…and we’re about to spill them all.

Here, 19 expert-approved tricks to prevent a hangover at every stage of your bender journey. Just promise not to leave your phone in the Uber again.

Before You Drink

Double up on multivitamins. B vitamins, which help turn the food you eat into energy, per the National Institutes of Health, are especially important since they get depleted when you drink says, Wendy Leonard, RDN, founder of Rhode Island Nutrition Therapy. So stock up on those pre-boozing.

“A big misconception is that hangovers are entirely about dehydration,” says Jason Burke, MD, an anesthesiologist and the creator of Hangover Heaven, a mobile medical clinic based in Las Vegas that delivers onsite IV treatments for hangover sufferers. But other factors making you feel awful after drinking are inflammation and oxidative stress, or when your body’s antioxidant defenses can’t deal with free radicals (atoms that can damage cells in your bod), per the journal Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental. And it’s much easier to prevent a hangover than it is to deal with it the next morning. Antioxidants help mitigate the damage, so pop an a multivitamin or drink acai or pomegranate juice before you go out, Dr. Burke says.

Give yourself a food baby. Ok, so nobody wants to feel bloated before a night out, but make sure you’re full. Like, really full. “When you drink alcohol on an empty stomach, it just passes the alcohol right to your intestines and then it’s absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly,” explains Robert Swift, MD, associate director of the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies. Meaning, you’ll get drunk faster and feel way worse the next day. Drinking on a full stomach ensures your blood alcohol stays lower, he says.

Leonard recommends chowing down on salmon, in particular, because its omega-3 fatty acids can help your liver detoxify your body better when you start drinking.

Hit the gym. One of the main reasons hangovers happen is because we’re trying to blow off steam and we go too far, explains Leon Coleman, MD, research assistant and professor at the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at UNC Chapel Hill. That’s why he recommends working out or finding another healthy way to relieve stress before you go out. Then, when it’s time to rage, that work hard/play mentality is gone, says Dr. Coleman. “You can enjoy yourself without going too far.”

Choose your squad wisely. Another reason we drink too much and then feel like trash the next day is because we’re with the wrong people. “Who you’re with is one of the main determinants of your behaviors, it’s been well studied,” he adds. Pro tip? Take note of your friends who bail on plans to nurse a hangover every Sunday and steer clear the next time they invite you out.

While You Drink

Opt for organic wine. Preservatives and pesticides may be why people feel more hungover drinking wine in the U.S. than they do in Europe, says Leonard. (Well, that and the fact that many European wines have less alcohol content than those in the U.S.) So if you can get an organic, preservative-free, or lower alc wine (think 12.5 percent or less) that might help prevent hangover symptoms tomorrow, she explains.

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Make your roadie a Gatorade. You’ve probably heard that it’s smart to chug water between cocktails to fend off dehydration (and the resulting headache) caused by alcohol. But coconut water or a sports drinks like Gatorade work even better. They replace your fluids and electrolytes, the nutrients you lose when you drink, according to Elizabeth Kovacs, PhD, director of the alcohol research program at Loyola University. Whenever you drink more than two drinks at a time, alternate between booze and a sports drink (or sip the latter throughout the night), and you’ll be good to go.

Skip the smokes. When 113 college students documented their alcohol intake, smoking habits, and hangover symptoms every day for eight weeks, researchers found that when students drank heavily, smoking significantly increased the risk and severity of a hangover, according to a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Stick with clear liquor. Vodka and gin may have fewer impurities than dark ones, like whiskey and rum, says Kovacs.

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Choose juice over soda mixers. “OJ won’t help you avoid a hangover — unless you drink it instead of a 14th beer,” Kovacs says. But because fruit and vegetable juices contain extra vitamins, they’re always better for you than soda.

Wash your hands super well. Drinking alcohol changes the way your immune system works, so if you’re exposed to something like the flu when you’re out and about, you’re more likely to become infected, have a more severe reaction, and take longer to recover, Kovacs says. And if there’s one thing that makes a hangover worse, it’s flu symptoms like fever, muscles aches, and chills.

Dance your ass off. It’s hard to hold a drink while you’re breaking it down, so dancing, playing a game like pool, or ping-pong (assuming it involves paddles as opposed to cups of beer) can slow the destructive cycle of emptying your glass and immediately refilling it. Just be sure to stash a cup of water on the edge of the dance floor to rehydrate, particularly if you start to break a sweat.

Before You Go to Sleep

Don’t overdo it on the water. It’s true that hangovers can happen when your body gets too much bad liquid (alcohol) and not enough of the good kind (water).

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However, Kovacs says chugging water can put undue stress on your body. And frequent bathroom runs can mess with your sleep. So after a night of heavy drinking, down a glass of water (and a second one, if you’re particularly thirsty), and leave a full glass on your nightstand to treat dry mouth at 5 a.m.

Slap on a sleeping mask. While sleep deprivation won’t cause a hangover, it can make your hangover worse, per a study published in Current Drug Abuse Reviews. Incidentally, alcohol disrupts the second part of your sleep, according to a study in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, which occurs after the sun rises if you go to sleep particularly late. While you can’t control the quality of your sleep after a litty night, you can minimize environmental disruptions with a sleep mask that keeps light out of your eyes.

The Morning After

Chug some Pedialyte. When you’re hungover, you’re generally hella dehydrated because alcohol inhibits your antidiuretic hormone (the one that prevents you from peeing), so hit the bathroom a lot more often, Dr. Swift explains. “Sports drinks and Pedialyte are scientifically formulated to maximize the rate at which the fluid is absorbed,” he says. In other words, you’ll feel better ASAP.

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Hit up your fave breakfast place. Here’s exactly what you should order: an omelette with spinach and cheese, home fries, and a glass of OJ, says Leonard. Eggs are high in N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC), which helps your body metabolize alcohol. Similarly, spinach is a good source of Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA)…so are home fries, BTW, which also helps move alcohol through the body. And OJ has vitamin B1, to promote some of that mental clarity you’re prob lacking rn.

Forget the whole “hair of the dog that bit you” thing. Experts agree that it’s straight-up stupid to booze it up the morning after heavy drinking. It only delays the inevitable: a hangover that’s even worse than the one you’ve got.

Drink Sprite or seltzer. When researchers at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China, analyzed the effects of 57 different drinks on alcohol metabolism, they found that the Chinese version of Sprite and regular soda water help speed up the body’s alcohol metabolism, which decreases the amount of time your body is exposed to the harmful chemicals produced when your body digests alcohol. 



Avoid herbal teas. In the same Sun Yat-Sen University experiment, researchers found that herbal teas make your body process alcohol more slowly, so your hangover lasts extra long. (Which could seriously drive you to drink.)

Elizabeth Narins Senior fitness and health editor Elizabeth Narins is a Brooklyn, NY-based writer and a former senior editor at Cosmopolitan.com, where she wrote about fitness, health, and more.

Oh boy. When we go out, we obviously go fucking hard. Like, what’s the point if you aren’t going to take shots, dance like an animal, and make irresponsible decisions? Unfortunately, when we DO go out and act completely like assholes for the evening, we feel even worse the next morning. In college we managed to avoid hangovers and drink 4-5 days in a row. Who knew we were basically superheroes? Nowadays, hangovers stop us from going hard more than like, 2-3 nights, tops—and even the mildest of hangovers requires a minimum of 48 hours recovery time. But what if I told you that there were specific DRINKS you could order that would get you fucked up BUT result in a not-so-bad or barely there hangover? The legends are true.

1. Vodka

Number one on every list for avoiding hangovers is our good Russian friend, vodka. Because it’s about 40% alcohol mixed with water with very little else (like coloring, preservatives, etc.) mixed in, hangovers are less common when you’re knocking this shit back. So, yes, continue ordering those vodka sodas for the foreseeable future.

2. Gin

Because it’s low in extra stuff added in, gin is a great option if you’re a psychopath AND want to experience a headache-free morning. Mix with a little tonic and lime for a low-cal drink that can still pack a punch.

3. Clear Liquors

As we’ve concluded with our extensive evidence on gin and vodka, really any clear alcohol (NOT BROWN) will enable you to actually attend brunch the next day without vomming on the table. Methanol is found in brown liquors and it stays in your bod loooong after the spins have subsided, making your hangover fucking unbearable.

4. Skip Anything Carbonated

Champagne, Four Lokos (what are you, 17 years old?), and you Red Bull vodkas aren’t helping your next day struggle. Basically, anything carbonated increases your rate of alcohol absorption. Which, like, is awesome while you’re drinking, but not so awesome the next morning.

5. Light Beer

Yah, it kind of makes you look like a narc, but if you insist on drinking beer at the bar then stick with the light stuff. The same rule applies with beer as with liquor—the clearer or less dark it is, the less terrible your hangover shall be.

6. White Wine

If, for some reason, wine is your jam at the bar and you’ve been seen toting around a wine glass while fist pumping and grinding on strangers (we see you, Rihanna), keeping it to the white variety can at least help your hangover the next day (no word on your dignity). Red wine has histamines that can actually make people who experience allergies feel fucking horrible the next day.

So like, in conclusion, the less you use sugary drinks and mixers, the better. The more sugar something contains, the worse your hangover will be. Stick with mixing soda water, seltzer, or just going with straight on the rocks for sippin’. Also, whiskey and dark liquors are NOTORIOUS for horrible hangovers, so skip the Jack and Coke.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Author:

Betchy Crocker

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Is Mezcal Healthy?

Though there are health benefits to it, calling mezcal healthy may be a stretch. No liquor is really healthy, but some are certainly better than others. Mezcal is at the top of the list of healthier spirits available in the US. Let’s take a look at few health questions we’ve heard:

Does Mezcal Give You a Hangover?

Always follow The Golden Rule when drinking mezcal: treat mezcal the way you want to be treated. Slamming Monte Alban shots and PBR tall boys will always make you feel miserable the next day. However, casually sipping El Jolgorio Tobala or Rey Campero Madre-Cuishe may give you better results. Sipping mezcal in such a fashion typically means you’re drinking much slower. It’s also common to mix the liquor with intermittent sips of water or small bites of fruit or cheese. These additional factors help to lessen the impact of drinking 100+ proof liquor for hours on end.

Mezcal is made from 100% distilled agave, making it all-natural and additive-free. Tequila is also made from agave, but it only needs to be 51% agave in order to be sold as tequila in the US. This means that unless you’re drinking 100% agave tequila, which is pricey, there’s a good chance you’re drinking up to 49% additive crap. These additives almost always guarantee a hangover.

Health guru Dave Asprey of Bulletproof recommends drinking clear spirits if you are on a strict diet, yet want to enjoy alcohol. He lists tequila in the top three recommended after vodka and gin. If he only knew about mezcal! Not only is all mezcal 100% agave (unlike tequila), but additives are not allowed making it an even better option than tequila. Check out his blog and infographic

Is Mezcal a Stimulant?

Technically, all alcohol is a depressant, but calling mezcal a stimulant is not completely off-base. Mezcal can give you a euphoric and energized feeling. Some sources point to its mild hallucinogenic properties as a primary cause for this elation. A more likely reason for this is that mezcal is pure. There aren’t any additives or sweeteners, and it has zero carbs. Rather than feeling heavy and belligerent, like after drinking 12 Dale’s Pale Ales, mezcal drinkers feel light, awake, and agile after 12 pours.

Some also claim mezcal is an aphrodisiac, and that it can be used in love potion cocktails. Though it’s mostly myth surrounding these claims, many mezcal mixed drinks contain herbs and flowers, like Cardamom and Saffron, which are aphrodisiacs.

Does Mezcal Make You Smarter?

No, but knowing a lot about mezcal makes people think you are.

Is Mezcal Healthy?

Many cultures traditionally take a shot before eating, known as an aperitif, which stimulates the appetite. A digestif after a meal is also common in many cultures. Using mezcal as an aperitif and digstif is nothing new. It helps with digestion, as well as the regulation of blood sugars. Mezcal is also naturally gluten-free.

The agave plant has many documented health benefits, but the extent of which found in mezcal is still largely unknown. For example, agave contains saponins. According to Jonny Bowden, author of The Healthiest Foods on Earth , saponins can help lower cholesterol levels. Bowden also notes that saponins can inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors. So that’s good.

In the end, it all comes down to moderation. Drinking a glass of wine is good for you, just like drinking a glass of mezcal is good for you. Drinking an entire bottle, however, could do damage to anyone and it’ll lead to an unhealthy lifestyle.

Cheers.

Healthpedian.org

Celiac’s Guide to Gluten-Free Alcoholic Beverages

Whether you have celiac disease or other form of gluten intolerance or you are on a gluten-free diet for any other reason, you may sometimes want to have a social drink but feel uncertain about potential traces of gluten in some alcoholic beverages. Although the occasional drink will not worsen your gluten sensitivity, you still need to know exactly which alcoholic beverages are gluten-free and, therefore, safe for you to drink.

In general, most spirits (especially white distilled alcohol) and wines are safe because they are not made from either barley, wheat or rye (i.e., grains that contain gluten). However, it is obvious that beer, which is usually made from barley, is a bad choice for somebody on a gluten-free diet. But there are exceptions to this general rule. For example, some beers are also made from grains that naturally do not contain gluten whereas some brown spirits, such as whiskey, do contain traces of gluten from syrup that is added after distillation for color and flavoring.

Which Beers Are Gluten Free?

All regular beers, including ales, lagers, stouts, porters, malts and bitters, are made from grains, typically barley. Some beers, however, such as Weizenbier, are made from wheat whereas some others also use rye, rice, corn, sorghum, millet or buckwheat. Out of these cereals, rice, corn, sorghum, millet and buckwheat are naturally free of gluten but they are in a small minority when it comes to total volumes of the beer produced. Therefore, most beers you find on supermarket shelves or in a pub are not gluten-free.

For a beer to be gluten-free, it either has to be made from gluten-free grains such as corn, rice, sorghum, millet or buckwheat, which alter its taste, or, if made from barley, wheat or rye, it has to be designed specifically to be gluten-free (contain less than 20ppm of gluten, meaning 20 molecules of gluten per one million molecules of drink). This can only be achieved through special extraction and filtering processes and should not affect the taste of the beer. Good examples of barley-based beers for celiacs are Omission and Greens. However, these beers may still contain tiny traces of gluten (but in non-detectable amounts), which might be potentially harmful to very sensitive people (though this is not actually known as current studies are inconclusive). At the end of the day, it is up to the patient to decide whether beers made from barley labelled “processed to remove gluten” are safe for them to drink.

Hence, the only bullet-proof method of producing absolutely gluten-free beers is to use gluten-free cereals. Those who have been living with gluten intolerance throughout their entire lives will not know they taste a little bit different than regular beers. However, make sure that these beers are labeled “gluten-free”. Remember that for a beer to be truly gluten-free, it must be produced from gluten-free grains in a dedicated facility, i.e., in a brewery that does not produce standard beers to prevent cross-contamination.

However, the Reinheitsgebot, the German beer purity law first adopted in 1516, defines beer as an alcoholic drink made of barley, water and hops (it does not even mention brewers yeast). Hence, orthodox beer drinkers will object that beer made from grass or grains other than barley is not a beer and should not be marketed as such. But, if you really want to give gluten-free beer a try, here is a good review.

Is Cider Gluten Free?

Cider is brewed from fruits (e.g., apples, pears) which do not contain gluten and is, therefore, considered gluten-free. Although there are some brands that are specifically labeled “gluten-free”, most are not, but still, hard ciders offer a great alternative to beer for patients with gluten sensitivity. The only possible risk of cider being contaminated with gluten is for brands with added barley or those that are produced in the same facility as regular beers.

Which Spirits Are Gluten Free?

Distilled beverages, such as calvados, brandy, grappa, rum or tequila, are made from ingredients that naturally do not contain gluten. Thus, they are considered safe for people with celiac disease. However, vodka, bourbon and whiskey are distilled from fermented grain mash containing gluten. It is debatable whether tiny traces of gluten are remaining in these beverages after distillation. Technically, there should not be any because gluten has a much higher boiling point than alcohol or water, so it is left behind. But, there still is a small risk of cross-contamination after distillation. When it comes to bourbon and whiskey, however, gluten can be introduced after the distillation process (e.g., as a barley malt) to improve taste, color and flavor. Therefore, bourbon and whiskey are generally not considered to be gluten-free. As for vodka, it can be regarded as a gluten-free alcoholic beverage but with a certain degree of risk of cross-contamination from grains stored in the same facility. Hence, if you want to play it safe, better avoid vodka.

Some spirits, such as gin or absinthe, are made from distilled alcohol and herbal additives. Whether they can contain traces of gluten depends on the type of alcohol used. Like vodka, they are in principle gluten-free but can be cross-contaminated if grain-based alcohol was used.

Are All Wines Gluten Free?

Like cider, wine is a gluten-free alcoholic drink because it is made from fruit – grapes – which are naturally free of gluten. However, in very rare instances, some wines can contain tiny traces of gluten. Wines that age in oak barrels can be contaminated with gluten from flour paste used to seal the barrels. In addition, gluten can be added as a fining agent to clarify wines, though it rarely is. In both instances, the amount of gluten is likely to stay below the allowable threshold of 20ppm. In general, the risk of gluten contamination is higher for traditionally produced European wines than wines from the US, Australia or South America. Therefore, although most wines are not labeled “gluten-free”, they can be regarded as a safe alcoholic beverage for people with gluten sensitivity.

Fortified wines, such as port, sherry or vermouth (martini), are also gluten-free because distilled alcohol that is added to fortify them is made from grapes.

Are Liqueurs Gluten Free?

Liqueurs (flavored spirits) are generally not considered to be suitable for people with gluten intolerance. They are typically a mix of many different ingredients – distilled alcohol and sweeteners, colorants and flavorings. Since it is impossible to determine the origins of these ingredients (some of them are proprietary and, therefore, difficult to identify clearly), you are advised to avoid drinking liqueurs.

Summary: The Worst and the Best Alcoholic Drinks for Celiacs

So, if you are a celiac standing at a bar not sure what to order, avoid beer, bourbon, whiskey and sweet liqueurs and rather have a glass of wine or cider (one that does not contain barley), or a shot of brandy, ouzo, rum, tequila or any white spirit other than vodka and gin. This advice is consistent with the recommendation of the Celiac Support Association to only drink alcoholic beverages that are made from gluten-free ingredients. If you like mixing alcohol with carbonated beverages, here is a review of gluten-free soft-drinks. Also, remember that heavy alcohol consumption can, just like celiac disease, cause damage to the lining of the small intestine and thus add to the gluten intolerance problem.

Gluten in Alcoholic Beverages

Name of Beverage Gluten (Fermented Mash) Gluten (Beverage)
Absinthe Possibly yes Only from cross-contamination
Arak No No
Arrack No No
Beer Yes Yes (unless specifically labeled as gluten-free)
Bourbon Yes Added after distillation
Brandy (incl. fruit brandies) No No
Calvados No No
Cider No No, except for brands with added barley (however, there is a risk of cross-contamination)
Cognac No No
Frangelico Possibly yes May be added or from cross-contamination
Gin Possibly yes Only from cross-contamination
Grappa No No
Liqueurs (flavored spirits) Possibly yes May be added or from cross-contamination
Martini (cocktail) Possibly yes Only from cross-contamination
Martini (Vermouth) No No
Mezcal No No
Ouzo No No
Pisco No No
Rum No No
Sherry No No
Tequila No No
Vermouth No No
Vodka Yes Only from cross-contamination
Whiskey Yes Added after distillation
Wine No No (in rare cases cross-contamination is possible)

Posted in Allergy and Asthma, Autoimmune Disorders, Gastrointestinal Diseases

When you throw back a shot of tequila, what exactly are you putting into your body? Any guesses? While many high-end brands use 100 percent agave to create their spirits, regulations state that, in order for a liquor to be called tequila, it needs only be composed of 51 percent agave. What’s the other 49 percent? A “tequila helper” made from other types of sugar, most often cane sugar. The kicker: Tequila brands aren’t required to list out their sugar sources.

So how do you add some south-of-the-border vibes to a night out when you want to avoid shrug-emoji ingredients lists? One option is mezcal—a majorly trending Mexican liquor that’s made from agave, like tequila, but is ultra-pure in terms of ingredients and craftsmanship.

“Mezcal is becoming the spirit of choice among those who are health conscious,” says AdrinAdrina, co-founder of craft mezcal brand Gem&Bolt. “It’s the cleanest spirit on the market due to its traditional production process and the fact that mezcal must contain 100 percent agave by law.”

Not to mention it’s got a complex taste that definitely won’t bring back bad memories of spring break. “Mezcal has tones of earth, ash, smoke, wood, dirt, rock, and farm animal,” says Ray Wicks, mixologist at Wabi Venice in Los Angeles. (Okay, I know that doesn’t make it sound super appealing, but it really is tasty.) Wicks’ colleague behind the bar, Conner Mitchell, adds, “Basically, when you drink mezcal, you feel like you’re being grounded on the inside. It’s an incredible intoxicant.”

No wonder it’s now a fixture on so many cocktail menus—and healthy home bar carts, too.

Here are the wellness benefits of mezcal—and how to drink it for a healthy buzz.

Photo: Stocksy/Lindsay Upson

An old-school spirit with modern appeal

Comparing mezcal and other spirits is kind of like a face-off between farm-to-table fare and processed food. While most liquors today are industrially produced, the majority of mezcal sold in the US is still crafted by hand, the old-school way.

“Mezcal is made by roasting agave hearts in a large pit, crushing the roasted hearts with a tahona stone to release the juices, and then fermenting the juices and fibers in wooden containers and distilling in a copper still,” explains AdrinAdrina. “It’s an alchemical and beautiful craft. One of our favorite parts is the use of natural yeasts from the local ecosystem to help the fermentation process.”

“Mezcal is made by roasting agave hearts in a large pit, crushing the roasted hearts, and then fermenting the juices.” —AdrinAdrina, Gem&Bolt co-founder

Of course, each brand puts its own spin on the finished product. Gem&Bolt distills its mezcals with damiana, an indigenous Mexican herb that’s said to have mood-elevating properties. “Damiana is an age-old tonic, traditionally used by the Maya, Aztec, Zapotec, and other cultures across the world,” says Gem&Bolt co-founder Elliott Coon. “It blends beautifully with agave itself, which is naturally stimulating and uplifting.”

Another new arrival, Yola Mezcal, utilizes glass barrels for the aging process to dial down the smokiness. The brand, which counts Lykke Li as a co-founder, has an all-female bottling squad at its Oaxaca HQ.

But even though mezcal may be cleaner than other spirits, it’s important to remember that it’s still hard alcohol. “It’s got the reputation of being healthier, but it’s not a health food,” says chef, certified nutritionist, and The Thinking Girl’s Guide to Drinking author Ariane Resnick. “When I have a drink with mezcal, I always enjoy it, but I never want a second one. Due to the smoky woodiness, I feel like it’s somewhat dehydrating.” So think sips, not shots.

Photo: Stocksy/Tina Crespo

What to look for when ordering mezcal

As mezcal grows in popularity, it’s only a matter of time before makers start to give it the factory treatment. But it should still be easy to seek out a craft mezcal if that’s what you’re after—according to Coon, a new law requires each company to label their bottles as being artisanal, ancient, or industrial, as determined by a regulatory body.

“You’ll get the best experience—and the least chance of a hangover—if you’re choosing low-sugar mixers and fresh ingredients.” —Ariane Resnick, certified nutritionist

The other thing to consider is what else is in your mezcal cocktail. “If you start with quality alcohol, you want to be adding whole-food mixers, not pre-mixed, store-bought ones,” Resnick says. “You’ll get the best experience—and the least chance of a hangover—if you’re choosing low-sugar mixers and fresh ingredients.”

Resnick’s a fan of adding fresh grapefruit juice or peach kombucha to her mezcal, while the Yola crew likes theirs with green juice or cucumber and mint. At Wabi Venice, mezcal’s found in cocktails with mango and dragonfruit. That standard margarita sounds pretty boring right about now, doesn’t it?

Originally published May 4, 2017; updated July 4, 2018.

To shake things up even more, here are 8 superfood-packed, party-ready cocktail recipes and a crystal-infused version that’ll take your buzz to the next level.

This is the alcohol least likely to give you a hangover

So you woke up with a pounding head and convulsing stomach – again. Every noise sounds like a screech and every movement feels like a lurch. You try a hangover cure or two, but nothing ever works. What is it that you’re doing wrong?

Well, you know the drinking itself certainly didn’t help. But you alternated glasses with water, ate carbs after dark, and even got to bed a little earlier than your usual unsightly hour. But the next morning, you still woke up feeling like you’d been run over by a train of exhaustion.

It turns out that how you drink might not be as important as what you drink. Some drinks are more likely to sabotage your Sunday than others.

According to a 2010 study, hangovers are largely influenced by compounds called “congeners.” Ethanol – that’s the chemical responsible for your buzz – is the desired product of fermentation in booze, but producing it results in some toxic byproducts. These byproducts are congeners. So, your drinks basically contain small doses of toxic poison. No wonder your body’s mad at you.

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Some drinks are more pure than others. Wine, for instance, varies in its congener concentration based on the richness and color of the drink. The darker it is, the worse it’s going to make you feel – which is why many adults steer clear of red wine completely, complaining that even one glass gives them horrific headaches the morning after. Pinot grigio is a far safer selection than a rich, bold pinot noir.

The drink with the lowest level of congeners may surprise you: vodka.

The translucent liquor gets a bad rap for intoxicating quickly and tasting, well… tasteless. But if you have to wake up early the next morning or don’t want to waste your weekend slumped over a half-eaten bag of Cheetos, you might want to reconsider your aversion.

The same processes that make vodka taste like nothing also leave it with relatively few of those toxic byproducts. Ideally, vodka is just ethanol and water. The U.S. government has even legally defined vodka as being “without distinctive character.”

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While vodka itself is clean, your vodka cocktail may not be. Sugar and artificial sweeteners worsen the effects of hangovers, so it’s best to pair your vodka with something that’s void of both. Chrissy Teigen might be onto something with her drink of choice. A vodka soda, though admittedly a lot less tasty than its sugary sidekicks like vodka cranberries and tonics, will leave you with a whole lot less regret the following day. The classic choice is so much more than just one of many diet-friendly cocktails.

Which Drinks Give You the Worst Hangovers, According to Scientists

It’s All About Congeners

All alcohol is dehydrating, which means all of it can cause hangovers. But hangovers do range in severity depending on the type of alcohol, thanks to congeners, which are byproducts of fermentation. These contribute to a drink’s flavor and color, but are very difficult for the liver to break down, and cause hangover symptoms like headaches.

“Yeast produces these chemicals during fermentation, and a brewer or winemaker doesn’t have a lot of control over the amounts of them, which is why beer has very little amounts,” says Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, an enology professor and wine chemist at the University of California, Davis. “But distillers do have a lot of control—they can either exclude congeners totally or include them to affect the flavor, color and aroma of the spirit, and that’s part of the craft.”

Distillers achieve this by managing the heat in the still, causing some congeners to evaporate and others to stay depending on the temperature level, or by distilling the liquor multiple times, filtering out congeners. This is why, for instance, Irish whiskey distilled three times may taste lighter than double distilled Scotch whisky.

Some congeners are pleasant tasting and others taste foul, so the distiller has to control what gets removed and what stays in the bottle. Vodka and gin are distilled to remove all of the congeners entirely to yield a neutral flavor, whereas congeners are purposely left in darker spirits to add depth of flavor and dark color.

“Brandy has the highest amount, followed by dark alcohols like whiskey and red wine,” says Czarena Crofcheck, Ph.D, a food science professor at the University of Kentucky. “Their high levels of fusel alcohol make them much harder for the body to metabolize.”

These alcoholic drinks are the least likely to give you a hangover

December is a dangerous month.

It’s highly likely that with the plethora of parties and catch-ups, you’re going to be more than a bit ‘refreshed’.

All you can do is prepare.

Put the Chinese on speed dial, stock the fridge with Coke and make sure your first aid kit has a pretty decent supply of painkillers.

And in the interest of further minimising your pain, the good people at Stylist have discovered that there are certain drinks less likely to induce a hangover.

Here’s the science.

In the alcoholic beverages industry, congeners are substances produced during fermentation. These substances include small amounts of chemicals such as methanol and other alcohols (known as fusel alcohols), acetone, acetaldehyde, esters, tannins, and aldehydes (e.g. furfural). It has been suggested that these substances contribute to the symptoms of a hangover.

Vodka, surprisingly, tops the list of the drinks least likely to produce a hangover.

The reason is that vodka is so pure that it contains virtually no congeners. Mixing it with sugary soft drinks may lead to a hangover in the morning but for the most part, vodka should leave you relatively pain free.

Other clear spirits like rum and gin are similarly low in congeners and also likely to leave you feeling okay.

However, bad news if – like us – you’re partial to the odd whiskey or glass of red wine.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, higher-congener, darker-toned liquors like whiskey and bourbon lead to much more severe hangovers.

In fact, one congener, methanol, has been found to stay in the body after all alcohol has been eliminated. It’s most prevalent in whiskey and red wine.

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The Hard Choice: Is Beer or Cider Better?

Beer has long held the place of America’s most beloved alcoholic beverage. But for an increasing number of Americans, hard apple cider is becoming the drink of choice. So what’s so special about the drink’s sweet composition and potential health benefits, and how do they compare to the benefits of beer? We dove into the bottle to find out.

What’s the Deal?

A staple in Britain before the Norman invasion, hard cider is now consumed across the globe (though the British continue to consume nearly half of all cider produced worldwide). Cider’s popularity in the United States waned after the 19th century introduction of German lagers, and declined further after Prohibition, but recently cider is making a comeback stateside. From festivals such as Pour the Core and New York Cider Week, to the growth of domestic brands like Boston Beer Company’s popular Angry Orchard, the US cider market is predicted to grow 65 percent between 2011 and 2016. The resurgence of cider prompts many to compare the beverage’s composition and potential health benefits to those of beer — especially as it’s increasingly popular as a gluten-free option for beer lovers who, well, can’t drink beer. But in terms of health benefits (and flavor) each drink is unique and it can vary greatly from bottle to bottle. Here’s how they’re different:

Ingredients

Hard cider and beer differ dramatically in their composition. Hard cider is made from a combination of yeast and apples — a superfood that provides vitamin C and antioxidants to protect the heart and reduce the risk of diabetes and asthmaApple phytochemicals and their health benefits. Boyer, J., Liu, R.H. Department of Food Science and Institute of Comparative and Environmental Toxicology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. Nutrition Journal, 2004 May 12;3:5. Since most beers are free of fruit juice, their nutritional value looks different from that of cider: Beer’s composition of yeast, hops, barley, and other grains yield a variety of different antioxidants and nutrients. Beer contains more protein and vitamin B than wine or cider, and packs a good dose of potassium, tooNutritional and health benefits of beer. Denke, M.A. Center for Human Nutrition, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Texas. American Journal of the Medical Science 2000, Nov; 320(5):320-6.Some beers may provide 10 percent of the total daily intake of folate, which is a necessary component of red blood cell formation and growth.

Health Benefits

The moderateconsumption of alcohol (that’s one drink per day for women, and two for men) does have a number of potential health boons. Scientists have studied the health benefits of alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, and spirits since the turn of the century for their ability to lower the risk of heart disease, cognitive decline, and dementia Review of moderate alcohol consumption and reduced risk of coronary heart disease: is the effect due to beer, wine, or spirits. Rimm, E.V., Klatsky, A., Grobbee, D., et al. Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA. British Medical Association, 1996 Mar 23;312(7033):731-6. However, the other nutrients found in beer and ciders play an important role in the healthiness of the beverages, too.

One study examining the antioxidant content of fruit juices, hard cider, and teas concluded that hard cider has the potential to contain as many antioxidants as wine. (However, within the study, the servings of cider evaluated were inexplicably larger than other drinks being tested, which may account for the large range of antioxidants attributed to hard cider.) These antioxidants (polyphenols, to be exact) have been linked to protecting against certain types of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative diseasesPlant polyphenols as dietary antioxidants in human health and disease. Pandly, K.B., Rizvi, S.I. Department of Biochemistry, University of Allahabad, India. Oxidative Medical Cell Longevity, 2009 Nov-Dec;2 (5):270-8. A study by the University of Glasgow compared two varieties of ciders using the same method of fermentation and production and found a huge range of polyphenol concentration, making it clear that the levels of polyphenols can vary significantly depending on the apple variety usedFlavonoid and hydroxycinnamate profiles of english apple ciders. Marks, S.C., Mullen, W., Crizier, A. Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, 2007 Oct 17;55 (21):8723-30.

In the beer-making process, naturally occurring polyphenols (usually found in hops and malt) are often removed by the brewer as they can cause beer to appear cloudy. This usually decreases the total polyphenol content, which means the astringency (the puckering feeling) found in ciders and red wines, is noticeably absent from beer. Compared to cider, beer falls behind in polyphenol concentration.However, a study by Oregon State University found that hops often contain flavonoids (a type of polyphenol compound), which provide antioxidant protection to cellsXanthohumol and related prenylflavonoids from hops and beer: to your good health! Stevens, J.F., Page, J.E. Department of Chemistry and the Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, OR. Phytochemistry 2004 May; 65(10):1317-30Flavonoids as drugs at the small intestinal level. Wenzel, U. Interdisciplinary Research Center, Justus-Liebig-University of Giessen, Giessen, Germany. Current Opinions in Pharmacology. 2013, Oct 1. pii: S1471-4892(13)00172-0Structure-Activity Analysis of Flavonoids: Direct and Indirect Antioxidant, and Antiinflammatory Potencies and Toxicities. Tsuji, P.A., Stephenson, K.K., Wade, K.L, et al. Department of Biological Sciences, Towson University, Towson, Maryland. Nutrition and Cancer 2013, Oct 2.Beer’s health benefits extend to the heart, too: Italian researchers have found that the moderate consumption of beer reduces the risk of heart disease by 31 percent.

Sugar Content

The amount of sugar per bottle is a major difference between beer and hard cider. Beer is sugar-free, and sugar is typically only added in small quantities by brewers to balance sourness. Cider, however, can be quite high in sugar. Of the most popular brands of hard cider stateside there is a wide range of sugar content — ranging from Crispin’s 15g (three teaspoons) of sugar per serving, to Angry Orchard-Crisp Apple’s 23 grams of sugar (7 teaspoons of sugar). The varying sugar content of hard cider is a result of the fermentation process: Sweeter ciders are slowly fermented and repeatedly racked (moved to new containers) to strain the yeast that feeds on the cider’s natural sugars. Dryer ciders (meaning they contain less sugar) allow the yeast to consume the majority of cider’s natural sugars and result in a less sweet drink with a higher alcohol content (now we’re talkin’). Comparatively, the calories found in a bottle of beer or hard cider remain pretty similar, but ciders are typically higher in carbohydrates due to the higher levels of sugar. Few varieties have “lite” options, so on average ciders will be slightly higher in calories and carbohydrates.

Your Action Plan

When weighing your healthier happy hour options, it’s really a tossup between beer and hard cider. The antioxidant content of cider varies by apple type, and if a polyphenol-poor variety is used, you’ll ultimately need to drink more to reap its potential health benefits (spoiler alert: the extra calories and inevitable hangover are not worth the dose of antioxidants). Although beer is low in polyphenols, its nutritional value is bolstered by high levels of vitamin B, potassium, and folate.

Both beer and cider are calorie-rich drinks, with respectively high levels of carbohydrates. For any alcoholic drink to really be healthy, moderation is the name of the game. One bottle of a healthier beer, a lower-sugar cider, or a glass of wine can provide a good dose of antioxidants — so learn to savor just one drink.

If beer and wine aren’t your thing, consider a calorie-cutting cocktail from mojitos to lemondrops, or consult the Greatist guide, How to Choose the Healthiest, Beer, Wine, and Cocktails.

Have something to say? Leave us a note in the comments below!

The first time I opened a growler of Farmhouse Cider from Frecon Farms in Boyertown, PA, the smell of it—the powerful, ripe, barnyard stank—was almost enough to clear a room. It was remarkable. A smell so strong that it seemed to have a weight and a color. Every instinct said to back away slowly, but what did I do? I drank it.

As it turned out, the cider itself was amazing. A fascinatingly complex mix of super-dry cider crispness, lingering sugars and a woody solidity, which was why I’d been drawn to it in the first place. Which is why you should be perking your ears up, too. Because right now, hard cider is where craft beer was a couple decades ago. It’s big business ($1 billion in sales in 2015, and still growing), but still a niche thing. Though its early years were dominated by a couple of large operations (like Woodchuck Hard Cider and Angry Orchard, the cider arm of the Boston Beer Company), the craft side of the scene is still wide open and largely made up of farmers, weirdos, brew-nerds and mad scientists all trying to find that next big thing. The hard cider version of the mass-market IPA.

In the process, they’re making a thousand delicious, strange and terrible things, everything from ridiculously sweet and powerful ice ciders (like Neige Premier, which comes in at a rocking 12% ABV) to fruited, spiced and barrel-aged experiments like Missouri’s Perennial Artisan Ales yearly blends, wild farmhouse sours and hopped hybrids like Woodchuck’s Hopsation that cross the line between beer and cider.

In fact, craft cider is, at this moment, interesting in exactly the way that craft beer has become dull. I mean, you crack a beer and the one thing you can guarantee? It’s going to taste like a beer. Hoppier or yeastier, more or less sour—excepting those bizarre outliers like $20,000 stunt beers served in taxidermied squirrels, a porter is a porter and a lager is a lager and they are, if nothing else, recognizable for what they are.

But cider? No way. They’re still an adventure, varying wildly from style to style and brand to brand. Where, once upon a time, the only thing anyone knew about hard ciders were that they were sweet, gross and an intermediate step for hard-drinking sorority girls moving on from Zima to Natty Lights, now they are equal in intricacy to the geekiest of craft beers and, really, could give wine snobs a run in terms of composition, complexity and terroir.

Take, for example, another Pennsylvania cider: Little Round Hop from Big Hill Ciderworks. It’s a hopped cider, using the Big Three brewers’ hops—Centennial, Cascade and Columbus—plus a little bit of citric, lemongrass sting to cool out any bitterness. The result is a dry, clean, almost beer-y cider that you can put away by the pint and brag about to your craft beer buddies. And as a bonus? We’re talking calories like a bottle of Budweiser, a drinkable 5.5% ABV and, like all ciders, totally gluten-free.

It’ll also taste nothing like the next bottle down in the cooler, and that’s really the reason why you should be drinking hard cider right now. Because there will never be another moment where cider is as fascinating as it is right now—where the options are more varied and the weirdness more approachable.

And remember: there was a time in this drinkable world before the IPA, too. Someone had to be first through that wall—the first guy to say, Hey, maybe not EVERY American beer has to taste like dirty water. For hard cider, this is that time. So be brave. Try something new.

Drink up.

Why Is Everybody Drinking Hard Cider? Here Are 10 Good, Delicious Reasons

You may be surprised to learn that hard cider was all the rage in England during the 1600s and that it was brought it over to America by the Pilgrims. As the colonies started to form, settlers preferred not to drink the rancid water that was often all that was available and defaulted to cider. The legendary Johnny Appleseed didn’t go around passing out seeds to big red eating apples; what he spread were seeds for small, ugly, acidic apples suited for making cider. As immigrants from other parts of Europe arrived in America bringing their own drinking traditions — like the Germans with their lagers and the Spanish and Italians with their wine — hard cider’s popularity waned. Prohibition didn’t help, and generations of Americans grew up thinking that “cider” was just another name for apple juice. Today, hard cider is finding its way back into the market in a big way. Interest in this historic beverage has undoubtedly been spurred by the craft beer movement and even the revival of artisanal distilling. Big companies both produce and import cider, but the best examples are made on a small-scale, using fresh unpasteurized apple juice instead of the concentrate the large firms often utilize. Here are 10 things you should know about hard cider.

Alcohol Content

Yes, we drink different alcoholic beverages for nuances of flavor and aroma, but another motivation is to enjoy the buzz they provide. Cider has an alcoholic content similar to that of beer, with most ciders ranging from 4.5 percent to 10 percent alcohol by volume. Both the cider and beer categories include a few outliers that contain an even higher alcohol content.

Cider Can Be Made From Other Fruits

Unless otherwise specified, cider is made from apples. A variation made from pears, called perry, is also available. Home cider-makers can turn other fruits into cider, as well, including peaches, plums, cherries, blackberries, and strawberries.

Cider Isn’t Always Enjoyed Ice-Cold

Artisanal cider is best enjoyed at room temperature — if possible, right out of the cask or barrel. Of course, if you prefer your cider cold, that’s up to you.

Do-It-Yourself Cider Aging

Try laying some artisanal cider down for a few months or even longer to let it develop in the bottle. Be sure to purchase hard cider with at least six percent alcohol by volume and shy away from commercial flavored ciders, because those have a shorter shelf life.

Drink in Moderation

Hard cider is made from pure apple juice, so offers the same health benefits the juice does. Hard cider, like unfermented juice, contains plenty of vitamin C and a considerable number of antioxidants. In fact, there are more antioxidants in hard cider outweighs than in green or black tea or vegetables like tomatoes. Traditional hard cider is also gluten-free. These benefits sound good, but enjoy in moderation since hard cider tends to be high in calories.

Easy Homemade Brews

Believe it or not, it’s simple to make hard cider at home. If this idea is up your alley, you will first want to source fresh local apples. Yeast is required. Remember to use the correct amount of yeast since it has considerable influence on taste. Research which yeast is right for you and where to find it. There are a number of cider recipes to filter through as you plan.

Food Pairings

Cider is not just reserved for happy hour. It can be easily paired with savory dishes. One of the most classic food combinations is pork and apples, so why not pair hard apple cider with roasted or grilled pork? You can even try spicy Asian food with cider because the tart-sweet character of the beverage tames the kick of t Asian spice. If you have a cream-based dinner dish like a casserole, try a semi-dry cider as the effervescence cuts through the rich cream.

Hard Cideries Are Popping Up Across the Country

Beer may be king, but cider is gaining in popularity. According to the University of Vermont, hard cider production in the country has increased by 73 percent since 2008. In just eight years, commercial and small-scale hard cider brands have made an impressive impact on the industry. Local farmers have jumped on the bandwagon: in 2014, 18 million bushels of fruit were used for cider production, yielding 54 million gallons of hard cider.

Some Ciders Hop Into Beer Territory

Some ciderists are starting to incorporate hops into the fermentation process. Hops are floral pellets of the hops plant and are a main flavoring ingredient in beer. Bitter oil in hops contributes to the bitter tastes often found in beers like the popular IPA. Although the idea may be sacrilegious to purists, some modernists have been experimenting. One reason for the addition is the bitter flavors help balance the sweetness in the hard cider yielding a more mature, aromatic finish. If you don’t like the flavor of hops (or have a gluten allergy), be sure to check your cider to see whether or not hops are included.

Sweet to Drink

Hard cider is usually sweeter than beer, and some are sweeter than others. The length of fermentation determines the amount of sugar in the brew. The sweeter the hard cider, the lower its alcohol content will be. Conversely, drier ciders are lower in sugar, but have a higher alcohol content.

Alcohol That Doesn’t Give You A Hangover May Be A Real Thing Soon, Experts Say

The last year has been filled with pessimism and the occasional sense that we, as a society, are moving backward, to the point that some of us have started to wonder if the future will be worse than the present. But here’s some good news: In at least one way, the future is (almost) here, and it’s looking way better than you could have ever imagined. Experts may have found a form of alcohol that doesn’t give you a hangover, and it could be available to the masses sooner than you think. If you ask me, that’s reason enough to celebrate the new year this holiday season.

Professor David Nutt, of the Imperial College of London, is the man we can credit to saving us all and instilling hope in the future once more. His hangover-free alcohol comes from a patent he created called alcosynth, a substance which mimics the effects of alcohol without inducing all of the dreadful symptoms of that next-day hangover. Professor Nutt expressed his confidence about the product to International Business Times UK, claiming it will actually revolutionize the way we approach drinking and partying altogether.

In fact, researchers believe that we will be totally done using regular alcohol within the decade.

Professor Nutt told IBTimes UK,

Alcosynth will become the preferred drink, in the same way that I can see – almost within a decade now in the Western world – tobacco and cigarettes will disappear as they’re replaced by electronic cigarettes.

This is, of course, a pretty big claim. So what exactly is alcosynth in the first place?

Although the specific details of alcosynth have not yet been released, here’s what its creators have told us so far: Alcosynth molecules are essentially a handful of synthetic substances that mimic all of the fun feelings we get from drinking alcohol, without any of the negative health effects we pay for later, from a pounding headache in the short-term, to a damaged liver in the long-term.

All of this sounds pretty damn amazing, but not everyone is ready to totally embrace the idea of alcosynth. There are a few main objections to the idea of hangover-free alcohol, surprisingly enough.

First, the taste of alcohol might be compromised by a substance that mimics the experience without any of the negative side effects. Most of the compounds that cause physical pain to your body are the same compounds that contribute to the flavor of your drink in the first place.

So, would you still choose to drink the hangover-free alcohol if it basically tasted like nothing?

Giphy

It’s a personal choice, but some people may not like their booze to be tasteless.

Another problem with alcosynth is the implication that binge drinking should be improved as an overall experience. As much as hangovers tend to feel like the worst experiences of your life, there’s something evolutionarily beneficial about them: They remind you that your body isn’t made to drink copious amounts of alcohol, and they curb most people’s ability and interest in drinking excessively all the time.

If we created a substance that took away all of the negative, health-related side effects of binge drinking, but kept all of the reduced inhibitions, it could seriously impact our workforce, our overall productivity as a society, and more.

As much as hangovers suck, they essentially work to remind us that there’s a price to pay for all-night-long debauchery and lessened inhibitions.

Giphy

While alcosynth might genuinely become a thing of the future, it seems like a stretch to say that fermented alcohol will be totally abolished within the decade. Can you honestly visualize a bunch of guys sitting around a keg of tasteless, hangover-less alcosynth during a football game, in place of a keg of beer? I know I can’t.

But hey, I’m all for giving the alcosynth a try. Ask me how I’m feeling the day after New Year’s Eve, and I might just be its biggest fan.

Synthetic alcohol that doesn’t cause hangovers or liver damage may be available in five years

Alcohol that makes you feel drunk without the coinciding hangover may be available within five years, according to researchers.

The synthetic alcohol, named Alcarelle, was created by Professor David Nutt – who believes it will change alcohol consumption, once it is regulated.

Nutt, who previously worked as the government’s chief drug adviser before he lost his job after claiming that ecstasy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol, created the alcohol replacement molecule “alcosynth” with his partner David Orren.

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According to Nutt, he came up with the synthetic alcohol after first discovering an antidote to alcohol in 1983 when he was still a PhD student.

“I was studying the effects of alcohol on the Gaba system,” he told The Guardian. Although Nutt realised that the antidote was too dangerous, he decided to continue studying Gaba receptors and how they react under the influence of alcohol.

Shape Created with Sketch. The 10 countries that drink the most alcohol

Show all 10 left Created with Sketch. right Created with Sketch. Results from an OECD report

3/10 8. Luxembourg

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5/10 6. Hungary

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6/10 5. Russia

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7/10 4. Czech Republic

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9/10 2. Austria

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10/10 1. Lithuania

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1/10 10. Poland

Results from an OECD report Rex Features Rex Features AFP/Getty Images Rex Features Getty Images AFP/Getty Images

With alcosynth, Nutt claims it can identify Gaba receptors that induce tipsiness while avoiding receptors that result in adverse side effects such as headaches

“We know where in the brain alcohol has its ‘good’ effects and ‘bad’ effects, and what particular receptors mediate that – Gaba, glutamate, and other ones such as serotonin and dopamine,” he said. “The effects of alcohol are complicated but… you can target the parts of the brain you want to target.”

The synthetic alcohol will also allow modifications – meaning you can choose whether you want to feel the effects of a party drink or a drink over lunch with colleagues – but you won’t be able to get drunk off of it.

Currently, only Nutt and the other researchers in the lab have tried Alcarelle as it has not undergone safety testing yet.

However, the researchers have come up with a five-year plan alongside food scientists to have the molecule regulated as a food additive or ingredient.

Regulation of the ingredient will require being able to show that it does not “produce toxicity like alcohol” and “doesn’t have the bad effects of alcohol,” according to Nutt.

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As for its place in the alcohol industry, global drinks analyst Jonny Forsyth told The Guardian there is a place for Alcarelle if it is regulated because the “industry is increasingly investing in alcohol alternatives.”

“If the science is right, and if it’s easy to mask the taste, I think it’s got a great chance,” he said.

A lot of people ask me about hangovers, sulfites and intolerance to wine now that I am an official wine snob and part-time wine student at the WSET. It’s a surprisingly complex topic and this article tackles the whole wine hangover phenomenon.

What is a hangover

If you do a Google search, you will discover that the most common symptoms of a hangover are:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Thirst
  • Headaches and muscle aches
  • Nausea, vomiting or stomach pain
  • Bad sleep
  • Increased sensitivity to light and sound
  • Dizziness or a sense of the room spinning
  • Shakiness
  • Decreased ability to concentrate
  • Mood disturbances, such as depression, anxiety and irritability
  • Rapid heartbeat

But you don’t have to take the Mayo Clinic’s word for it. You can also discover the symptoms first hand if you knock back a couple of bottles of cheap plonk.

Anecdotally, and from my own experience, mixing drinks makes hangovers more likely and worse

How much alcohol can your body process?

‘Moderation in all things,’ said Ralph Waldo Emerson. And this is the best way to avoid a hangover. Alcohol is, after all, a poison and a bottle of wine is likely to be 11-15% alcohol by volume (‘abv’).

Our body can process, on average, one unit of alcohol (10ml of pure alcohol or 100 ml at 10% abv) per hour. This means that we process a 13% abv small glass of wine (125ml) in more than an hour and a half. How much does it take our liver to process half a bottle (three small glasses of wine)? The math is cruel: four to five hours.

The human liver takes 4-5 hours to process the alcohol in half a bottle of wine.

What causes hangover?

I hear a lot of people blaming sulfites for the hangover effect of wine. This is so wrong! Sulfites have an important role to play in almost all winemaking since the Middle Ages.

We will look into this on another blog post but if you can eat a dried apricot without a hangover (it has more sulfites than a bottle of wine) and you get a hangover from drinking too much beer or spirits, then sulfites aren’t the cause of your hangover.

A small warning: it is going to get a bit scientific in terms of terminology, but in the end, what you need to know – spoiler alert – is that the main culprit for hangover is the alcohol itself.

Too much too drink, a recipe for hangover

We produce alcohol in our stomach all the time when we digest the food, but it is in minuscule quantities, which our body can process easily. That’s why we are equipped to process alcohol. However, alcohol in large quantities is toxic for our bodies, as we have a limited ability to process it quickly. This explains why binge drinking is so dangerous, as it can lead to coma and death.

Coma and death are among the less pleasant aspects of alcohol poisoning so let’s put them to one side and explore the processes behind the more commonplace symptoms.

Hangover-related headaches, nausea and vomiting

Acetaldehyde is a component that occurs in nature in bread, fruits and oxidised drinks (eg: stale wine). It is also a by-product of alcohol oxidation. If you smell and taste Fino Sherry, you’ll experience acetaldehyde: bruised apples, hay and chamomile.

Our liver produces the same substance when it oxidizes and breaks the alcohol (ethanol) down ready for further processing into something similar to vinegar, which is harmless for the human body.

Geek-ing out a bit further, one of the two enzymes that break down the acetaldehyde, named cysteine is a sulfur-containing amino acid. So, here is evidence that our liver uses some form of sulfur, (which is the main component of sulfites) to break down the by-products of alcohol. This cysteine is helping our body produce a natural antioxidant (glutathione) that breaks down the alcohol toxins.

Our bodies can only produce a limited amount at a time so unprocessed alcohol sloshes around our body giving us headaches, nausea and vomiting as our body tries to get rid of the toxin.

Women produce less of the magic alcohol-eating substance than men. That’s why government guidelines recommend that women drink fewer units than men.

Hangover tiredness

Alcohol has a depressive effect on the neurological system. What does this mean?

Our brain produces a stimulant, called glutamate. We are more familiar with the MSG version, the food taste enhancer, but in our brain, glutamate helps carry information and it is important in memory, learning and our normal well-being. There is a trick though: it needs to be present at the right concentration and at the right time. Too little or too much is toxic for us.

In the first phase, alcohol inhibits our body to make glutamate. When we stop drinking, our brain tries to compensate and then produces more, creating a temporary imbalance. We will never be able to have a proper, relaxing sleep, in these circumstances, as our brain will be too excited trying to balance itself. This messes up with our REM sleep cycles, the ones that help us feel rested, alert and perky and which help our memory and creativity.

We are all familiar with the outcome of a poor quality sleep: tiredness, trouble to concentrate, irritability, stress, etc.

In the Sleep for Success book, which I warmly recommend, the authors recommend that we should not drink three hours before we go to bed, as otherwise, to quote them: “throughout the night you’ll be continually shaken and stirred”.

Hangover dehydration

We all know that alcohol dehydrates us. How many times we woke up really thirsty after having a bit too much to drink? And you don’t need to drink alcohol to know that dehydration causes headaches.

Alcohol inhibits a hormone in our brain (vasopressin), which has the main role of retaining water in our bodies and constricting the blood vessels. As a result, water is sent directly to the kidneys and bladder and is not absorbed by the body. Hence, dehydration and thirst.

Alcohol causes hangovers and dehydration – like this parched earth

One glass of wine causes the body to eliminate up to three to four times the same quantity of water. That’s why is important to drink plenty of water when you drink alcohol. To fully compensate for the water loss, the math is: drink one litre of water for two small glasses of wine.

Wine fermentation by-products and hangover

I can’t help but think that this next part would have made my high school chemistry teacher very proud, as although I loved inorganic chemistry, I hated organic chemistry with a passion. And now, here I am actually using what I learned.

Ethanol formula (CH3CH2OH), the main alcohol in alcoholic drinks

Alcoholic fermentation creates different forms of alcohol:

  • Methanol: is very toxic, but it is present in very tiny proportions in wine. It is found mainly in the heads of the spirit distillation, which are discarded. As a result, badly-distilled spirits are more dangerous than wine.
  • Ethanol is the main type of alcohol in wine and any alcoholic drinks.
  • Tail type of alcohols like propranol, butanol (fuel oils), which are not as toxic as methanol, but can cause headaches and nausea. If you are sensitive to these and experience headaches and nausea even if you drink a small glass of wine, stick to clear good quality spirits (gin, vodka), as they will not have them.

All these alcohols are important in the process of wine maturation because they interact with acids and form the fruit aromas in wine. The process of fermentation creates many of these flavours which are not present in grape juice. Grape juice just tastes of grapes but people write encyclopaedias about the taste of wine.

How can you mitigate hangover effects?

In moderate quantities, alcohol has some beneficial effects. It acts like an anticoagulant, increases the high-density cholesterol (good cholesterol) which decreases the risk of heart diseases and helps reduce bad cholesterol. Wine has high quantities of potassium, which helps process salt. Red wine also contains powerful antioxidants, resveratrol being the best known.

However, alcohol is toxic and considered a drug, so if you know you are going to drink a bit more on one occasion, keep the below in mind:

  • Know your body: pay attention when you drink to what causes you issues. You might be intolerant to some types of alcohols or components.
  • Drink with moderation over a longer period, with food, as food slows down the absorption of alcohol, giving more time to the liver to do its job. Remember we process half a bottle of wine in four to five hours.
  • Have plenty of water with your drinks. Remember that we lose about half a litre of water with each small glass of wine.
  • Stop drinking at least two to three hours before you go to sleep. This will allow your brain to calm down.
  • Accept defeat and deal with the consequences, by being more knowledgeable about what caused your hangover: too much alcohol.

Lastly, cutting back doesn’t necessarily mean self-denial. Picking up on Emerson’s theme, Oscar Wilde said, ‘Everything in moderation, including moderation’. There’s a lot of cheap, nasty wine out there. But there’s also a wonderful world of good, high-quality wine with character and personality. And so perhaps the best way to avoid a hangover is to switch from drinking more of the bad stuff to savouring a bit less of the good stuff. With wine, sometimes less really is more.

Alcohol with no hangover

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