There is no joy in a hangover. Sure, throwing back a third shot of Fireball makes you feel like a champ in the moment, but come morning you'll be singing a whole different tune (most likely one that involves a lot of heaving.) So how can you maximize your drinking fun and minimize the subsequent nausea and headache? Simple — choose drinks that are less likely to cause a hangover.
With a little planning, you can party strategically and avoid those brain-melting headaches the day after. To get the inside scoop on hangover prevention, I talked to Dr. Elliot Nadelson, a urologist and founder of The I.V. Doc, a service that offers intravenous hydration therapy to help patients bounce back from hangovers more quickly.
But before determining the ideal no-hangover drink, Nadelson notes that alcohol’s effects on the body are wide-ranging.
“Alcohol really affects the entire body," he says. "And my feeling is that it’s a massive inflammatory response." Though Nadelson says the the exact cause of hangovers is largely unknown, research has found some interesting insights into the causes of the following symptoms:
- Dehydration: Antidiuretic hormones (ADH) are turned off when you drink, and this leads to dehydration. Your kidneys fail to store water at this point, so you aren’t retaining fluids. You may have a dry, scratchy mouth and fatigue.
- Headache: The blood vessels in your head become dilated thanks to alcohol, which causes that telltale throbbing headache.
- Light Sensitivity: Your central nervous system is overworked and becomes overly sensitive to light.
- Achy Muscles: Lactic acid production may make your muscles sore.
- Nausea: Your stomach slows down and may produce excess gastric acid (which contributes to nausea) and inflammation. The pancreas also contributes to that nauseous feeling (thanks, pancreas!).
“The only way we’ve found to prevent a hangover is not to drink,” Nadelson says. But not drinking isn't always an option people want to chose when they're out partying. So to gain some insight as to which drinks are less likely to cause hangovers (or, at least, less intense once), I spoke Jesse Anholt of the New York Bartending School. He had some wisdom on congeners, or substances produced in the fermentation of some drinks, such as darker liquors, brandy, and whiskey.
"Congeners can consist of many different chemicals, including methanol," he says. "When our bodies metabolize methanol after a night of drinking it turns into formaldehyde and formic acid, which are the primary cause of hangover symptoms such as headache, upset stomach, dizziness, light and sound sensitivity, as well as an inflamed liver."
With all of this in mind, Anholt offered advice on what types of drinks to choose, as well as what you might want to avoid.
"Spirits such as vodka, light rum, and gin have the least amount of congeners, whereas things like brandy, whiskey, and dark rums tend to have more," Anholt said. "Same goes for beer and wine. A light beer or white wine is always going to be your best bet."
So to hangover-proof your morning, opt for clear or light drinks that aren’t loaded with a ton of sugar. Here's a handy order guide to use on your next bar trip. You'll thank me in the morning.
1. Vodka Soda
Clear liquor + no sugar = pretty good chance of avoiding hangover.
2. Sea Breeze
Fruit juices (fresh if you can swing it) and vodka make for a refreshing beverage.
3. Tom Collins
Another classic that only requires gin, lemon juice, and seltzer water.
4. Dry Martini
Gin and vermouth and you’re done.
5. Rum Sour
Opt for light rum sour: while it has a tiny bit of sugar, it's still a safer bet than something like a Hurricane.
6. Light Beer
If beer is your drink of choice, go for a lighter variety to keep your head clear the next day.