Anyone who has ever been to a bar or hung out at a party long enough is bound to hear tales from others about how a certain type of alcohol has a special or heightened affect on the drinker. Some swear that tequila makes them drunk fastest or that wine gets them slurring words more quickly than beer, etc. So is there truth to this? Do different drinks impact a person’s level of impairment? Keep reading to find out more.
The first thing to say about the differences between various alcoholic beverages comes from the National Institutes of Health. The NIH explains that alcohol is alcohol, simple as that. This means that the alcohol you drink in a bottle of beer is the same alcohol that’s in a glass of wine or a shot of tequila. No chemical difference at all.
What we think of as alcohol is actual ethanol which is the chemical structure that gets drinkers feeling buzzed, or when they are overindulgent, drunk. Ethanol’s properties (and potency) are not altered based on the kind of drink it is found it. The only thing that does change based on the specific drink is the volume of ethanol it contains.
Volume is key to understanding the intoxicating potential of various alcoholic beverages. It’s because of this that a system standardizing what is considered one “drink” has been developed. This system quantifies a drink as anything that contains around 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol. This means that while the size of the drink itself can vary considerably, the amount of ethanol it contains will be constant.
The standard drink chart says that one 12 ounce beer can be considered a single “drink.” At the same time, it only takes five ounces of wine to qualify as a drink, 2-3 ounces of liqueur or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. Given these vast differences in size, it’s clear that a high alcohol content shot of liquor is the most potent form of alcohol delivery, packing in far more alcohol per ounce than a glass of beer.
Because of these differences in volume, many people mistakenly believe that the higher alcohol concentration beverages have an increased ability to get you drunker, faster. While it’s true you can consume these smaller quantities of alcohol faster and thus become drunk more quickly, an equal number of shots and glasses of beer will have an equivalent impact on your level of impairment. Experts say that any perception that you may be more or less drunk likely has to do with the speed with which you consumed the alcohol, not the kind of drink it was.
You may read this and still be convinced that different drinks have different impacts on how you feel. That actually might be true according to researchers, though it has nothing to do with the alcohol itself. Instead, the reason is often because of what was mixed with the alcohol. People usually consume tequila on its own while rum is mixed with something sweet, like soda. Vodka, on the other hand, is commonly combined with energy drinks. These differences, and the mixers chosen to complement the alcohol, can greatly impact the way you feel while drinking and in the hours after.
Source: “Booze Legends: Debunking the Myths Every Drinker Believes,” by Brent Rose, published at Gizmodo.com.