What alcohol is least likely to give you a hangover?
If you’ve landed on this article, the chances are you’ve had bad experiences with most types of alcohol and wondering what the best alcohol for a hangover-free morning is.
For some of us, even small amounts of alcohol can cause bad hangovers. On the other hand, up to 20% of people don’t get hangovers.
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at which type of alcohol is the least likely to give you a hangover.
We’ll also see if “no hangover alcohol” exists.
To do so, we first need to go over the causes of a hangover and then work backward to find out which alcohol is least likely to cause hangovers.
Causes of a hangover
Before we get into which drinks give the least hangovers, we first need to go into detail about why hangovers happen in the first place.
There are two main hangover causing components in the alcohol we drink: Ethanol and congeners
Ethanol is what most of us know as “alcohol”. And congeners are the by-products that are formed when alcohol is made. More specifically, these by-products are formed during fermentation and when certain types of alcohol are aged in barrels (more on this later).
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Drinking too much ethanol, aka alcohol, is the main cause of hangovers. Your liver is only able to metabolize a certain amount of alcohol per hour. Typically, it’s around one drink per hour. But it varies widely depending on factors such as your age, weight, and gender. For example’s sake, we’ll stick to the one drink per hour benchmark.
Drinking any faster than this means that alcohol starts to build in your bloodstream. As it does so, it also builds in your brain which is where the pleasurable effects of alcohol are experienced.
However, at the same time, alcohol starts to exert it’s negative effects on the body as well:
Alcohol is a diuretic. That means it makes your kidneys flush out more water. It does so by blocking the release of a hormone from your pituitary gland (in your brain) called vasopressin.
As a result, drinking alcohol over prolonged periods of time means that you continue to lose water at a faster rate than you are drinking. Which consequently ends in dehydration.
You can read about this in more detail in our article about how alcohol causes dehydration.
Alcohol is metabolized (broken down) in your liver to form toxic by-products. The main one being acetaldehyde which is highly volatile and causes damage by reacting with your cells.
Your liver quickly breaks down acetaldehyde into acetic acid which is harmless. Thus avoiding a build-up of acetaldehyde which wreaks havoc on your insides.
However, during periods of overindulgence, this process is overrun. Therefore, you get a buildup of acetaldehyde and consequently higher levels of inflammation.(1)
3) Sleep disturbance
Alcohol has profound effects on the sleeping brain. It blocks you from reaching the REM stage of sleep which is essential for waking up fully rested.(2)
That means if you’ve slept 8 hours with alcohol in your bloodstream compared to 8 hours sober, the quality of sleep is wildly different.
You’ve probably noticed that even if you’ve had your usual hours of sleep, the way you feel the next day after a few glasses of wine at dinner is not the same as without any alcohol.
In summary: The above factors are the main reasons why “ethanol” causes hangovers. And next, we’ll move on to how congeners fit into the picture.
As we mentioned earlier, congeners are natural by-products that are formed when alcohol is made and aged. They are partly responsible for the taste and aroma of alcoholic drinks.
Examples of congeners include, tannins, aldehydes, esters, and methanol to name a few.
Darker colored drinks naturally contain higher concentrations of congeners. That’s why drinks such as red wine, whiskey, and bourbon have such distinctive tastes.
Unforntautely, congeners make hangovers more severe and studies have shown this to be true. The reason is, congeners are biologically active. That means that they react with your cells causing inflammation.
For a comprehensive insight into this topic, check out our article about congeners and hangovers.
So, with the science out the way, let’s get straight into what the best alcohol for no hangover is.
Best alcohol for no hangover
Now on to the all-important question, which alcohol gives the least hangover?
From everything we’ve explained above, the only factor we have control of when choosing a drink is with regards to congener concentrations.
What we mean by this is that all alcoholic drinks contain ethanol. The ethanol that’s in wine, whiskey, alcopop or beer is all exactly the same. Therefore, the only thing that matters when it comes to hangovers is the amount of alcohol you drink.
However, choosing drinks with lower amounts of congeners could make a difference.
For example, having 3 single vodka tonics could give slightly less of a hangover compared to 3 single whiskey cokes. The alcohol concentration is similar, but the congener concentration is vastly different.
With all that said, if you drink enough vodka tonic, you’ll still wake up with the mother of all hangovers. Regardless of congeners. So, it’s all relative.
On that note, it’s important to mention that alcohol that gives “no hangover” does not exist. If you drink enough of any type of alcohol, you will wake up with a hangover. Period.
Next up, we’ll look at specific types of alcohol to see if there are differences within each group that may give you less of a hangover.
Best beer for no hangover
When it comes to the best beer that will give you the least hangover, it all comes down to the strength of the beer and the color.
The most important factor is the beer alcohol percentage. Standard beers have a strength of 4% to 6%. And although the difference is only 2%, it’s still almost a 35% increase. It all adds up.
You can also find beers that have far higher strengths and obviously, these will give you a much worse hangover.
Aside from the strength, the color is also another factor to consider. Darker beers contain higher concentrations of congeners.
Best Vodka for no hangover
Vodka is a spirit that is said to give the least hangover. That’s if you drink exactly the same amount and strength compared to something like bourbon.
There’s a lot of debate around whether more premium vodkas gives less severe hangovers. And a lot of it comes down to how many times the vodka has been “distilled” or “filtered”.
You’ll often see certain brands of vodka that are “5x filtered” or “triple distilled”. This essentially means that more impurities have been removed from the vodka. These impurities are also known as congeners.
In the grand scheme of things, the difference is probably marginal. And the effect it has on hangover severity may be even less.
Best Wine for no hangover
The answer to this is simple. Red wine is well-known to give worse hangovers compared to white wine and Rosé.
That’s because red wine has more congeners. In particular, things like histamine and serotonin are triggers for headaches.
You can learn about this topic in our article about wine hangovers.
Anything else to consider?
Ultimately, hangovers are caused by drinking too much alcohol. It’s a good sign from your body that it was too much alcohol for it to handle.
Looking for a type of alcohol that gives no hangover is the wrong approach. In addition, a no hangover alcohol does not exist.
All types of alcohol will give you a hangover.
The best way to wake up with no hangover is to drink less alcohol and slow down how fast you’re drinking. Other than this, drinking a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage and making sure you eat before going out is also very helpful.
In addition, supplements could also provide a helping hand by supporting recovery.
Best drinks that don’t give hangovers – Final verdict
That brings us to the end of our look into the best alcohol for no hangovers.
Unfortunately, a “no hangover alcohol” does not exist. With that said, there are certain types of alcohol that are known to give much more severe hangovers.
Darker-colored drinks contain more congeners which have been associated with worse hangovers.