You may have noticed that not all hangovers are the same, some tend to be more severe than others and you might have thought it was the amount of alcohol you drunk or the type of alcohol you drunk. Well both of them can contribute to the kind of hangover you end up with but let us focus more on the type of alcohol.

Some people have passed it off as a myth that dark alcohol causes the worst hangover, but the all knowing scientists actually have proof that it is no myth. That bourbon you had at the last office party was indeed the reason you ended up with the worst hangover. It also goes for red wine, whiskeys, and ram. These dark liquors cause worse hangovers in comparison to the clear spirits like gin and vodka.

It would seem the fellow who hangs around the corner of the street with a placard that read, “Need money for an experiment on alcohol” might have actually been a serious scientist. Yes, a serious study was actually conducted at Brown University to see if dark liquor would have a worse impact than the lighter one.

95 healthy participants were recruited to take part in this study. The participants were aged between 21 and 33 years. Some of the participants were given bourbon mixed with caffeine-free cola and another group was given Vodka and the remainders were given tonic water. The participants must have had a great time since they were given enough of the particular drinks until their blood alcohol level was well over the legal limit (0.11).

The participants were then allowed to get some sleep while sleep monitors were attached to them. At 7 am they were awoken and asked to rate the severity of their hangovers. The hangovers were measured according to the severity of a headache, nausea, thirst and loss of appetite.

Overall, the people who had taken the bourbon rated their hangovers much higher than those who took the vodka while those who took tonic water had no hangover. The scientists, however, noted that both the Bourbon and the Vodka drinkers experienced interference in the quality of sleep and they were all impaired up to about 2 percent when it came to attention and reflexes. This shows that the type of alcohol does not affect cognition differently. Naturally, though, the non-drinkers were not affected at all.

So what causes this? According to Damaris Rohsenow and her colleagues who carried out the experiment, the answer is in the level of purity in the different liquors. Vodkas, gins, and other clear liquor are distilled and filtered which removes a number of impurities so the effect they have is much lower when it comes to hangovers. The Darker liquors, on the other hand, have 37 times more toxins contained in them as a result of the fermentation process and the longer they ferment, the more the toxins.


Some of the toxins identified as possible causes of hangovers include furfural, acetaldehyde, tannins and acetone. All these are found in greater amounts in darker liquors, which would explain the intensity of the hangover induced by darker liquors. Tests carried out on these toxins have shown that indeed they have an impact on the body organs that result in headaches, nausea and increased thirst so the more they are in a drink, the more intense the hangover.

But with the knowledge that it is the toxins contained in the dark liquor that causes a worse hangover, it is actually possible to argue that not every dark liquor will cause a severe hangover since it may be possible to filter it and still maintain that dark color but have fewer toxins in it. But in most cases the scientists did recommend that the rule of thumb should be, if you do not want a very bad hangover, go for the clearer liquors.

The studies, however, stress that just because the hangover is worse, does not mean the intoxication will vary. Both the Vodka drinkers and the bourbon drinkers experienced intoxication with the alcohol level of 0.11 and it impaired their cognitive senses to a limited level so there is no liquor that can be chosen as better to drink before driving or operating heavy machinery.

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