One of the most controversial bar stool debates of all time: beer before liquor?


As the saying goes, “Beer before liquor, never been sicker. Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.”

This slogan has been part of the drinker’s lexicon for decades, but is there any truth to it? Or is it just the fun, rhyminess that keeps us repeating it again and again?

Over here at BrightDay, we scoured the latest journal articles and studies to understand just how true is it that moving off of some happy hour gin gimlets to a few Trumers is better than topping off your evening at a brewery with a 2AM Old Fashioned.

To start, we looked at what happens when you drink beer in the first place.

We’re about to get physiological on you, but basically the carbon dioxide in beer (and other carbonated drinks) rushes the alcohol from the stomach to the small intestine. From there, the alcohol is then quickly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lining of the small intestine (alcohol is also absorbed in the stomach, but more slowly).

What does this mean? Alcohol hits your bloodstream faster when it’s carbonated.

This finding is supported by a study done at the University of Manchester and Lancashire that found when mixing alcohol with carbonated water, alcohol absorption was faster than when mixing with still water.

If you follow that train of thought, starting with beer and then adding wine or liquor may conceivably lead to intoxication more quickly.

A gastroenterologist at the New York University School of Medicine, however, found that the rate of absorption isn’t enough to make a meaningful difference in how you feel after a big night of drinking. She said that it’s more the amount of alcohol consumed and whether it’s combined with food.

So, does drinking liquor before beer actually make a difference?

Eh, not really, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to say.

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