"There’s going to be lots of, uh, celebrating this month. Is the saying 'Beer before liquor, never sicker; liquor before beer, never fear' actually true?"
- Tony T., Lima, OH
Funny, we’ve always heard it as “Beer before whiskey, always risky...” But the bottom line is, it’s not true—at least technically.
“Ethanol is ethanol,” says Brian St. Pierre of Precision Nutrition. “The amount of alcohol you drink matters more than the type, or the order you drink it in.”
So what would account for the saying being popular as far away as the Netherlands (“Bier op wijn brengt venijn, wijn op bier brengt versie!”)?
“It’s likely more psychological in nature,” St. Pierre says. “Most people’s first few drinks are the slowest to go down. Then, once they’re slightly inebriated, they drink faster. This is where order can be a problem. Liquor has a far greater alcohol content than beer, so if you start with beer when you’re stone-cold sober, become mildly intoxicated, then switch to liquor and drink that faster, you could theoretically consume more alcohol in less time, thus leading to increased amounts of sickness.”
On the other hand, if you drink your liquor first—and therefore, more slowly—then switch to beer, it’s the less-dangerous booze you’ll be guzzling and you’ll be less likely to get sick.
Oh, the trouble that could’ve saved us back in college.