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January 2, 2009

Does beer before liquor really make you sicker?

BEERI'm sure you've heard the old saying, "Beer before liquor, never been sicker. Liquor before beer, you're in the clear."

After a few baaaad experiences of switching to shots/whiskey/gin on a stomach full of beer, I've learned that the old saying rings true -- at least for me. Terrible things happen when I mix my liquors.

But the folks over at WebMD disagree. Dig it:

It’s the amount of alcohol you consume –- not the order of your drinks –- that matters. That said, the order of your drinks may affect how much you consume. If you have a cosmopolitan, and then switch to beer for the rest of the night, you slow down your intake of alcohol. If you switch from beer to shots, you accelerate your path to drunkenness. Of course, too much liquor can spell “sicker” regardless of whether you began with beer."

I've never been one to naysay a doctor (in fact I'm about to marry a future doctor). And I don't know how many studies they've done on this.

But I gotta draw the line here ...

Let me give you an example of why I don't believe this WebMD-ness: If I have, say, four beers over the course of a night on the town, and then I take one shot of whiskey at the end of the night, I will be in a bad state. Not because of the quantity of alcohol consumed, but because I just tossed a shot of whiskey on top a stomach full of beer.

It's like dumping vinegar onto a bowl of baking soda. Fizz fizz BOOM!

What are your thoughts on this matter?

(AP photo)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:49 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


I would also offer the thought that there is less alcohol per beer than in one mixed drink, if it's a strong one that I tend to prefer. Soooo, sipping on beers will eventually lead to consuming less alcohol as the night winds down.

Whoa... my head hurts now.

Is this actually in a Baltimore Sun blog? How about a dissertation on the relative merits of the funnel vs the shotgun? No wonder the Tribune Company is bankrupt. I guess intelligence is the first casualty in the search for content.

Dig it:

A 19 year old Maryland girl got killed driving off the road on New Years Eve at 3 am. I wonder if she had beer before liquor or liqour before beer.

You want an interesting blog on alcohol, check out the Proof series at the New York Times. At least that's produced with a modicum of thought.

Hey Duffster,
There is actually the same amount of alcohol in a beer as a shot or glass of wine.

Every party needs a pooperrrrrrr!!

I never personally gave any thought to this idiom before, since I'm not a heavy drinker and can usually handle whatever I do choose to drink. But for what it's worth, this past year was the first time I ever got really puking-my-guts-out sick from alcohol, the night before my wedding. And in retrospect, I realized it was also one of the first times that I drank a lot of beer, then switched to hard liquor midway through the night. So there's a little supporting anecdotal evidence from a former skeptic.

Wow, way to make a tasteless connection to a tragic news story that has absolutely nothing to do with a light blurb about a popular phrase. Thanks!

As someone who has substantial experience with drinking a little too much then tossing stomach contents, I believe that this old saying tends to be true. But, I don't think it has anything to do with the alcohol itself. At the beginning of the night, if you do a few shots, you are still sober enough to know that you shouldn't drink too much liqor. If you take shots after several beers, you are already a little tipsy and more likely to drink more shots than you would when sober, so you'll end up consuming more alcohol in total and be more likely to be sick.

Good call, FS. Let's discuss... Personally, i think the funnel is way better than the shotgun. For some reason, cold beer really burns when you shotgun it, but not so much with the funnel. Maybe the extra surface area moderates the temperature faster?

In any event, FS, your comment was inappropriate and irreverent.

Not the liquor drinks I like to pour.

I totally agree with the old adage, even if there is a more medically rational explanation for it.

For me part of the equation also includes the fact that I have far more practical experience drinking beer and know how much I can drink without getting too affected. Liquor tends to "sneak up" on me and I'll go from thinking "Oh yeah, I'm fine, I'll take another..." to "What do you mean it's Tuesday?"

Evenings like those make me keep my liquor intake to a responsible minimum these days.

hey fs, were your parents married when they had you?

you should learn a lesson from that 19 year old. make use of responsibility, not drive it into a tree when you post.

My understanding of the situation--and mind you, I've never tested this much--is that mixing alcohol from different sources--malt versus fruit/veggie--is the real culprit. I've witnessed someone getting stomach cramps after a shot of something like peach schnapps or Jagermeister or something atop a couple beers and a moderately full stomach. I never have had a problem with whisky atop beer, but then I'm sipping single-malt Scotch, not downing shots of bourbon or whatnot.

I think the saying goes "Beer on/then whiskey, rather risky; whiskey on/them beer, never fear."

WebMD has no clue.

I must drink anything hard (ANY liquor, shots, etc) before beer or I will be deathly ill. This is true if I just have one beer, then one form of any liquor.

Wine and liquor I can mix to an extent, but I can't have alot of either when I do that.

Beer and wine? OMG...that is SO not good. One beer and one glass of wine and I'm dying the next day.


FS: this is an ENTERTAINMENT blog. In my world, any kind of entertainment involves some form of alcohol.

FS, that 19-year-old girl was a fellow DJ at my radio station. While I didn't know her, plenty of my friends did. So please don't use her coffin for your soapbox.

I always have a beer before I lick her! Mmm salty.

i prefer bonging liquor

FALSE! The only time I threw up was when I was drinking beer.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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