Food News

Burning Question: Does Tequila (Or Gin, Or Bourbon) Really Mess You Up More Than Other Drinks?

This is a topic the Burning Question crew takes very seriously.

Over the years we've encountered, with great concern, people who waive off tequila "because it gets me too wasted," or those warning against brown liquors and the "mean drunks" that ensue--and so on. Yet they make these claims while slurping martinis, pounding down rum and Coke...It just doesn't make sense.

"I hear it all the time, mostly with tequila, gin and bourbon," says Danny Versfelt, bartender at Al Biernat's. The phenomenon even affects him. "To this day I can't drink shots of tequila straight."

Could something in tequila or the other spirits really push you over a line you won't cross drinking vodka?

To find out, we polished off almost a case of Sauza Hornitos one evening and about the same amount of Boodles the next--such was our commitment to finding an answer. We would have addressed the bourbon theory, as well, if our editor hadn't raised serious budgetary questions...and brought up the women's undergarments left dangling from trees in his front yard two nights running.

But all alcoholic beverages derive their punch from the same source: ethanol. Assuming you order 80 proof spirits, bourbon and vodka distilled from grain differ mostly in color, derived in the case of bourbon from a period of rest in charred barrels. The rich amber hue can hurt you--in the form of a wicked hangover.

Otherwise, whether you drink tequila, bourbon, gin or vodka, you're drinking ethanol. And we say this with some authority, being mostly degreed scholars with one or two science credits.

"The basic molecule of alcohol is the same," explains Terry Mumford, science-savvy bartender at The Porch. "You could mix it with gasoline--that would make you feel bad, but it wouldn't be because of the booze.

"Most of it is psychological," he concludes.

Bartenders blame a patron's behavior not on what they drink, but how much. Other associations, such as fear of a specific type of alcohol, may stem from a person's first bad drinking experience, along with the tendency of novices to order cheap, gut-wrenching brands.

"It's how you drink it," Versfelt warns. "If you throw it back with reckless abandon, it will hurt you."

Will cause you to spend several hundred bucks at TJ Maxx then drive by your editor's house, too.

So that's it--our answer to this week's Burning Question. Alcoholic content, the amount you consume, the speed in which you consume it--all bear more of the blame for late night misdeeds than the particulars involved, whether they be gin, vodka, tequila or even vermouth.

If one could stomach that much vermouth.

Or, as Versfelt says, tapping on his noggin: "it's all up here. Just thank God there's so much other booze around."

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Dave Faries
Contact: Dave Faries