So you woke up with a pounding head and convulsing stomach — again. Every noise sounds like a screech and every movement feels like a lurch. You try a hangover cure or two, but nothing ever works. What is it that you’re doing wrong?
Well, you know the drinking itself certainly didn’t help. But you alternated glasses with water, ate carbs after dark, and even got to bed a little earlier than your usual unsightly hour. But the next morning, you still woke up feeling like you’d been run over by a train of exhaustion.
It turns out that how you drink might not be as important as what you drink. Some drinks are more likely to sabotage your Sunday than others.
According to a 2010 study, hangovers are largely influenced by compounds called “congeners.” Ethanol — that’s the chemical responsible for your buzz — is the desired product of fermentation in booze, but producing it results in some toxic byproducts. These byproducts are congeners. So, your drinks basically contain small doses of toxic poison. No wonder your body’s mad at you.
Some drinks are more pure than others. Wine, for instance, varies in its congener concentration based on the richness and color of the drink. The darker it is, the worse it’s going to make you feel — which is why many adults steer clear of red wine completely, complaining that even one glass gives them horrific headaches the morning after. Pinot grigio is a far safer selection than a rich, bold pinot noir.
The drink with the lowest level of congeners may surprise you: vodka.
The translucent liquor gets a bad rap for intoxicating quickly and tasting, well… tasteless. But if you have to wake up early the next morning or don’t want to waste your weekend slumped over a half-eaten bag of Cheetos, you might want to reconsider your aversion.
The same processes that make vodka taste like nothing also leave it with relatively few of those toxic byproducts. Ideally, vodka is just ethanol and water. The U.S. government has even legally defined vodka as being “without distinctive character.”
While vodka itself is clean, your vodka cocktail may not be. Sugar and artificial sweeteners worsen the effects of hangovers, so it’s best to pair your vodka with something that’s void of both. Chrissy Teigen might be onto something with her drink of choice. A vodka soda, though admittedly a lot less tasty than its sugary sidekicks like vodka cranberries and tonics, will leave you with a whole lot less regret the following day. The classic choice is so much more than just one of many diet-friendly cocktails.