The Hangover Myth You Should Stop Believing About Sugary Cocktails

Described by Dorothy Parker as "the wrath of grapes," a hangover certainly feels like punishment after overindulging in alcoholic beverages. That dreaded combination of headaches, nausea, fatigue, and dehydration is why many of us utter the familiar words "never again" upon waking up after a night of drinking. But do some drinks affect us more than others?

The practice of mixing drinks is often blamed for worsening hangovers, with cocktails seen as the likely culprits after an evening spent sampling a bar menu. Cocktails loaded with sugar sometimes appear to exacerbate unpleasant symptoms the next day. However, the notion that sugar in sweet beverages causes wicked hangovers is a myth that needs debunking.

The fact is, the amount of alcohol consumed is the real cause of a hangover. Cocktails often contain a variety of liquors, which have a higher concentration of alcohol than wine or beer. This means you need to drink fewer of them to experience a hangover. However, since cocktails often include sugar to mask the taste of alcohol, it's easier to drink more of them. So, while we might be tempted to blame the sugar, it's actually the volume of alcohol consumed that should take the blame.

It's alcohol, not sugar, that causes a hangover

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there is a possibility of experiencing a hangover "any time people drink to intoxication." The amount of alcohol required and the symptoms of the hangover can vary from person to person, but the alcohol itself is essentially responsible for all hangover symptoms, including dehydration due to its diuretic properties. This makes us urinate more and often prevents us from replenishing fluids quickly enough. Alcohol also irritates the stomach lining, leading to nausea.

However, sugary cocktails like piña coladas and Pornstar Martinis don't help matters either. This is primarily because the sweet mixers and juices can mask the harsh taste of strong spirits, making us more inclined to drink more. It's much easier to consume excessive amounts of sweet-tasting drinks without realizing their potency or the number of shots they contain. More alcohol, naturally, increases the likelihood of a hangover.

Can sugary drinks make hangovers feel worse?

Time and again, we blame sugar rather than the amount of alcohol consumed for our discomfort the next day. But is there any evidence that sugar exacerbates a hangover, or is the concept of a "sugar hangover" just a myth?

Rapid fluctuations in your blood sugar levels can occur when you consume a large amount of sugar at one time, according to Apex Medical Center. This can result in unpleasant symptoms that overlap with those of a hangover, such as headaches. Cocktails laden with syrups or fruit juices can be extremely high in sugar, so the "sugar hangover" coupled with the actual hangover might make us feel even worse.

Darker-colored drinks such as brandy, rum, and whiskey contain congeners, substances that influence the spirit's flavor and color but can also intensify hangover symptoms. Therefore, if your cocktail includes a mix of these types of spirits, you may be in for a rougher hangover. Ultimately, however, the real culprit is the volume of alcohol consumed, not the form in which it is served. The only surefire way to avoid a hangover is to abstain from drinking excessively in the first place.