Do Sugary Drinks Really Make Your Hangovers Worse?

Some people would swear that sugary cocktails cause the harshest hangovers. Over indulging in those tasty cosmos, sweetened margaritas, or fruity piña coladas, they're convinced, will inevitably lead to a worse hangover than from guzzling beer, swilling champagne, or knocking off shots of vodka. When put to the test, does the sugar content in your drink have a significant influence over the severity of your hangover, or any at all?   

While you may be convinced it was your sugary cocktail of choice that resulted in that worse-than-average hangover, the fact of the matter is you likely feel so awful because you simply over imbibed. "It's just that sugary drinks are so much easier to drink, so you can lose track of how much you've had and push it too far," Dr. Czarena Crofcheck, a food science professor at the University of Kentucky, told Thrillist. "The body is actually really good at processing sugar compared to alcohol, so sugar doesn't affect a hangover." Still, there is no doubt that hangovers do range in severity, and there's a reason for that. 

Congeners may be to blame for bad hangovers

Some types of alcohol are more likely than others to make you feel hungover. You can blame it on congeners, substances produced during the fermentation process that enhance an alcoholic beverage's flavor and color, but also contribute to hangover symptoms because they're so hard for the liver to break down (per Thrillist). While further research is still needed, studies have found that beverages high in congeners tend to produce worse hangovers than drinks that contain less. 

The amount of congeners in a drink depends on the type of alcohol. Beer has 27 milligrams of congeners per liter, while vodka has anywhere from zero to 102 milligrams per liter –  low amounts compared to other types of alcohol (via Healthline). Darker spirits like brandy, rum, and whiskey, as well as red wine, have the highest amount of congeners (per Thrillist). But it's important to remember that there are factors other than congeners that can make you feel hungover. Hangovers are typically a result of drinking too much, drinking on an empty stomach, and dehydration. You can try to avoid getting a hangover by drinking in moderation and pacing yourself. It's also a good idea to eat something before you start drinking.