There is a general saying that goes something like this: the darker the color of the alcoholic drink, the worse your hangover is going to be. So whiskey will give you a worse hangover than vodka, and red wine will give you a worse hangover than white wine. The reason why is because darker alcoholic drinks contain more complex organic molecules known as congeners. These molecules include polyphenols, histamine and other alcohols such as methanol.
Congeners are produced during the fermentation of ethanol, as well as during the drinks aging process. It’s true that people who consume ethanol-based alcohols like vodka show fewer hangover symptoms than those who drink darker alcoholic beverages that have a higher congener concentration. The main congener that causes the worst hangover effects is methanol. Although humans process methanol similar to how they process ethanol, the important difference is the end product that is produced. While ethanol generates acetaldehyde, the byproduct of methanol is formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is much more toxic and can even turn somebody blind into high of a concentration. What’s interesting is that ethanol actually inhibits the metabolism of methanol, which might explain why some people choose to drink the morning after in order to ward off hangover symptoms.
In summation, here are the alcoholic drinks listed in severity of the hangovers that they produce (moving from heaviest hangovers to the least severe):
- Red wine.
- White wine.
- Pure Ethanol.