- Craig Winzer illustration
- Pick your poison.
Tequila makes me crazy. Whiskey makes me ornery. And I hate gin for many reasons, but mostly because it makes me gloomy.
These dictums are well known among the well lubricated. They distill into the notion that different alcoholic drinks can affect our emotions differently.
But they're wrong — probably. Just ask a biologist. Alcohol is alcohol and it will have the same effects on the body no matter the spirit that contains it.
A relatively sparse amount of science backs this up. For example, research from 1970 using human subjects on the different effects of bourbon and vodka found "no consistent differences in behavior" between the two liquors. In 1984, researchers injected rats with cognac, tequila, vodka, scotch and straight ethanol, but observed no differences in their behavior (though, discerning whether one rat is pissed and another is tequila-crazy seems difficult).
It's more likely that certain moods are associated with different types of drinks because of how and where those drinks are consumed. Shooting tequila during a bachelorette party, for example, is an entirely different evening than nursing a gin and tonic all night. And pounding rum and Cokes (which contain more sugar) will play out differently than sipping whiskey.
Still, the perception lives on. A 2017 study published in BMJ found that drinking liquor, wine or beer can elicit different emotions. The study analyzed self-reported emotions of nearly 30,000 people from 21 different countries. Researchers found that spirits are most often associated with aggression. Nearly 60 percent of people also said liquor makes them feel confident, energetic and sexy. Red wine was most likely to make people feel both tired and sexy. And when people drink beer (the least sexy drink), nearly half said they felt relaxed.
The research also suggests that setting (your couch versus the bar), the time of day, drinking habits and culture can also play a role.
But forget the type of drink for a moment, and let's consider the type of drunk. Science and journalism have an answer here, too. In a 2015 study of college students' drunk personalities, researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia came up with four drunk archetypes. Our interviews with bartenders at a local dive, a nightclub, a bougie wine bar and a beer bar mostly supported the study's categories.
Hemingways: named after the esteemed author who is said to have claimed that he could "drink hells any amount of whiskey without getting drunk." These are the drinkers who can keep their cool (or at least appear to) after six shots while the rest of us are on the floor.
Mary Poppins: named after the affable nanny. These drunks' friendly and agreeable nature is amplified after they've had a few, but they're not likely to get into much trouble.
Mr. Hydes: named after Dr. Jekyll's sinister alter ego. These drunks are more hostile, less responsible. These are the blackout drunks. They're mean-mugging everyone. Maybe they'll get arrested.
Nutty Professors: named for the shy university professor who's transformed into an extroverted party animal. These folks break out of their shell after a few drinks. Maybe they're louder, friendlier and more touchy feely, but it's all love. ♦