We spoke with wine experts and nutritionists on how to avoid hangovers while refusing to avoid drinking.
Two weeks frolicking around Franciacorta, Italy’s under-the-radar-but-about-to-explode sparkling wine region, taught me several valuable life lessons. For starters, it’s completely acceptable to drink bubbly at any time of day, and Franciacorta is a wine that practically screams “day drinking.” Free-flowing like water, the wine never made me feel ill the next day, unlike some of its sparkling cousins around the world.
So why no hangover? According to the Franciacorta Consortium, the blend is “low in sugar and made without any chemicals to create the prized bubbles (instead it’s made naturally with second fermentation in the bottle), so the bubbly is easy to drink and easy on you the next day.” Franciacorta’s Dosage Zéro is the lowest in sugar and Satèn, the silkiest and smoothest style.
In Tequila, Mexico last year, I consumed one too many rocks glasses worth of tequila (neat, of course.) Again, no hangover, and I consumed a lot of tequila. "Quality in a spirit is essential to avoid the painful morning after,” Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo, the founder of Casa Noble, said. “By using the best ingredients and triple distilling, therefore using the heart of the distillation, as we do with Casa Noble, you reduce the ‘bad’ alcohols that have unpleasant effects on our bodies.”
If you’re not drinking the fancy stuff in fancy places with fancy people, there are certain rules you should follow. Here, experts offer insights on what to drink and what to avoid, so you can minimize hangovers as effectively as possible.
The darker the alcohol, the worse the hangover.
“As a rule of the thumb, the darker the alcohol the more severe the hangover will be,” says Sloane Davis, a certified nutritionist and personal trainer. “Vodka is known to be the best alcoholic beverage for the most minimal hangover. Gin, light rum and white wine are runner-ups—with brandy and whiskey being at the bottom of the list. There have been studies that show that certain congeners (small amounts of different chemicals in alcohol) contribute to the severity of a hangover.” Ultimately, avoiding a hangover means avoiding booze, but certain spirits can be less severe.
“A light beer will always be a better choice than dark, and white wine will triumph a glass of red to curb the dreaded hangover,” Davis says. “The sugar and sulfates in wine tends to keep people up at night.” She recommends trying sulfate-free wines and steering clear from anything dark in color, including dark rum, red wine, whiskey, brandy and dark beer.
Opt for lower alcohol wines.
Sommelier Liz Martinez, of soon-to-open Prime + Proper in Detroit, Michigan, suggests low-alcohol, Old World white wines “for a less brutal hangover.” Muscadet from the Loire Valley, she relays, is a lean wine with lower alcohol content, while Txakolina from the Basque region of Spain is “spritz-y, with precise acid, light in style, and again, very low in alcohol.”
Hydrate, and eat foods with these nutrients.
Meg Mangano, a sports dietitian and functional nutritionist (and, ahem, team nutritionist for the LA Clippers), says that hangover severity depends on the individual, but a key factor in preventing a brutal one is to hydrate and eat well before throwing back drinks at happy hour. Allergies and intolerances play a key role here, too. For instance, those sensitive to sulfites should stick with organic wine, “or avoid wine and beer and choose triple-distilled liquors.”
If time allows, eating a nutritious meal could tremendously help. “Include foods that are rich in the vitamins and minerals lost when drinking and a balance of quality carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats which help to keep energy levels stable and slow the absorption of alcohol in the body,” says Mangano. Seek fresh fruits and vegetables that contain Vitamin A, Vitamin B and magnesium. A solid pre-drink nosh that comes highly recommended? Salmon with sweet potatoes and olive oil roasted asparagus.