Hangover – Congeners

So we’ve talked about a couple of things that create the after-effects of a drunken night out, but we haven’t talked about the alcohol itself.

Different alcohols have different effects on our bodies, and that is partially due to the presence of congeners.

What are congeners?

In terms of alcohol, congeners are the byproducts of fermentation other than ethanol that our bodies find difficult to process. They are toxic chemical compounds, such as acetone, acetaldehyde, aldehydes, esters, tannins, and other chemical structures. They contribute the taste and aroma of the alcoholic beverages.

How do congeners play a role in hangovers?

Scientists have found a direct correlation between higher concentrations of congeners and the severity of hangovers. So the more acetone, acetaldehyde, aldehyde, ester and tannin molecules you have in your drink, the worse your hangover will be the next day.

Drinks and their relative congener concentrations

A rule of thumb for figuring out if your drink has a lot of congeners in it is to look at how dark it is. Dark liquors like scotch, whiskey, tequila, in addition to wine, have far more congeners in them, meaning they will give you quite a headache the next day if you don’t take the necessary pre- and post-cautions (rehydration, for example). Clearer alcohols, like vodka, gin, white wine, and rum have less congeners in them, which means they won’t be as hard on you the next day (as long as you don’t drink too much!).

Also, cheaper alcohols tend to have more congeners than their more expensive counterparts. This is most likely because they are of a lesser quality substrate, meaning there is more non-ethanol byproducts produced, whereas the expensive alcohol will have been produced from a higher quality substrate.

And there is your easy guide to alcohol. There’ll be more to come later!