At work, bored, with a headache that I don’t think is actually alcohol-related.  Shocker, I know.

Why does everyone seem to think that hangovers are made worse by sugary liqueurs?  Ted Haigh, a man who I admire as a very god among mortals, repeats this piece of urban-legend trash in today’s article on White Russians in the New York Times:

The White Russian is not for the faint of stomach. “The cream is going to build up,” said Ted Haigh, the author of “Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails.” “If you’re drinking these all night, the sugar will build, too, and you’ll have a hell of a hangover.”

I remember this being a common belief in college – everyone was scared of triple sec or anything at all sweet, which was weird, although I’d be the first to admit that there are many reasons to be scared of triple sec, at least, if it’s the De Kuyper’s kind that’s about $6.99 at the state liquor store.  The sugar would “build up” and you’d have a killer hangover the next morning, according to popular belief.

The funny thing is, according to a quite interesting New Yorker article that I read in-between throwing up one night (again, not alcohol-related! I am a saint when it comes to the bottle), hangovers are poorly understood, but sugar has never been considered a contributing factor.  In fact, according to the quite plausible Wikipedia article on the subject (I know Wikipedia is not an accepted reference for academic papers, but it is free), it seems that sugar should help mitigate hangovers, as a possible cause of many of the symptoms is a slowdown of glucose production, as your liver is otherwise occupied with trying to save your silly life.

The one clue to the myth is an offhand sentence in the Wikipedia article:

In addition, it is thought that the presence of other alcohols (such as fusel oils), by-products of the alcoholic fermentation also called congeners, exaggerate many of the symptoms (congeners may also be zinc or other metals added primarily to sweet liqueurs to enhance their flavor); this probably accounts for the mitigation of the effects when distilled alcohol, particularly vodka, is consumed instead[11].

So there you have it.  Damn metals.  Ruining all our fun.  Still, I think it’s time we stopped blaming sugar for our next-morning maladies – I mean, come one, we’re drinking poison here.  And, while we’re at it: the fat should actually help, since it will help slow the absorption of alcohol into your system.  It is true that because of that it is easy to drink too many White Russians before noticing, but that is, again, a problem of judgement, not the drink.  Also, if people are getting upset stomachs here, the incidences of lactose intolerance and mild milk allergy in the adult population are pretty damn high, so maybe we should consider that.

And… I’m done.  I think my headache is making me crabby.