You’ve heard the warnings from older and “wiser” drinkers: Red wine will give you the worst hangover of all time. Or, maybe the bubbles in Champagne are to blame. No, wait, it’s Tequila. Tequila is definitely the culprit. Let’s find out which drinks give you the worst hangovers.

It’s All About Congeners
All alcohol is dehydrating, which means all of it can cause hangovers. But hangovers do range in severity depending on the type of alcohol, thanks to congeners, which are byproducts of fermentation. These contribute to a drink’s flavor and color, but are very difficult for the liver to break down, and cause hangover symptoms like headaches.

Yeast produces these chemicals during fermentation, and a brewer or winemaker doesn’t have a lot of control over the amounts of them, which is why beer has very little amounts.

Higher-congener, darker-toned liquors like whiskey and bourbon lead to much more severe hangovers than lighter-coloured or clear spirits. One particular congener, methanol (found in highest levels in whiskey and red wine) has been found to linger in the body after all alcohol has been eliminated

The darker the wine, the more congeners it has, as these also determine alcohol’s colour and flavour. Some people may also have a reaction to certain components and additives in alcohol, and the histamines in red wine can make some people who suffer hay fever feel miserable. Preservatives and colourings can also give you a bad hangover if your body can’t tolerate them. So while it might feel like more of a summer drink, a chilled glass of pinot grigio is safer than merlot if you’re looking ahead to the next day.

Many of us are drawn to the bubbly stuff like prosecco or champagne can also bring on a killer hangover. The carbon dioxide in carbonated beverages like champagne helps absorb the alcohol. You get a faster rate of absorption, higher blood alcohol levels – and brain levels – if you drink champagne as opposed to something non-carbonated. As a result, about two thirds of people get drunker faster when they drink champagne or other carbonated alcoholic drinks.

For many of us, Russia’s national drink will be associated with questionable life decisions (unsurprising, considering that most brands are 40% alcohol mixed with water). But a study by the British Medical Journal found that vodka is actually the least likely drink to give you a hangover: it’s so pure that it contains virtually no congeners. Mixing vodka with soda or fruit juice is ideal, as sugary soft drinks can contribute to a headache the morning after the night before.

Clear Spirits in General
Other colourless drinks, like sake and gin, are similarly low in congeners (although not as low as vodka), and thus less likely to leave you feeling ill. No wonder artisan gin is having its moment.