The old adage that drinking beer before wine prevents hangovers turns out to be a myth, German researchers say.
In a formal study, they found the order in which one consumes alcohol is irrelevant to how one feels the morning after.
Many languages offer variations of the proverb, "Beer before wine and you'll feel fine; wine before beer and you'll feel queer," but the concept has never been scientifically proved, researchers with Witten/Herdecke university in Wuppertal note.
"It is so well known that really every 5-year-old would know this in Germany," said study co-author Dr. Kai Hensel, who now works at the University of Cambridge in the UK.
Hensel and colleagues enrolled 105 volunteers with an average age in their early 20s (about half were women) and randomly assigned them to one of three groups.
In one group, over about five hours, participants drank Carlsberg beer until they reached the legal driving limit (a breath alcohol concentration of at least 0.05 per cent). Then they switched to drinking wine until their breath alcohol concentration had roughly doubled.
In a second group, the order of drinking was reversed, with participants consuming wine first and then beer.
In a third group, participants drank only beer.
A week later, in a second session, researchers switched things up. The first group drank wine first, and then beer, while the second group drank beer first and then wine. The group that drank only beer in the first session drank only wine in the second session.
Alcohol consumption could be terminated early at the volunteer's request or if safety concerns were raised. All volunteers slept overnight at the study centre after consuming the alcohol, under medical supervision.
The next day, participants were surveyed about hangover symptoms - and the researchers saw no differences between the three groups.
"Neither type nor order of consumed alcoholic beverages significantly affected hangover intensity," the research team reports in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
A weakness of the study is that participants knew what they were drinking. Trial results are more reliable when participants don't know what they're receiving.
"Early efforts made clear that effective blinding of beer or wine is not feasible, even in the least experienced drinker," the researchers say in their report.
"Moreover," they write, "including a control group that received beer or wine without alcohol proved impossible, because real dissatisfaction and envy were reported by potential alcohol-free controls, because it became clear they might not be randomly assigned to the ever-so-happy booze-sipping study groups."
Still, "it is a well set-up study," said Joris Verster from the division of pharmacology at Utrecht University, Netherlands. Verster said he did not find it surprising that the order of alcohol consumption does not affect one's hangover.
The drinks mix up in the stomach and gastrointestinal tract, and the hangover starts several hours after stopping drinking, when the blood alcohol level returns to zero, Verster, who was not associated with the study, told Reuters Health in an email.
The researchers also found that hangover intensity was linked with participants' self-perceived levels of drunkenness and vomiting the night before.
It's important, they advise, to beware of drunkenness "red flags" to reduce hangover intensity.