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Tip 2:          Alcohol

My friend told me that vodka was the best booze to drink cause you can’t taste it and you won’t get a hangover.  Is this true?

Jenn T.,   Univ of Louisiana, Frosh

I read that you can’t smell alcohol.  How come when my boyfriend drinks I can smell and even taste the booze when I kiss him? (I hate it!)

Wendy A.,   Merrimack College, Sophomore

The other night I was at a party.  I drank a few glasses of punch and got really messed up. Why did only a couple of drinks get me so messed up? I didn’t even taste any alcohol.

Anna A.,   Buffalo State University, Frosh

For you scientists, alcohol (ETOH, C2H5OH or its empirical formula C2H6O) is a psychoactive depressant drug.  For the rest of us, alcohol is usually considered beer, wine or liquor.  


Much to the surprise of many students, pure alcohol is relatively odorless, colorless and tasteless.  Congeners, which are impurities produced during the fermentation of alcoholic beverages, are responsible for the aroma, color and flavor.  Congeners also contribute to the symptoms of a hangover because they are quite toxic.


The heavier the congener content the more extreme the smell, the darker the color and the heavier the taste of the alcoholic beverage.  Conversely, clear liquors such as vodka, gin and some rums have fewer congeners resulting in very little smell, taste and color.  Since congeners contribute to hangover symptoms, consuming clear liquors will minimize some of the debilitating effects of a hangover.  So Jenn, if you drink vodka, the symptoms of the potential hangover will be reduced somewhat because it is a clear alcoholic beverage with a low congener content.  But remember, the alcohol in the vodka will still cause many hangover symptoms. (See Tip #12: Hangovers)


When people make punch they tend to mix fruit juices with clear liquors and/or Everclear (almost pure alcohol).  As a result Anna, the punch you drank may have contained a significant amount of alcohol but you didn’t taste it due to the low congener content of the type of alcoholic beverage mixed into the punch.


Wendy, what you smell on your boyfriend’s breath are the congeners of the alcoholic beverage he drinks not really alcohol.  Even if he were drinking alcohol-free beer, his breath would smell as if he had been drinking an alcoholic beverage.  I know this information doesn’t make his breath smell any sweeter but at least you know a little more about alcohol.  


How much alcohol is in a drink?  It varies.  The amount of alcohol in an alcoholic beverage is identified as percent Alcohol By Volume (ABV) or as Proof, which is roughly twice the Alcohol By Volume (ABV).  Therefore, 80 Proof = 40% ABV. A standard drink is one half ounce of pure alcohol and that half ounce comes packaged many different ways. (See Tip #7: Drinks)



Do some research on the kinds of alcoholic beverages that you drink or intend to drink so you know the volume of the alcohol in it as well as the ingredients.

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