As any bartender will tell you, there is a whole lot of misinformation out there when it comes to drinking. Here are a few common myths — and why they simply aren’t true.
Beer before liquor, never sicker. Despite a total lack of scientific evidence to support it, the “beer before liquor” myth marches on. Any alcoholic beverage contains ethanol, the chemical compound that makes you drunk. The only thing that determines how inebriated you become — and how crummy you feel in the morning — is how much ethanol you ingest, not the order of your drinks. The myth likely lives on because, after a few beers, shots start to seem like a good idea. And it’s easier to make up a cute rhyme than acknowledge that your splitting headache is your own damn fault.
Different drinks get you drunk in different ways. A related myth is the idea that certain types of alcohol get you different types of drunk — “wine makes me happy drunk,” “tequila makes me crazy,” and so on. Again, ethanol is ethanol. The idea that it affects you differently depending on how you ingest it is all in your head. Perhaps tequila is mentally linked to college party days, and therefore inspires a wilder evening.
Beer should be served ice cold. As Randy Mosher writes in Tasting Beer, “American industrial beers have been formulated to taste best at lip-numbingly cold temperatures, but no specialty beer should ever be served at anything approaching these temperatures.” Coldness dulls flavor and aroma. This is great for a can of Coors Light, but only does a disservice to craft beer. Depending on the style, Mosher recommends a beer serving temperature between 38 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Packaging indicates quality. To the delight of the Don Draper set, slick branding can influence just about anyone. But don’t let it shape your drinking choices too much. Cans, once the domain of bottom-shelf beer, have recently been embraced by craft brewers, who are more likely to put your favorite hazy IPA in a pounder can than a boring brown bottle. Plenty of great wine is now packaged in screw-top bottles, and there are more decent boxed wines than ever before. And some of the best rum I’ve ever tasted comes in plain (even downright ugly) bottles.
There are rules to drinking wine. To an outsider, the wine world can seem stuffy and unapproachable. But as celebrated wine writer Jancis Robinson says, “The main point of wine is to give pleasure, not to generate social confusion and angst.” Studying wine is rewarding (more fun than, say, algebra), and learning more about wine can certainly enhance your drinking experience. But you needn’t get caught up in particulars to enjoy a glass of vino. If you prefer red wine chilled, or like white wine with your steak, then go for it.