New recipes

The Science Behind Beer-Before-Liquor

The Science Behind Beer-Before-Liquor

Does the order in which you drink your booze in actually matter?

Liquor before beer? Beer before liquor?

“Beer before liquor, never been sicker; liquor before beer, you're in the clear.” This mantra is often repeated as a means of warding off dreaded hangovers, but what’s the science behind it? Does this trick actually work?

It doesn’t. You may have memorized “Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear; beer before liquor, you’re never sicker,” during your freshman year of college (and the rhyme may have stuck with you better than Psych 100 did), but the truth is that it doesn’t matter to your hangover the least bit in what order you consume your drinks.

Want to avoid a hangover? Drink less. Not a fun answer, but the best bet. Alternatively, if you’re planning to make a night of it, try the following strategies that actually do have an effect:

Eat a big dinner first

Drink a glass of water for every glass of alcohol

Avoid sugary drinks

Avoid champagne

Down at least one glass of water before you go to bed

Some people swear by the old “piece of bread soaked in a teaspoon of olive oil” trick before you go out. It won’t hurt (unless you have a gluten allergy, of course), and neither will trying a hangover remedy like Hangover Naturals, which can help replenish some vitamins.

Science Explains Why Some Base Ingredients Make Better Vodka

Vodka is the most popular liquor in the country, accounting for more than 30 percent of total spirits sales by volume. It’s also widely thought of as the most boring spirit. By definition, vodka in the U.S. must “be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color,”according to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

Yet vodka makers big and small are pushing a different narrative, one in which vodka is distinguished by its raw materials, whether that be grapes, wheat, potatoes, rice, corn or even whey. It’s something that Alex and Monica Villicana, the owners of Villicana winery and Re:Find distillery in Paso Robles, Calif., quickly learned after making vodka from wine.

“We were surprised by the textural component, as well as the mouthfeel, of the vodka,” says Alex Villicana. “A lot of that has to do with the chemical glycerol, which is produced during fermentation.”

Glycerol is a sugar alcohol with a sweet taste. It’s present in fermented grains and potatoes as well, but the amount of glycerol depends on the amount of sugar in the initial product. “If you think about your traditional grain or potato vodka, those start with a relatively low initial alcohol, like a beer,” says Villicana. “With wine, you have a lot of sugar to ferment, so in the production of the initial wine, you produce a lot of this chemical called glycerol.”

Some of that comes across in distillation (although an excessive number of distillations and filtration will lead to a more neutral spirit), and it softens some of the harsh edges. It’s not the only compound that impacts taste either.

A 2010 study from the University of Cincinnati and Moscow State University looked into the molecular composition of popular vodkas to find why people prefer some brands over others. It found that a varying concentration of hydrates surround ethanol molecules in different brands, and “these ethanol clusters undoubtedly stimulate the palate differently,” meaning “vodka drinkers could express preference for a particular structure.”

“Each grain has its own unique characteristics,” says Umberto Luchini, the founder of Blood x Sweat x Tears vodka. “However, within the same grain, there are no major differences. For us, the soft winter white wheat from the different farms didn’t have major differences.”

For consumers, taste is just one factor influencing a purchasing decision. Sustainability, novelty and a good story are also important. Re:Find’s vodka, for example, is made from wine that’s bled off to concentrate a red. The excess wine would otherwise be turned into a rosé in the best case scenario or dumped in the all-too-common worst case scenario. Vodka is a sustainable, and profitable, alternative.

Paul Hughes, an assistant professor of distilled spirits at Oregon State University, also approached vodka from a sustainability standpoint by making vodka from whey, a byproduct of cheese production. Each pound of cheese results in nine pounds of whey. Small creameries have a hard time getting rid of it, and turning it into vodka solves that problem while also creating another revenue stream.

“I think some of the flavors in whey spirit we’re not quite so used to, but we had no difficulty getting something that was pretty good on the whole,” says Hughes. Though he admits it won’t compete with super premium brands when it comes to the most neutral flavor.

Increasingly, however, neutral isn’t the goal. As the number of craft distillers in the U.S. grows, brands have to find a way to stand out. So vodkas are highlighting origin and ingredients. There’s Belvedere’s Single Estate series and Chopin’s distinctive potato, rye and wheat vodkas. Others lean on what’s local, like Suntory’s Haku vodka, which is made with rice and filtered through bamboo charcoal for a slight cotton-candy sweet taste.

Sometimes, the choice of what to make a vodka from is twofold. Dixie Southern vodka uses corn. “Corn gives a sweeter flavor, softer mouthfeel and gentler finish than wheat or potato,” says founder Matti Anttila. “One easy way to think about this is cornbread versus wheat bread versus potato all have distinctive flavors.”

Few know these differences as intimately as people who work in vodka bars. Sub Zero Vodka Bar, in St. Louis, has one of the largest collections in the U.S., with more than 500 labels. “There’s a lot of difference to be found in ‘straight’ vodkas,” says owner Derek Gamlin. “It’s not just a cocktail base there are a lot of great flavor profiles that can be explored and enjoyed through sipping vodka.”

Stoli Elit and winter wheat vodkas served chilled are a go-to when drinking it straight for Gamlin, and he suggests a rye vodka like Belvedere’s Lake Bartężek for a Gimlet to let the spicy notes of the rye play off the citrus.

The only way to really understand the differences is to taste them for yourself. It won’t take long to find that the most neutral spirit by definition does indeed have a distinctive character, aroma and taste.

Will Beer Before Liquor Actually Make You Sicker?

We’ve all heard it before: beer before liquor, never been sicker, liquor before beer, you’re in the clear. But how much validity is there to this well-known pre-gaming anthem?

Not much, it turns out. At the end of the day, it’s not what you drink that will make you sick, but how much you drink. Drinking too much of any alcohol can make you sick it doesn’t matter if it’s wine, beer, or liquor, or in what order you pick your poison.

So where did this myth come from? According to The New York Times, the myth originated from the way we digest alcohol. Carbonated drinks like beer and sparkling wine can irritate the lining of the stomach, thereby increasing the rate of alcohol absorption. Then there’s the fact that people who have had liquor to start with tend to drink less beer. People tend to progress from beer to liquor, so when they get sick at the end of the night, they blame the last thing they drank.

Every Beer Lover Needs This Hop Aroma Poster

They are wrong to do so. As Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, a gastroenterologist at the New York University School of Medicine, told The Times, the only thing that matters is how much you drank and if you were eating while you drank it. All of us who were convinced that this drinking mantra actually held validity from a scientific standpoint were fooled there is, unfortunately, no chemical reaction to drinking liquor before beer that wards off hangovers.

However, there is something to be said about starting your night out with liquor and transitioning to beer, as opposed to beginning with your favorite lager. As Dr. Keri Peterson wrote for Today, “With any alcohol, your inhibition decreases, which often leads to drinking more — so if you start with a beverage that has a higher alcohol content, your inhibition goes down more quickly and you tend to drink more.” In other words, regardless of what you started with, your inhibitions will be lowered by the time you get to your second and third (and fourth) drink, and you’ll be drinking more eagerly. Sticking with lower-calorie options, such as a 5 to 6 percent ABV beer, as opposed to beverages with hard liquor, will monitor the amount of alcohol going into your system. Hopefully.

The moral of the story is, pacing is key. We’re all adults here you don’t want to be that guy anymore.

Legal limits


TRUE OR FALSE: It takes a lot to make someone legally drunk

FALSE. When it comes to driving, legally drunk means having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. How much alcohol it takes to reach that level depends not only how much alcohol has been consumed and how fast, but also the drinker's body weight and gender. So while a 160-pound man needs to drink about three standard drinks in an hour to reach the legal limit, a 130-pound women needs to drink only two drinks in an hour to reach the limit.

How do you Make Mini Beer Shots?

Start by filling a shot glass 2/3 full of chilled Licor 43. (I recommend using a shot glass that looks like a mini beer glass for the best effect. You can find the ones I used HERE.)

Then, create the &ldquofoam head&rdquo by added a layer of heavy cream to the top of the Licor 43. You can do this by pouring the cream on very slowly. Another method is to pour the cream over the back of a spoon.

That&rsquos it! All that&rsquos left is to pour a few more for your friends. The it&rsquos time for cheers and that enjoyable taste!

The flavor of the Mini Beer Shot resembles a sweet vanilla milkshake with just a kick of alcohol. It&rsquos a shot many adults will enjoy!

Looking for more unique cocktail recipes? Try these:

I hope you give these a try. If you do, let me know what you think by leaving a comment below! Have you ever hear of Mini Beer Shots or are they new to you?

The Science of Caramel (+ Recipe and Troubleshooting)

An almost golden brown colour, sweet, oozy or chewy, runny or firm, caramel can be found in all shapes and sizes. You can make a runny caramel sauce to poor over an ice cream, make some chewy caramel bites or swirled some into ice cream. Caramel can upgrade your creation to something even more special.

All made with just a few basic ingredients and a pretty similar preparation method. That said, caramel can be finicky, crystallizing when you don’t want it to do. Or it turns out too thick or thin. About time to dive into the science of caramel in order to help you make a perfect caramel and fix one when it all goes haywire. Caramel is super flexibly, hard to mess up completely, but it helps knowing what goes on to fix it up again.

What is caramel?

Even though there are a lot of caramel types, the basis is always sugar.* Caramel is brown, but it can vary from a light brown/orange colour to a very dark brown, closer to being black. This brown colour is formed during caramelization of the sugar. This caramelization also contributes to the flavour of caramel. Therefore, even though caramel is sweet, it has more depth of flavour. Caramel can actually be quite bitter and have a far more complex flavour profile.

Apart from sugar there are a lot of other ingredients that can be a part of caramel. The most common are milk, butter, cream, salt and water. These contribute to the richness of a caramel and the flavour profile, as we will come back to later.

*There are plenty recipes for caramel without any sugar, look-a-likes. But, since caramelization (the basis of any caramel, we’ll come back to it later) can only occur with sugars, the definition we’ll use here is that a caramel requires sugar.

How to make caramel

When making a caramel you are trying to achieve two things:

  1. Creating a nice brown colour (from uncoloured ingredients) through chemical reactions
  2. Creating the desired caramel consistency (whether it’s runny or firm)

Browning a caramel – caramelization

The nice brown colour of a caramel can be formed through the caramelization of sugar. By heating sugar to very high temperatures (regular sugar caramlizes at 160°C (320°F)) caramelization sets in. Caramelization is a series of chemical reactions in which the sugar participates. As a result of these chemical reactions larger molecules will form which have a brown colour.

Caramelization of sugar is done by heating the sugar without any other ingredients (except for water) to the correct temperature. At this temperature caramelization will set in and occur by itself, only cooling down the sugars will stop the caramelization again.

Browning a caramel – Maillard reaction

There is another way to form a brown caramel, without heating the sugar to these high temperatures. It is another very common chemical browning reaction in food: the Maillard reaction. During this reaction molecules with a brown colour are formed as well. However, instead of just sugar, this reaction also requires proteins to occur. Since butter, milk and cream contain these proteins, they can be added to sugar to initiate the Maillard reaction. Since this browning reaction will start to occur at far lower temperatures than caramelization, it is also used quite often in recipes.

Caramelizing sugar for caramel

You can caramelize sugar by heating it to temperatures well above the boiling point of water (160°C). As mentioned before, regular sugar (sucrose) will only caramelize at a temperature of 160°C. When making caramel at home there are two different ways to bring the sugar to this high temperature:

  1. The dry method: using only sugar, nothing else
  2. The wet method: using sugar and water, this one is a little more fool proof and my go to method

The dry method

In this method you place sugar in a pot and heat it gently until it starts to melt and subsequently start to brown, the caramelization. It is very important that all sugar it heated up evenly, else some might already brown, whereas other parts are still solid sugar crystals. This method tends to be more tricky than the wet method. However, it is quicker (you don’t have to evaporate all that water again) and it does give the same quality product.

The wet method

This more fool-proof method uses sugar and water. Instead of pouring the sugar in a pan by itself, you mix it with some water. The advantage is that the sugar will dissolve in the water. Since it is dissolved in the water it is easier to heat it evenly. While heating the sugar now, you’ll boil of the water. The more water that is boiled of, the warmer it becomes. Once the water has all evaporated the sugar is warm enough and caramelization will start.

It doesn’t matter how much water you add. Adding more water will result in a longer boiling time. If you don’t add enough water though, not all the sugar will dissolve. It is no problem to add extra water during boiling. It will just take more time.

Crystallization of sugar during caramelization

Regular sugar (sucrose), is quite special. When you buy a pack of sugar all the sugar will be crystalline, they are crystals. When making a caramel you do not want these crystals. Instead, you want to create a smooth consistency and crystals don’t belong there. This is why the wet method helps you in making a smooth caramel. It helps to melt the crystals by first dissolving them. That said, with both methods it is still possible to create those unwanted sugar crystals. Fortunately, they can be cleared away again quite easily.

So how do those sugar crystals form? Sugar molecules strongly prefer to sit in this crystalline structure. They only need a little help to recrystallize again when they are dissolved or melted. The higher the concentration of sugar, the higher the chance they will form these crystals again. This is why especially close to the caramelization temperature, when with both preparation methods there’s barely any moisture left, crystallization has a higher chance to occur.

Preventing crystallization

There are a few tips and tricks to prevent crystallization of sucrose. The first is to add a crystallization inhibitor. This is an additional substance that can prevent sucrose from crystallizing. One of the most common inhibitors is glucose syrup. Glucose syrup isn’t only glucose. Instead, it also contains longer molecules. These molecules can interfer with the crystallization of the sugar, they will be in the way of the sugar molecules when trying to build a new crystal.

Sugar crystals tend to build up onto something. As soon as you have a crystal in your mixture, it will spread out very rapidly. These crystals will form more easily in a drier area (e.g. if some sugar sits on the wall of a pan where most moisture has evaporated) or on loose bits and pieces in your pan. A stirrer can also be an area where crystals start to grow. This is why most recipes will warn you to not stir the sugar while caramelizing, only do so at the start when the crystallization is not that likely to occur!

Solving crystallization in caramel

The easiest way to solve the crystallization (and the most effective) is to add more water. In other words, start over again. By adding the water, the sugar crystals can again dissolve. Simply re-heat the sugar, evaporate the water and try again!

Stopping caramelization

Once you’ve succeeded to caramelize your sugar without having any sugar crystals, you will need to stop the caramelization again! Since the sugar is super warm at this point (remember, it’s about as hot as an oven!), the reaction will continue going for a while. The caramelization won’t stop immediately, even if you turn off the heat. As a result, the caramel may become way too brown or it might even burn.

That’s why most recipes will tell you to add something to the caramel to cool it down again. It can be as simple as adding some water. Often though you will see that you have to add some milk, cream or butter. The advantage of adding these into the hot sugar is that they will also participate in chemical reactions. This will improve the flavour of your caramel even further.

Always keep in mind that the sugar is very hot at this point. It is way easiest to add something liquid, this will mix in most easily. However, take care that it will boil almost immediately and it might therefore splash. If you add something with plenty proteins (e.g. milk or cream) take care that it will bubble up a lot.

Controlling caramel consistency

Caramels can be sauces, syrups or thick gooey bites. In most recipes you will first try to get the colour of the caramel right, before you focus on the consistency itself.

When you’ve just carmelized your sugar at 160°C to the right colour, the caramel contains <1% water. If you leave this to cool down it will become a rock hard piece of caramel. It might looks fancy, but there’s no way you’d be able to eat this without breaking off some teeth. The sugar has formed a glassy structure.

You can make it softer again by adding moisture. This can be water, but also milk or cream for instance, as long as water is added. Adding a lot of moisture will result in a sauce or syrup. Adding only a little bit of water will result in a thicker less runny caramel. The good thing about sugar and water though is that these are all reversible processes. If you’ve added too much water, simply bring the mixture to the boil and wait until the consistency is correct again. If you haven’t added enough, just add some more to make it thinner.

Caramel science troubleshooting

Grainy caramel

When a caramel has become grainy, the sugar has started to crystallize. If this always happens for your recipe, you might have to add some inhibitors as we discussed in the article. Adding inclusions into the caramel, for example peanuts, makes it more prone to crystallization and thus graininess. In those cases, you might want to take some extra measures.

Separating caramel

A caramel can split if there’s fat in the caramel (e.g. from butter or cream). Often, a split caramel can be saved by gently reheating the caramel and stirring continuously. Adding some extra water can also help here to mix everything again before boiling off that extra water one more time. Last but not least, do not heat or cool down the caramel too rapidly. The fat might melt or solidify at a different rate than the caramel, causing the split.

Why caramel becomes (too) hard

No worries here! Just add some extra moisture, reheat and you will turn out with a thinner and softer caramel.

Can you freeze caramel?

Yes, you can, no problem. Take care to pack it airtight though. When you want to use or eat it take care to defrost it will in time. The caramel will have become pretty hard, so be patient before eating. Read more here on freezing caramel and its freezing point.

Applying caramel science – Recipes

After all that theory it’s time to get to work and make some caramel.

Caramel for in your ice cream. Caramel syrup Cinnamon rolls with caramel sauce

Or try these recipes! One uses the wet method to crystallize sugar, the other uses the Maillard reaction to create a nice brown sauce.

How Alcohol Works

According to the 2016 data from the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.3 billion people are drinkers. And more than half of the global the population in three regions — the Americas, Europe and Western Pacific — consumes alcohol. Beer remains the most popular alcohol choice for American adults, who drank 26.4 gallons (99.9 liters) of it in 2017, but wine, spirits, and more are still popular choices among drinkers. About 31 percent of adults are considered "abstainers" who haven't had drinks in the last 12 months, but the fact is undeniable: Alcohol is an amazingly popular social phenomenon.

If you have ever seen a person who has had too much to drink, you know that alcohol is a drug that has widespread effects on the body, and those vary from person to person. People who drink might be the "life of the party" or they might become sad and weary. Their speech may slur and they may have trouble walking. It all depends on the amount of alcohol consumed, a person's history with alcohol and a person's personality.

Even though you have seen the physical and behavioral changes, you might wonder exactly how alcohol works on the body to produce those effects. What is alcohol? How does the body process it? How does the chemistry of alcohol work on the chemistry of the brain? In this article, we will examine all of the ways in which alcohol affects the human body.

In order to understand alcohol's effects on the body, it is helpful to understand the nature of alcohol as a chemical, so let's take a look.

  • Alcohol is a clear liquid at room temperature.
  • Alcohol is less dense and evaporates at a lower temperature than water. (This property allows it to be distilled,by heating a water and alcohol mixture, the alcohol evaporates first).
  • Alcohol dissolves easily in water.
  • Alcohol is so flammable, it can be used as a fuel.

Alcohol can be made by three different methods:

  • Fermentation of fruit or grain mixtures. This is often followed by distillation of fermented fruit or grain mixtures (Spirits such as whiskey, rum, vodka and gin are distilled.)
  • Chemical modification of fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas or coal (industrial alcohol)
  • Chemical combination of hydrogen with carbon monoxide (methanol or wood alcohol)

The type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages is ethyl alcohol or ethanol. The molecular structure of ethanol is C2H6O. It can also be written as CH3CH2OH or C2H5OH.

In this structure, C is carbon, H is hydrogen, O is oxygen. The OH (O-H) group on the molecule is what gives it the specific chemical properties of an alcohol. For the remainder of this article, when we say "alcohol," we mean ethanol.

You will not find pure alcohol in most drinks drinking pure alcohol can be deadly because it only takes a few ounces of pure alcohol to quickly raise the blood alcohol level into the danger zone. For various types of beverages, the ethanol concentration (by volume) is as follows:

  • Beer= 4 to 6 percent (average of about 4.5 percent)
  • Wine= 7 to 15 percent (average of about 11 percent)
  • Champagne= 8 to 14 percent (average of about 12 percent)
  • Distilled spirits (e.g. rum, gin, vodka, whiskey)= 40 to 95 percent. Most of the typical spirits purchased in liquor stores are 40 percent alcohol. Some highly concentrated forms of rum and whiskey (75 to 90 percent) can be purchased in liquor stores. Some highly concentrated forms of whiskey (i.e. moonshine) can be made and/or purchased illegally.

In the United States, you must be 21 years or older to buy alcoholic beverages, and there are penalties for serving or selling alcoholic beverages to minors.

How Alcohol Enters the Body

When a person drinks an alcoholic beverage, about 20 percent of the alcohol is absorbed in the stomach and about 80 percent is absorbed in the small intestine. How fast the alcohol is absorbed depends upon several things:

  • The biological sex of the drinker. Alcohol is metabolized differently in women and men, due to factors like body composition.
  • The concentration of alcohol in the beverage. The greater the concentration, the faster the absorption.
  • The type of drink. Carbonated beverages tend to speed up the absorption of alcohol.
  • Whether the stomach is full or empty. Food in the belly slows down alcohol absorption.

After absorption, the alcohol enters the bloodstream and dissolves in the water of the blood. The blood carries the alcohol throughout the body. The alcohol from the blood then enters and dissolves in the water inside each tissue of the body (except fat tissue, as alcohol cannot dissolve in fat). Once inside the tissues, alcohol exerts its effects on the body. The observed effects depend directly on the blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is related to the amount of alcohol the person has consumed. A person's BAC can rise significantly within 20 minutes after having a drink.

When you compare men and women of the same height, weight, and build, men tend to have more muscle and less fat than women. Because muscle tissue has more water than fat tissue, a given dose or amount of alcohol will be diluted more in a man than in a woman. Therefore, the blood alcohol concentration resulting from that dose will be higher in a woman than in a man, and the woman will feel the effects of that dose of alcohol sooner than the man will.

How Alcohol Leaves the Body

Once alcohol is absorbed into a person's bloodstream, it leaves the body in three ways:

  • The kidneys eliminate 5 percent of alcohol in the urine.
  • The lungs exhale 5 percent of alcohol, which can be detected by breathalyzer devices.
  • The liver chemically breaks down the remaining alcohol into acetic acid.

As a rule of thumb, an average person can eliminate 0.5 ounces (15 ml) of alcohol per hour. So, it would take approximately one hour to eliminate the alcohol from a 12 ounce (355 ml) can of beer.

The BAC increases when the body absorbs alcohol faster than it can eliminate it. So, because the body can only eliminate about one dose of alcohol per hour, drinking several drinks in an hour will increase your BAC much more than having one drink over a period of an hour or more.

The breakdown, or oxidation, of ethanol occurs in the liver. An enzyme in the liver called alcohol dehydrogenase strips electrons from ethanol to form acetaldehyde. Another enzyme, called aldehyde dehydrogenase, converts the acetaldehyde, in the presence of oxygen, to acetic acid, the main component in vinegar. The molecular structure of acetic acid looks like this: CH3COOH.

When ethanol is oxidized to acetic acid, two protons and two electrons are also produced. The acetic acid can be used to form fatty acids or can be further broken down into carbon dioxide and water.

Blood Alcohol Concentration

If you have seen someone who has had too much to drink, you've probably noticed definite changes in that person's performance and behavior. The body responds to alcohol in stages, which correspond to an increase in blood alcohol concentration.

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) refers to the percent of alcohol in a person's blood stream. A BAC of .10 percent means that an person's blood supply contains one part alcohol for every 1,000 parts blood. As we already mentioned, several affect BAC, including body weight, biological sex, how many drinks the person has consumed (and how fast), medications and more. But the body responds to the level of alcohol in the blood, too:

Euphoria (BAC = 0.03 to 0.12 percent)

  • They may become more self-confident or daring.
  • Their attention span may shorten.
  • They may look flushed.
  • Their judgement may not be as sharp and they may be more impulsive they might say the first thought that comes to mind, rather than an appropriate comment for the given situation.
  • They may have trouble with fine movements, such as writing or signing their name.

Excitement (BAC = 0.09 to 0.25 percent)

  • They could become sleepy.
  • They might have trouble understanding or remembering things (even recent events).
  • They might not react to situations as quickly.
  • Their body movements may become uncoordinated.
  • They may begin to lose their balance easily.
  • Their vision could become blurry.
  • They may have trouble sensing things (hearing, tasting, feeling, etc.).

Confusion (BAC = 0.18 to 0.30 percent)

  • They are likely to be confused — they may not know where they are or what they are doing.
  • They may be dizzy and stagger on their feet.
  • They might be highly emotional, aggressive, withdrawn, or overly affectionate.
  • They may not see clearly.
  • They may be sleepy.
  • They likely have slurred speech.
  • They may have uncoordinated movements (trouble catching an object thrown to them).
  • They may not feel pain as readily as a sober person.

Stupor (BAC = 0.25 to 0.4 percent)

  • They may barely be able to move at all.
  • They may not be able to respond to stimuli.
  • They may be unable to stand or walk.
  • They may vomit.
  • They may lapse in and out of consciousness.

Coma (BAC = 0.35 to 0.50 percent)

  • They are unconscious.
  • Their reflexes are depressed (i.e. their pupils do not respond appropriately to changes in light).
  • Their skin feels cool to the touch (lower-than-normal body temperature).
  • Their breathing slows and becomes more shallow.
  • Their heart rate may slow.
  • Their life could be in danger.

Death (BAC more than 0.50 percent)

How the Body Responds to Alcohol

Alcohol acts primarily on the nerve cells within the brain. Alcohol interferes with communication between nerve cells and all other cells, suppressing the activities of excitatory nerve pathways and increasing the activities of inhibitory nerve pathways.

For example, University of Chicago Medical Center: Alcohol and Anesthetic Actions talks about the ability of alcohol (and inhaled anesthetics) to enhance the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Enhancing an inhibitor generally induces sluggishness, which matches the behavior you see in a drunk person. Alcohol not only enhances an inhibitor, it also weakens an excitatory neurotransmitter called glutamine. Dampening the effect of an excitatory neurotransmitter also produces sluggishness. Alcohol does this by interacting with the receptors on the receiving cells in these pathways.

Alcohol affects various centers in the brain, both higher and lower order. The centers are not equally affected by the same BAC — the higher-order centers are more sensitive than the lower-order centers. As the BAC increases, more and more centers of the brain are affected.

The order in which alcohol affects the various brain centers is as follows:

  1. Cerebral cortex
  2. Limbic system
  3. Cerebellum
  4. Hypothalamus and pituitary gland
  5. Medulla (brain stem)

Nerve cells talk to each other and to other cells (such as muscle or gland cells) by sending chemical messages. These messages are called neurotransmitters. An electrical signal travels down one nerve cell, causing it to release the neurotransmitter into a small gap between cells called the synapse. The neurotransmitter travels across the gap, binds to a protein on the receiving cell membrane called a receptor, and causes a change (electrical, chemical or mechanical) in the receiving cell. The neurotransmitter and receptor are specific to each other, like a lock and key. Neurotransmitters can either excite the receiving cell, which causes a response or inhibit the receiving cell, which prevents stimulation.

The cerebral cortex is the highest portion of the brain. The cortex processes information from your senses, does your "thought" processing and consciousness (in combination with a structure called the basal ganglia), initiates most voluntary muscle movements and influences lower-order brain centers. In the cortex, alcohol does the following:

  • Depresses the behavioral inhibitory centers: The person becomes more talkative, more self-confident and less socially inhibited.
  • Slows down the processing of information from the senses: The person has trouble seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting also, the threshold for pain is raised.
  • Inhibits thought processes: The person does not use good judgment or think clearly.

These effects get more pronounced as the BAC increases.

The limbic system consists of areas of the brain called the hippocampus and septal area. The limbic system controls emotions and memory. As alcohol affects this system, the person is subject to exaggerated states of emotion (anger, aggressiveness, withdrawal) and memory loss.

The cerebellum coordinates the movement of muscles. The brain impulses that initiate muscle movement originate in the motor centers of the cerebral cortex and travel through the medulla and spinal cord to the muscles. As the nerve signals pass through the medulla, they are influenced by nerve impulses from the cerebellum. The cerebellum controls fine movements. For example, you can normally touch your finger to your nose in one smooth motion with your eyes closed if your cerebellum were not functioning, the motion would be extremely shaky or jerky. As alcohol affects the cerebellum, muscle movements become uncoordinated.

In addition to coordinating voluntary muscle movements, the cerebellum also coordinates the fine muscle movements involved in maintaining your balance. So, as alcohol affects the cerebellum, a person may lose their balance frequently. At this stage, this person might be described as "falling down drunk."

The hypothalamus is an area of the brain that controls and influences many automatic functions of the brain through actions on the medulla, and coordinates many chemical or endocrine functions (secretions of sex, thyroid and growth hormones) through chemical and nerve impulse actions on the pituitary gland. Alcohol has two noticeable effects on the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which influence sexual behavior and urinary excretion.

Alcohol depresses the nerve centers in the hypothalamus that control sexual arousal and performance. As BAC increases, sexual behavior increases, but sexual performance declines.

Excessive drinking also inhibits the pituitary secretion of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), which acts on the kidney to reabsorb water. Alcohol acts on the hypothalamus/pituitary to reduce the circulating levels of ADH. When ADH levels drop, the kidneys do not reabsorb as much water consequently, the kidneys produce more urine.

The medulla, or brain stem, controls or influences all of the bodily functions that are involuntary, like breathing, heart rate, temperature and consciousness. As alcohol starts to influence upper centers in the medulla, such as the reticular formation, a person will start to feel sleepy and may eventually become unconscious as BAC increases. If the BAC gets high enough to influence the breathing, heart rate and temperature centers, a person will breathe slowly or stop breathing altogether, and both blood pressure and body temperature will fall. These conditions can be fatal.

The Role of Beer in Beer Batter

What does the beer in a beer batter coating do? Can something else be substituted?

Beer batter—made by combining beer (usually a lighter style such as a lager), egg, and flour—is often used to coat fish, onion rings, and other types of pub-style fare before deep-frying. Though we’ve found that including hard liquor in the batter can lead to more-tender results in tempura, the alcohol in most lagers and pilsners is so low (about 5 percent by volume) that its effect would be minimal at best. Far more important is the fact that beer is carbonated, which affects the batter in two ways. First, the bubbles provide lift as they escape from the batter during frying. Second, the carbonation makes the batter slightly more acidic, which limits how much gluten can form when the beer and flour mix, preventing the batter from turning tough. This is because gluten forms most readily in a pH of 5 to 6, while most carbonated beverages share a similar pH of 4 (unless they contain a strongly acidic ingredient). In theory any bubbly drink with a neutral or appropriate flavor profile could serve as a substitute. To prove this point, we fried fish in batters made with beer, nonalcoholic beer, seltzer, and water and found that all the batches with a carbonated beverage did indeed lead to noticeably lighter, lacier crusts than the batter made with plain water. In sum, carbonation and pH are the biggest factors in delivering a better batter-fried crust, so feel free to use bubbly substitutes such as nonalcoholic beer or seltzer water.

PICK YOUR BUBBLY: Any of these carbonated drinks will lead to a light, tender batter-fried crust.


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.


I wonder if some people’s experience related to order of consumption is related to order affecting how much of each is ultimately consumed. I know from personal study that by drinking beer first, I consume less wine later, which has a higher concentration of alcohol. Hence, less hangover. (n=1)

Thats interesting. I was sure that it was better if I drank only one type of alcohol. Only beer for example. And mixing many different drinks would cause a worse hangover. I think there was some research done about this in Germany. They also tried drinking mineral water inbetween the drinks and it had a very positive effect.

The Chemistry Behind Beer Flavor

Beer is one of the most widespread and largely consumed alcoholic drinks in the world. The total world’s beer production amounts to about 1.7 billion liters. It is a complex alcoholic beverage, containing numerous flavor-active compounds over a wide range of concentrations. Beer flavor is a delicate balance of all these compounds, and for the brewers it is a challenge to produce their products consistent in flavor, and to maintain the flavor balance for as long as possible in the market place.

Brewing is a multistage process. It starts with the mixing of barley malt and brewing water (so-called mashing) and heating of the slurry. Enzymes in the malt degrade starch and proteins and a mixture of sugars, peptides, and amino acids are formed.

Malt contains a range of carbohydrates, composed of insoluble cellulose and soluble hemicellulose, dextrin, starch, and sugars. Starch, which accounts for about 50–60% of the weight of malt, is composed of amylose, which decomposes during mashing into maltose and maltotriose and amylopectins which decomposes into glucose molecules (1).

Figure 1. Fermentable sugars.

The most important reaction during mashing is the conversion of starch into low-molecular weight fermentable sugars and unfermentable higher molecular weight dextrin. Maltose (2), the most common carbohydrate associated with brewing consists of two glucose units and maltotriose (3) of three glucose units (Figure 1). Maltotriose is still fermentable by most brewing yeast strains while higher dextrins are not. 2 Sucrose, another disaccharide, is also present in malt though in low concentration. The cellulose components in the malt do not give fermentable extract or flavor.

Time, temperature, and pH are important factors influencing the enzymatic breakdown of the starch molecules. The principal enzymes, alpha- and beta-amylase, have a different temperature and pH operating range. Alpha-amylase is more temperature resistant and has an optimum between 72 and 75 °C, but is destroyed at 80 °C. It has an optimum pH between 5.6 and 5.8. For beta-amylase, the optimum temperature is between 60 and 65 °C and the pH between 5.4 and 5.5. The difference in temperature optimum is used by the brewer to control the composition of the mash and the ratio of fermentable and nonfermentable sugars. The higher the temperature used for the mashing process, the greater the proportion of unfermentable dextrins in the liquor. The latter contribute to the body and the mouthfeel of the final beer. Mashing at lower temperatures results in more fermentable sugars and subsequently a higher alcohol production during fermentation.

Malted barley contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as linoleic and linolenic acid, which readily form oxidation products, which can be the precursors for aging compounds formed in the final beer.3. , 4. , 5. and 6. During mashing enzymatic and nonenzymatic oxidation of the unsaturated fatty acids takes place. Reduction of oxygen contact during mashing has a positive effect on the flavor stability of the final beer. 7 Brewing with barley-malt lacking the enzyme lipoxygenase-1 also results in better flavor stability of the final beer.8. and 9.

After the mashing is completed, filtration is carried out to obtain a solution containing about 12–14% (w/w) sugar, which is called sweet wort. With the filtration of the mash (called lautering or mash filtration) solid materials such as spent grains are removed. Together with the solids and the turbidity much of the unwanted fatty acid materials are also removed. The effects of the clarity of the wort after lautering on the fermentation performance and later on the flavor stability of the final beer has been a subject of many studies.10. and 11.

After the lautering, the sweet wort is boiled for at least 1 h together with hops, the flowers (so-called cones) of the female hop plant which provide flavor to beer. The boiling serves several purposes: sterilization, deactivation of enzymes, protein precipitation, color formation, removal of unwanted volatile components and, very important, the conversion (isomerization) of the main constituents of the hops, the α-acids, into the iso-α-acids, the main bittering compounds found in beer. During boiling of the wort the following changes occur.

1) Proteins and phenolic compounds from the malt form insoluble complexes and precipitate. This is important to increase the colloidal stability of the final product.

2) The wort becomes darker because of the formation of melanoidins, as a result of reactions of sugars with amino acids, oxidation of polyphenols, and caramelization of sugars.

3) Many volatile compounds, which are present in the malt and hops, such as volatile sulfur components, aldehydes, and hydrocarbons, are evaporated. This is important for the quality of the final beer, as many of these volatile compounds are considered negative for beer flavor.

Dimethyl sulfide (DMS) is a particularly important malt component, which is rapidly lost during the boiling of the wort. To decompose its precursor, S-methylmethionine (SMM), adequate boiling time is required. If the boiling is stopped too soon the remaining SMM can still decompose during the cooling of the wort, but without evaporation of the DMS formed. Consequently, a very high concentration of DMS can carry through in the final beer where it is considered an off-flavor.

Boiling concentrates the wort to its desired strength for fermentation. On average, the volume decreases by 8–10% per hour of boiling. Finally, boiling also sterilizes the wort, which is important to avoid microbiological spoilage during the next steps in the process, fermentation and maturation. After the boiling, the wort is cooled and solid materials, precipitated proteins, spent grain, and spent hops, are removed and the clear liquid (hopped wort) is ready for fermentation. Yeast is added and the solution is aerated to facilitate the yeast growth. During the main fermentation phase, yeast converts the fermentable carbohydrates in the wort into ethanol and carbon dioxide. During fermentation numerous other flavor-active volatile components, such as esters, aldehydes, and higher alcohols, are being formed as by-products, which have an important contribution to the flavor of the final beer. The composition of these flavors depends on the yeast strain and the fermentation conditions, enabling the brewers to create unique flavors in different beer types.

After the main fermentation the liquid, called green beer or young beer, is not yet ready for consumption. It contains too many undesirable flavor components, also formed during the main fermentation. It requires a period of maturation or conditioning of several weeks at low temperature during which off-flavor compounds are either transformed (reduced) into less flavor-active compounds by the remaining yeast cells or are purged by the carbon dioxide which is still formed in this phase of the process.

The most dominant compounds, which need monitoring during the maturation phase, are diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione. These compounds are particularly unwanted in lager-type beers because of their very low flavor threshold value. Only when the content of these flavor-active compounds has decreased to below their critical concentration the beer is ready for filtration and can eventually be packaged in kegs, bottles, or cans.

In order to avoid problems with microbiological contamination in the packaged beer, the bottled or canned beer may be pasteurized. Alternatively, cold sterile filtration can be used before bottling of the beer. A simplified scheme with the steps in the brewing process is depicted in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Main steps in the brewing process.

Malting and brewing technology have remained very traditional over the years, but the efficiency of the process has increased through understanding of the technology and the underpinning science. Innovation in the brewing industry is driven by cost reduction, for example, by more efficient use of the raw materials and lower energy consumption, and the need for improved quality, safety, and wholesomeness of the final product. 12

Extensive state-of-the-art knowledge of brewing science and practice is described in a standard work by Briggs et al. 13 Research and innovation in brewing process and technology and their effects on beer flavor have been reviewed by Bamforth 14 and by Meilgaard. 15

This excerpt was taken from the article, Beer Flavor by Leen C. Verhagen. The article examines the origin and formation of the dominant flavors and off-flavors in beer, with emphasis on the hop, which is a minor ingredient in beer brewing, but with a huge impact on the sensory and physical quality of the products. Flavor changes occurring during the storage of beer, and the possible precursor of some of them are highlighted. Read more here.

The article Beer Flavor was written exclusively for the Reference Module in Chemistry, Molecular Sciences and Chemical Engineering. The Reference Module is a collection of comprehensive articles in the interdisciplinary fields of Chemistry, Molecular Sciences and Chemical Engineering, with easy to use searchable functions and discoverability tools, enabling you to easily understand the links between topics and push your research further. The Reference Module is reviewed continuously to ensure content is up to date and covers the whole spectrum of Chemistry, Molecular Sciences and Chemical Engineering. If a gap is spotted or if an article is deemed out of date, they are updated or new articles are commissioned exclusively for the Reference Module, as the article Beer Flavor was. Learn more about the Reference Module here.

Watch the video: Volksdroge Alkohol warum dürfen wir uns zu Tode trinken? DokThema. Doku (January 2022).