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Different Kinds of Alcohol Don't Get You Different Kinds of Drunk

When I was drinking anything and everything in college, I came under the belief that different liquors would make me feel one way or another—vodka turned me depressive, and tequila made me crazy. Turns out, that was all projection.
November 26, 2014, 8:30pm

I barely remember my freshman year of college. Not because it was a long time ago, but because I spent most of that year drinking my days away. My college experience was a full of clichés: I was getting drunk and partying for the first time. I was attending parties equipped with keg stands, beer pong tables, and strange alcoholic creations like "jungle juice" and "Jell-O shots." All of these were served to me by bros named Brad, Chet, or Brett. Never before had I been lectured on hangovers, throwing up, or cravings for greasy fast food at 3 AM. I had to learn all these things from experience, and boy, did I learn fast!

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One evening, my roommate came home with a bottle of tequila. "I'm probably going to regret tonight," she told me. When I asked why, she responded, "Tequila makes me crazy, but vodka makes me sad."

But why would vodka make one sad? Perhaps because it reminds them of Stalin's reign of terror on Soviet Russia? (Nope.)

I had never heard that certain liquors could affect your mood. I asked another friend about it, and he told me that he couldn't drink vodka because he thought it made him too angry. It seemed that everyone had taken this as common knowledge, and I was the last person on the planet to figure it out.

I felt like an idiot. How could I not see it earlier?

So, I stuck mainly to gin, which I believed made me more talkative and outgoing. Then again, I was a freshman in college with no money or means of buying my own alcohol, so I had to settle for whatever I could get. If I was stuck with rum, I convinced myself that it would put me in a bad mood. Because my roommate thought vodka made her sad, I thought the same thing.

But, as with many things alcohol-related, reality is far different from belief. Turns out, different kinds of alcohol don't get you different kinds of drunk after all.

To help me shatter this misconception, I spoke to Dr. Timothy Fong, an associate professor of psychiatry at UCLA. It's all part of the human condition, he explained to me. "We look for patterns in our lives that promote a good time. If we have a really great night, we try and recreate exactly what we did," he said.

For instance, if you had an incredible night while drinking whiskey, you'll want to replicate that night. So, you convince yourself that drinking whiskey again will aid in doing that. The same goes if you've had a horrible night drinking whiskey (like I've had on many occasions). You feel that to prevent that bad night from happening, you shouldn't drink the devil's urine, but this is merely a self-imposed mind trick. "The body can't tell the difference between whiskey, gin, or beer. It just sees alcohol, and it processes that alcohol," Fong told me.

What will affect your mood, however, is your present emotional state, which can be heightened by drinking. If you are already stressed out about something, it's likely going to have a negative effect on your behavior while drunk. Recovering from a cold, not eating much throughout the day, or even sleep deprivation can affect your drunk-mood, too. "These physiological factors can interact with how fast alcohol is absorbed into your body," Fong explained.

No more blaming regrettable one-night stands on tequila, or pinning drunken fights with exes on too many beers. Blame it on yourself for being just plain-old drunk. Just remember that it's more about how much you're drinking, and why.