Alcohol, from bad to worse

I am reminded of a story about Keith Moon, now deceased drummer of The Who, who was reportedly told by Doctor that, if he drank brandy he would not die as soon than if he continued with whiskey. Keith made the switch, and died in 1978.

My question is, as far as alcoholic beverages go, which are the most damaging, and which the least? I assume the hard liquors are worst, while wines and grape juice derivities (such as brandy) are the least harmful. Is there any known research on the topic?


Let’s do our own research! Everyone pick a drink - I’ll take white wine!!!

It’s hard to sort out the science from the folklore on this one. Guys of my dad’s generation told me that brandy tends toward bigger hangovers. My brother and my dad had gout, and their readings told them that dark liquors are more likely to grow those spiky gout crystals in their joints. They stick to clear boozes.

We’ve all heard about the antioxidants in wine. Brandy is made from wine, but I don’t know if the antioxidants survive the process. I also heard about an old boy who wrote off his annual contributions to the “Christian Brothers.” It’s surely fiction. Alas.

My ex-husband said his doc told him to switch from beer to wine and his pancreas problem would be fine, something about switching up your drinks has different effects on your pancreas, which was what he had a problem with (from drinking too much). I doubt the doc meant a gallon of wine a day, though. Switching from beer to wine did not work for him and he died at age 36.

I’ll try to find some research, but all alcohol goes through the liver, no matter what kind, and too much of any alcoholic beverage will cause you problems.

Here’s some research which seems to indicate no one type of alcohol is less damaging than the other. It would have been less damaging to Mr. Moon if he had switched from 5 whiskeys a day to 1 brandy a day, but the type of alcoholic beverage doesn’t seem to matter as the damage is from the ethyl alcohol, which they all contain:

One: Amount of Alcohol. The more alcohol, the stronger the effects. A person may drink beer, wine, or whiskey; what matters is the amount of alcohol that is consumed.

Two: Current evidence suggests that the many ways alcohol causes trouble are similar for all types of alcoholic beverages, taking into account how they are typically served (more concentrated forms of alcohol are served in smaller portions) and how fast they are ingested. In terms of the dangers of alcohol – an increased risk of liver damage, esophageal and liver cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis, trauma or accidents – there is little difference between one bottle (12 ounces) of beer, one glass (five ounces) of wine and one mixed drink (typically containing one to two ounces of hard liquor).
The other ingredients, such as hops, grains, antioxidants or those wild colors in tropical mixed drinks, are not thought to have much effect on the toxic effects of alcohol, although they may affect taste, caloric content and how fast or how many drinks are ingested. Perhaps it is the higher concentration of alcohol in mixed drinks, the stronger taste or simply the name hard liquor that promotes the impression that such drinks are more dangerous.

Three: (a .pdf file): The liver injury is unrelated to the type of beverages you drink. It is related to the alcohol it contains.