Red, White and Be Responsible

In the United States, the Fourth of July is a holiday full of fireworks and flags, barbecues…and booze. Independence Day ranks as one of the biggest drinking days of the year.

As you head to the liquor store to get supplies for your barbecue, consider staying away from distilled spirits—especially the darker-colored spirits. Most distilled spirits contain congeners, trace chemicals produced during fermentation that contribute to an alcohol’s unique color, odor and taste. Congeners are often toxic and inhibit cell function, which affects your ability to function and contributes to the too-familiar headaches and nausea that haunt your hangover. These chemicals have higher concentrations in darker colored liquors and wines. (E.g., whiskey has more than vodka, red wine has more than white wine.)

Agilent gas chromatography (GC) instruments are used by researchers to measure the levels of congeners in different kinds of alcohol. GC instruments separate compounds via vaporization without decomposing the elements being analyzed. Agilent J&W DB-WAX Ultra Inert Capillary GC Columns make the separation of congeners from distilled spirits more reliable. These tools help improve the analysis of congeners in distilled spirits.

Quantifying the congeners in a particular wine or distilled spirit is essential for determining which ones may cause the most impairment (and the worst hangovers). As seen in this graph of congener content in different drinks, beer has the lowest congener levels per serving (aside from a distilled spirit diluted with orange juice, which reduces some effects of congeners). This is particularly true for unfiltered beers, which also have higher levels of Vitamin B.

Thus, it takes more servings of beer to cause a hangover—and even then, beer gives rise to the least severe hangover. Luckily, the majority of Americans pair their BBQ with beer; the Fourth is the top-selling beer holiday in the U.S., with over $1 billion in sales in the 2 weeks surrounding Independence Day.

Ultimately, if you choose to celebrate with alcohol, be careful what you choose to drink (aim for lower congener levels), how much of it you drink, and—of course—what you do after drinking! More than 40 percent of all fatal car crashes in the days surrounding the Fourth involve a drunk driver. So if you plan to drink, be sure to have a plan for how to get home. Have a fun and safe Independence Day!

Today’s post was written by Agilent Communications’ summer intern!

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