The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and the interviewer.
Interviewer: So I’m pretty sure you’ve heard this term before, but I wanna get your understanding of what it means if that’s good… the saying I’m talking about is,”Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear, beer before liquor, you’ve never been sicker.”
Informant: hahaha yeah I’ve definitely heard that one, even if it’s been a couple years. Pretty sure it just means exactly what it sounds like haha just dont take shots after you’ve already been drinking beer for a while and I just honestly say it’s good advice. Pretty sure most people just take it as “don’t mix your alcohol,” though.
My informant is in his mid 20’s, born and raised in California. His parents immigrated from Italy and are extremely conservative, while he has adopted much more liberal views. He is also an electronic music producer.
I talked to my informant over a facetime call during the 2020 coronavirus Quarantine
I’ve actually heard this saying before, and after doing some research, I found that it makes no difference whether you drink beer or liquor first, you just tend to drink more if you start with beer and then start by taking a bunch of shots.
“Liquor before beer and you’re in the clear, beer before liquor never been sicker.”
Context and Analysis:
My informant is a 19-year-old male. The informant claims he first heard this proverb when he was in ninth grade. It was one of the first times he was consuming alcohol and was not paying attention to the type of alcohol he was consuming. He was alternating between drinking beer and simultaneously taking shots of vodka. When one of his friends said to him the proverb. He disregarded the advice as it was too late, and continued to drink. The informant says he did not end the night feeling very well; however, he does not live by the proverb for in other situations when he has followed the proverb’s advice the night has still ended badly.
I have also heard this proverb before and know many people that do live by it. On many occasions, I have even heard it is bad to mix any type of alcohol. Often I do not hear this while I’m in a setting where alcohol is being consumed, but after. Most often it is during the day or after a night of alcohol consumption when someone will make a reference to the proverb, and claim the person who had a bad night was at fault because they did not follow the proverb’s advice. After looking further into this proverb, I found many sources claiming it was a myth. One of the most reputable sources I found was by CBS News, they claim “hangovers are more dependent on the total amount of alcohol consumed, rather than the order of drinking.” The rhyme of the proverb makes it catchy and easy to remember. I believe this is a significant factor in what makes this proverb so popular. Keeping in mind my informant’s age I also believe it is a proverb most often found in younger circles where there is less exposure to alcohol. Most teens are still in the experimental phase of alcohol consumption in their lives, and therefore are more susceptible to catchy phrases such as these that are not true.
Liquor before beer you’re in the clear. Beer before liquor never sicker.
My informant stated that he learned this lesson the wrong way. He stated that one night in high school he was doing multiple beer bongs and then took shots of liquor after. He stated that by the end of the night he was in the worse pain of his life from vomiting. His friend soon came over to him and stated that he did not follow the golden rule: “Liqour before beer, your in the clear. Beer before liquor never sicker.” Ever since then, my informant states on nights he knows he is drinking, he will take a shot first and then drink whatever he wants after.
My informant also states that he now tells this to all of his friends. When I asked him if there is any scientific proof of this claim, he stated that there was none that he knew of. He also states that he has heard some people say the opposite way, that “beer before liquor, you in the clear, liquor before beer, never sicker.” He however states that all of his friends follow his variation.
This is an interesting “urban legend,” as it deals with a popular practice in drinking alcohol socially. What is interesting is that this folklore is spread through experience and there is in fact no scientific proof that this is true. Some ideas of where this came from is that liquor is much more potent than beer, thus have liquor layer your stomach before beer may been a good way to protect one’s stomach. Either way, the people that follow this legend, believe whole heartedly as it in their mind prevents a horrible night. Whether or not it is a placebo effect, or if it actually works is up to the believer.