Lithe But A Lightweight: Sugar-Free Mixers Get You Drunk Faster

Illustration by Monica Fuentes
Well, there goes one of my most time-honored strategies.

Although I am not particularly concerned with losing weight, I had made it a habit to opt for diet sodas, flavored sparkling water, and reduced calorie juices when making my own casual mixed drinks. (When going out, however, I always go for the real, good stuff.)

My theory, which is not completely without merit, was that the additional sugar (on top of the alcohol) put you at even greater risk for dehydration and set you up for a nasty hangover. I based this hypothesis not so much on all those pesky premed classes I had to take in college, but, um, all the mornings after I drank saccharine Midori cocktails and trashcan punch (also in college). And, I thought, it didn't hurt to shave a hundred calories or so off that margarita by using a light mixer.

But people with more degrees than me and using much larger sample sizes found otherwise. Sugary mixers may pack on pounds in the long term, but in the short-term have the (arguably positive) effect of retarding alcohol's impact on your system.

I am not a rocket surgeon, but the summary of their findings and their reasoning does make sense to me. But I still maintain that I feel better after two whiskey sours made with light mix than two made with a full-calorie version. I mean, let's be clear: I feel pretty good regardless after two drinks, but in the former situation this feeling extends to the next morning.

Readers, please weigh in with your own personal anecdotes. Do you (unlike some of the official test subjects) feel drunker after having light rather than full-calorie cocktails? Or is this all fuss about sugar vs. sugar-free obscuring the greater issue, namely that people won't get fat or feel shitty if they just drink less?

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My Voice Nation Help

Carbonated beverages make you drunker faster.  I read that years ago on TimeLife library.  I mix my wine from Argentina with San Pellegrino orange soda.  I avoid all the trapping of 'hand granades' and other fruity slushies.  I'm not much for beer except in a pinch.  Thanks for your time. 


I'll never understand why people who want to be "healthier" (if that's what avoiding additional calories and sugar is in aid of instead of weight loss by any means) drink all the chemicals and carcinogenic crap in lite/light/low cal drinks. I would rather drink fewer sugary drinks than drink that tasteless poison. Just MHO. Knowing that you get drunker on diet drinks is yet more evidence that fake sugar is evil.


Diet drinks get me drunk faster; I heard that the Aspartame sweeteners are the culprit.

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