According to this saying, the order that you consume your alcoholic drinks matters (the complete phrase is: ‘beer before wine and you’ll feel fine; wine before beer and you’ll feel queer’). But every hangover has the same culprit: alcohol.
Alcohol is thought to cause hangovers in two main ways. First, it diverts water from your bloodstream to your bladder. Over the course of a night out, you’ll lose more fluid than you drink, often resulting in a dehydration headache the next day. Second, a chemical called acetaldehyde is one of the intermediate products of alcohol digestion in the liver. This is even more toxic than alcohol itself, so you feel rough until it has been metabolised into safer compounds.
The total amount of alcohol you drink will have a much bigger effect on how you feel than the specific order of drinks. A 2019 study at Cambridge University found that volunteers given two and a half pints of beer, followed by four large glasses of wine, reported just as bad a hangover as those who had the wine first and then the beer.
If there’s any truth to this saying, it may be that the parties where you start on wine are more likely to get out of hand – perhaps because you get drunk faster on the stronger booze and find it harder to keep track of how many you’ve had.