How do the French avoid hangovers?

Photo: Jean-Alain Le Borgne. Not pictured: elegant and, yes, even nasal vomiting and/or spitting.

Sure, there’s medically sanctioned advice for avoiding hangovers (it’s boring and obvious; drink less). Wouldn’t you rather go on folk wisdom, especially if it rhymes?

Recall that in English we have:

Beer before liquor,
never been sicker;
liquor before beer,
you’re in the clear.

The corresponding, very common French maxim of course presumes that we’re drinking wine.

Blanc sur rouge,
rien ne bouge.
Rouge sur blanc,
tout fout le camp.((The snobby drunks over at Hachette Guides claim that the “correct” expression is: Blanc puis rouge, rien ne bouge, rouge puis blanc, tout fout le camp. But nobody ever says that.))

White after red,
you’re in luck.
Red after white,
everything’s fucked.

Like most folk wisdom, it’s bullshit. There is some scientific backing for the idea that darker liquors, darker beers, and red wine can cause stronger hangovers than the lighter versions of these drinks (due to congeners). But there is no evidence that the order of drinks matters.

Like many, many other cultures, the French also revere the adage “il faut pas mélanger” — don’t mix types of drinks. It’s almost a mantra. And, it’s false, but of course that doesn’t matter. We don’t spread folk wisdom because it’s wise; we need these arbitrary, preferably rhyming lies to keep civilization running smoothly.

Without edicts on what order to drink our wines, and from which vessels, what fun would drinking be? Rules give us something to complain about, an excuse to denounce others’ behavior, and the amusing opportunity to transgress ourselves. That’s also why we have table manners, driver’s education, and proscriptions on adultery.

Gather around, darlings. Let’s wax on the importance of starting with the Chablis, and toast to the hope that tomorrow will treat us reasonably.


Got your own favorite rules for avoiding hangovers, in France or elsewhere? Let me know in the comments.

Photo: Jean-Alain Le Borgne.

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1 Comment

  1. Anglena Rossie
    October 22, 2020

    Wonderful post! We are linking to this great article on our site. Keep up the great writing.

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