What alcohol causes the worst hangovers?

Every human being who has had too much “naughty water” can agree, there is nothing quite like a blistering hangover. Waking up the next morning, regaining consciousness as you piece your evening back together, feeling your tongue tattooed to the inside of your mouth, stomach full of acid, as you silently whisper, “I am never drinking again”.

But what causes hangovers? What is so determined to leave you feeling like death after an awesome night?

Hangovers stem from substances called congeners, a by-product of some types of fermentation which gives dark alcohols such as red wine and brandy their colour. The more congeners alcohol contains, the more likely you are going to wake up feeling like death warmed up.

While dark colour alcohol is more likely to leave your stomach churning and you dreading the morning sun, this doesn’t mean you can indulge in clear or light-coloured alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means drinking a lot of it leaves you dehydrated and depletes your stores of potassium and magnesium, which makes you headachy and tired.

Does this mean you can’t party like a Rockstar with your friends? Who are we kidding? Despite feeling like Keith Richards the next morning, we all know you are most likely going to party it up this weekend. Well, I intend to.

We look at various alcoholic beverages which dishes out the worst hangovers of all time, starting from the weakest to the ultimate hangover.


Vodka has virtually no congeners. This means if you drink it responsibly, you shouldn’t feel too shabby in the morning.

However, with its mild flavour and different variants, one can get carried away with vodka and start drinking it like a cold drink.


Beer has a relatively low alcohol concentration, which means you can drink more of it. Plus, the yeast and other ingredients slow down the alcohol absorption in your stomach.

But, as we are South Africans and beer is part of our staple diet, especially when we are braaing with friends, we all know just how much beer we can drink. Very little compares with the mind-numbing hangover from Black Label.


Who can deny the luxurious taste of great champagne, with the texture and bubbles tantalising your taste buds?

However, the bubbles can speed up alcohol absorption and make you drunk faster (most of us have learned this the hard way). If you choose sweet champagne, you are only setting yourself up for a whopper of a hangover. Sugar makes the dehydrating effects of alcohol worse, which means champagne is one of those somewhat sneaky drinks.

Red wine

While soothing to the palate and a trending drink, if you indulge a bit too much in good old red wine, it turns into a monstrous creature which will leave you feeling downright horrid.

Containing congeners, certain red wines are also high in tannins. Tannins are a naturally occurring compound found in grape skins and stems, which give some varieties their characteristic dryness. People who are sensitive to tannins may develop headaches after drinking red wine. So be wary of this “fancy beer”.

Dark rum

Do we really need to go into this? If you have never drunk rum, you will never understand how violated you feel the next morning. Left smelling like a pirate and feeling emotional, rum is a dangerous little beverage.


The king of hangovers. With the highest levels of congeners, brandy will definitely leave you crying the next day. This karate water, is enjoyed in many forms and through our love of it in beautiful South Africa, we see more and more variants hitting the market. So beware and know you have been warned…

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