‘Prosecco Drunk’ is Real, and We Have the Bubbles to Thank

Pierre Van ZylLearn, News + Discoveries

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glasses of prosecco with raspberries

Many people insist they feel more drunk when consuming sparkling alcoholic beverages like prosecco, champagne, and cava rather than flat ones. This statement was proven in what must’ve been the most fun study to ever participate in. 

Researchers tested the effects of bubbly vs flat alcoholic drinks to see if the fizz affects levels of drunkenness. Turns out, it does! Science has officially proved that bubbles really do play with your head. [1]

‘Prosecco drunk,’ which makes the drinker feel giddy really quickly, is a confirmed phenomenon. It all comes down to the bubbles. Trust me, it’s science.  Germany even has a word for it: “Sektlaune.” It describes the feeling of being compelled to do something a person wouldn’t normally do under the influence of bubbly drinks, champagne, specifically. [2]

This seems like something we wouldn’t need a study to confirm, but we got one anyways – and it turns out we’ve known for a while. This intoxicating study was published in 2003 in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism [3]

The Drinking Study

The 12 participants gathered in a lab-based research facility for a small but swanky party, and were given two glasses of Champagne each. The participants included six men and six women. Each of them had eaten a standard breakfast about three hours before the test began and did not consume any alcohol 24 hours before the test. 

All the beverages varied according to each person’s height and weight so that each subject drank the same amount proportionally: exactly 0.6 kilogram of body weight. 

However, the researchers gave half of the guest flat drinks — they were whisked with an electric blender beforehand — while the rest sipped or gulped down the fizzy kind, untouched from the bottle. They had 20 minutes to finish their drinks before the researchers tested their alcohol levels. Those who drank the flat beverages assumed it was wine, not degassed champagne.

Dr. Ridout, the leader of the study found that the ones who consumed the fizzy champagne had an average of 0.54 milligrams of alcohol per milliliter of blood, while those drinking the flat beverages had an average of just 0.39 milligrams of alcohol per milliliter of blood. Meaning, the alcohol levels for those who consumed the sparkling wine rose more quickly than those with the flat booze.

A week later, the study was reversed with those who had flat drinks last time now sipped bubbly and vice versa. They still came out with the same result: prosecco had a stronger effect on all of the subjects. [3]

Why Sparkling Booze Makes You More Drunk

Forty minutes after the experiment, the participants were tested again and the differences between the alcohol levels in the two groups were evident. This is because the bubbles in sparkling drinks moved more quickly through the stomach and intestines and into the bloodstream.

Researchers at the University of Manchester confirmed these findings in 2007. This time, they used vodka. The 21 participants were set into three groups: one drank a shot of vodka, one drank vodka mixed with water, and one drank vodka soda. Twenty out of 21 of the subjects got a quick buzz. Fourteen of 21 showed that the vodka soda got them drunk the most quickly. [4]

“Carbon dioxide in sparkling drinks is what increases the permeability of your bio-membranes,” explains Nikolaus Merkt from the University of Hohenheim, who researches the quality of herbal products and is an expert in viticulture.

The carbonic acid stimulates blood circulation in the stomach, intestine, and mouth.

“Better circulation means more alcohol can be absorbed into the bloodstream,” he concludes. [2]

Additionally, when the bottle of bubbly is cold, the carbon dioxide bubbles don’t pop as quickly. They stay in the drink, ready to speed into the drinker’s bloodstream. That’s why the first glass of prosecco might make the drinker feel more drunk than the second or third. [1]

If you love prosecco, but would rather not get as wasted, here’s a tip: drink it from a shallow cup instead of a tall one. The large surface will allow the bubbles to pop more easily while a tall, thin glass preserves them [5]. If more drunk is your goal, by all means, keep the champagne flute. 

  1. https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/food/5681273/prosecco-drunk-is-a-real-thing-and-science-proves-it/
  2. https://www.businessinsider.com/heres-why-champagne-and-prosecco-make-you-feel-more-drunk-than-wine-2018-8
  3. Fran Ridout, Stuart Gould, Carlo Nunes, Ian Hindmarch. THE EFFECTS OF CARBON DIOXIDE IN CHAMPAGNE ON PSYCHOMETRIC PERFORMANCE AND BLOOD-ALCOHOL CONCENTRATION https://academic.oup.com/alcalc/article/38/4/381/232628 July 1, 2003
  4. C. Roberts MB, S.P.Robinson. Alcohol concentration and carbonation of drinks: The effect on blood alcohol levels https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1752928X06003003 October 2007
  5. https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/body/diet-nutrition/a19084035/does-prosecco-get-you-drunk-quicker/

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