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Rapid Intoxication: Does Bourbon Get You Drunk Fast?

a banner shot for bourbon battles and glasses

Last Updated on November 5, 2023 by Lydia Martin

Every bourbon lover knows the excitement of savoring their favorite drink, the smoothness of each sip, and the depth of its flavor.

As someone who appreciates the occasional glass of bourbon, I was curious to learn more about its effects on the body. 

Have you ever asked yourself how quickly it can make you drunk? This question has piqued the curiosity of many bourbon enthusiasts and novices alike.

It’s important to understand how alcohol affects your body, especially when it comes to enjoying a delicious glass of bourbon.

Therefore, let’s take a deep dive together into the world of bourbon and explore the question: Does bourbon get you drunk fast?

a bottle and a glass pf bourbon on the rocks

An Overview: Does Bourbon Get You Drunk Fast?

Bourbon is an American whiskey that has been distilled since the 18th century. It is made primarily from corn and aged in seared oak barrels, which gives it its distinctive flavor.

Bourbon typically has a higher alcohol content, ranging from 40% to 50% alcohol by volume (ABV), making it easier to get drunk faster than other alcoholic drinks like beer and wine.

However, the speed at which bourbon gets you drunk can vary depending on several factors, such as how much whiskey is consumed, individual tolerance, and drinking habits.

Drinking responsibly and in moderation is important to avoid the potential dangers associated with excessive alcohol consumption, such as impaired judgment and coordination, slowed reaction time, dehydration, and alcohol poisoning. [1]

While bourbon can get you drunk faster due to its higher alcohol content, the rate at which it affects you depends on various individual and environmental factors.

Drinking in moderation and being mindful of the amount and pace of consumption is key to enjoying bourbon responsibly and safely.

21 Factors Affecting How Fast Bourbon Gets You Drunk

Several factors affect how fast bourbon gets you drunk.

Understanding these factors can help you drink responsibly and avoid the negative consequences of excessive drinking.

Here’s a rundown of factors you need to consider when drinking bourbon:

Amount of bourbon consumed

The amount of bourbon consumed is one of the primary factors that affect how quickly you get drunk.

Generally, the more bourbon you drink, the higher your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will be, and the faster you will get drunk.

A standard serving size of bourbon is typically 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters), which contains about 0.6 fluid ounces (17 milliliters) of alcohol.

However, depending on various factors, individuals may consume more or less than this amount.

Body weight and size

The body mass of an individual can also affect how quickly they get drunk. Individuals with a higher body fat percentage generally have a higher blood volume, which can dilute the alcohol and slow down its effects.

In contrast, people who weigh less will have less blood to dilute the alcohol, leading to higher BAC levels and a faster onset of intoxication.

Gender

Gender can also play a role in how swiftly you get drunk. Women tend to consume more alcohol into their bloodstream, leading to higher blood alcohol levels and intoxication.

On average, women have a lower volume of water in their bodies than men, which means that alcohol becomes more concentrated in their blood.

This can result in higher BAC levels and a faster onset of intoxication.

Additionally, women typically have lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme that breaks down spirits in the stomach, leading to slower processing and higher BAC levels.

Tolerance to alcohol

Individuals who regularly consume alcohol may have a higher tolerance to its effects, meaning that they can consume larger amounts of bourbon without getting as drunk as someone with a lower tolerance.

This is because regular alcohol consumption can lead to variation in the brain and body that allow them to better handle the effects of alcohol.

However, it’s important to note that even individuals with a high tolerance can still become drunk if they consume enough alcohol.

Drinking speed

How quickly you consume bourbon can also impact how quickly you get drunk.

Drinking quickly or binge drinking can lead to a rapid increase in BAC levels, as the liver is unable to process the alcohol quickly enough to keep up with the rate of consumption.

In contrast, drinking slowly and pacing yourself can help to slow down the intake of alcohol and prevent rapid increases in BAC levels.

Age

Age is crucial in how fast bourbon (or any alcoholic drink) gets you drunk.

As you get older, your body’s ability to metabolize alcohol decreases, which means that alcohol stays in your bloodstream longer and can affect you more quickly.

Additionally, older adults tend to have less water in their bodies, which can increase the concentration of alcohol in their blood and lead to quicker intoxication.

Genetics

Your genetics can also play a part in how fast bourbon gets you drunk. Some people have a genetic predisposition to metabolize alcohol more slowly, which means that even a small amount of bourbon can affect them quickly.

Conversely, other people may be genetically predisposed to metabolize alcohol more quickly, which means that they can consume more bourbon before feeling its effects.

Metabolism rate

Your body’s metabolism rate also affects how quickly bourbon gets you drunk.

People with a faster metabolism can process alcohol more quickly and eliminate it from their bodies faster.

As a result, they may be able to drink more bourbon before feeling its effects.

Conversely, people with a slower metabolism may feel the effects of bourbon more quickly and need to drink less to become intoxicated.

Health status

Your overall health status can also impact how quickly bourbon gets you drunk.

People with liver disease, for example, may have a harder time metabolizing alcohol and may feel its effects more quickly.

Additionally, people with other health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, may be more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.

Stomach Content

The contents of the stomach can play a significant role in how quickly bourbon (or any alcoholic beverage) affects a person.

The amount of food we eat has an impact on how much alcohol we drink.

Drinking on an clear stomach can lead to a quicker intake of alcohol into the bloodstream, as there is no food to slow down the process.

On the other hand, consuming a meal or snacks before drinking can help slow down the absorption of alcohol, making it less likely for someone to get drunk too quickly.

Medications and drugs

Medications and drugs can also affect how quickly bourbon gets you drunk. Some medicines can interact with alcohol and make its effects more pronounced.

Similarly, drugs, such as marijuana or opioids, can amplify the effects of alcohol and lead to faster intoxication.

It’s important to be aware of the potential interactions between alcohol and any medications or drugs you are taking to avoid negative side effects.

Environmental factors

Environmental factors such as temperature, altitude, and pressure can affect how quickly bourbon gets you drunk.

In higher altitudes, the air is thinner, which can lead to faster intoxication due to the decreased oxygen supply in the bloodstream.

High temperatures can also increase the rate of alcohol absorption, causing faster intoxication.

Conversely, cold temperatures can slow down alcohol metabolism and decrease the rate of intoxication.

Sleep and fatigue levels

Sleep and fatigue levels can also affect how quickly bourbon gets you drunk.

When you are sleep-deprived or fatigued, your body is not able to metabolize alcohol as effectively, which can lead to quicker intoxication.

Additionally, being tired or fatigued can make you more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol and increase the likelihood of overconsumption.

Physical activity and exercise

Physical activity and exercise can impact how quickly bourbon gets you drunk.

When you exercise, your body is better able to metabolize alcohol, which can decrease the rate of intoxication.

However, drinking bourbon while engaging in physical activity can be viscious, as it can lead to dehydration and other negative health effects.

History of alcohol consumption and abuse

Your history of alcohol consumption and abuse can affect how quickly bourbon gets you drunk.

People who regularly consume alcohol may have a higher tolerance and need to drink more to feel the effects. However, this can also lead to alcohol dependence and addiction.

Additionally, those with a history of alcohol abuse may experience more severe effects of bourbon and be more susceptible to negative consequences.

Personal beliefs and cultural factors

Personal beliefs and cultural factors can also impact how quickly bourbon gets you drunk.

Some people may have personal beliefs that discourage them from drinking alcohol, while others may view drinking bourbon as a normal part of socializing.

Cultural factors can also influence drinking behaviors, such as the frequency and quantity of alcohol consumed.

It’s important to be aware of your personal beliefs and cultural factors when consuming bourbon to avoid negative consequences.

a bottle of bourbon on a table

The Bourbon Brands

What are the bourbon brands that can get you drunk quickly?

It is important to note that any bourbon with a high alcohol content can potentially lead to getting drunk quickly if consumed in large amounts or too quickly.

However, some bourbon brands with higher-than-average alcohol content include:

  1. Booker’s Bourbon: with an alcohol content of around 60% ABV (120 proof), it is one of the strongest bourbons available.
  2. George T. Stagg: with an alcohol content of around 65% ABV (130 proof), it is one of the most potent bourbons on the market.
  3. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof: with an alcohol content of around 68% ABV (136 proof), it is another strong bourbon that can lead to getting drunk quickly.
  4. Knob Creek Cask Strength: with an alcohol content of around 60-63% ABV (120-126 proof), this bourbon packs a punch and should be depleted in moderation.
  5. Wild Turkey Rare Breed: with an alcohol content of around 58.4% ABV (116.8 proof), it is another strong bourbon that can lead to getting drunk quickly if consumed too quickly or in large amounts.

The Bourbon Effect

How does bourbon compare to other types of alcohol in terms of getting drunk fast?

Contrary to other types of alcohol, such as wine and beer, bourbon has a higher alcohol content and is often consumed in larger quantities.

This means that it can lead to faster intoxication and a greater risk of negative consequences, such as impaired judgment and coordination, slowed reaction time, and increased likelihood of accidents or injuries.

However, the speed at which bourbon gets you drunk can vary depending on a variety of factors, such as the amount consumed, individual tolerance, and drinking habits.

Ultimately, it’s important to drink responsibly and in moderation, notwithstanding of the type of alcohol consumed.

The Risks

What are the dangers of drinking too much bourbon too quickly?

Drinking too much bourbon too quickly can lead to several dangerous consequences, including:

  • Impaired judgment and coordination: Alcohol can impair your judgment and coordination, leading to poor decision-making and an increased risk of accidents or injuries.
  • Slowed reaction time: Alcohol can slow down your reaction time, making it difficult to counter quickly in emergency situations or while driving.
  • Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it can result to lose fluids and become dehydrated. This can lead to signs such as headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.
  • Alcohol poisoning: Drinking too much bourbon too quickly can lead to alcohol poisoning, a potentially life-threatening condition that can cause vomiting, seizures, and unconsciousness.
  • Long-term health effects: Chronic heavy drinking, including binge drinking, can lead to a range of long-term health effects, such as liver damage, high blood pressure, and increased risk of certain cancers.

It’s important to drink whiskey responsibly and in moderation to avoid these risks and protect your health.

How can one avoid getting drunk too fast?

Bourbon is a delightful drink that many people enjoy, and to avoid getting drunk too quickly, here are several strategies that you can try [2]:

  • Pace yourself: Drinking whiskey slowly and spacing out your drinks can help you avoid getting drunk too quickly. Aim to drink no more than one standard drink per hour.
  • Drink water: Drinking water in between alcoholic drinks can help you stay hydrated and slow down your alcohol consumption.
  • Eat before and during drinking: Eating a meal before drinking and snacking on food while drinking can help slow down the intake of alcohol into your bloodstream.
  • Stick to lower alcohol content drinks: Choosing drinks with lower alcohol content, such as beer or wine, can help you avoid getting drunk too quickly compared to stronger alcoholic drinks like bourbon.
  • Avoid mixing drinks: Mixing different types of alcoholic beverages can increase the rate at which you get drunk, so it’s best to stick to one type of drink.

Remember, drinking responsibly and in moderation is the key to avoiding getting drunk too fast and the potential dangers associated with excessive alcohol consumption.

FAQs

How much bourbon will get me drunk?

The amount of bourbon that will get you drunk varies based on several factors, such as your body weight, metabolism, and alcohol tolerance.

It is generally recommended to drink in moderation, which means no more than one drink per hour for most people.

A standard bourbon drink is typically considered 1.5 ounces (44 ml) and contains about 0.6 ounces (17 ml) of alcohol.

Consuming more than this amount can increase your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and impair your judgment and coordination, potentially leading to dangerous consequences. 

Is bourbon a strong alcohol?

Bourbon typically has an alcohol content ranging from 40% to 50% alcohol by volume (ABV), which is similar to other types of whiskey and spirits.

So compared to beer or wine, which generally have lower ABVs, bourbon can be considered strong alcohol.

However, the strength of bourbon can vary depending on the brand and type, so it’s important to check the label for the ABV percentage.

Additionally, the amount of bourbon that you drink and how quickly you consume it can also impact how strong the effects of the alcohol will be on your body.

How long does it take to feel a shot of bourbon?

The time it takes to feel the effects of a shot of bourbon can vary depending on several factors, including your body weight, metabolism, tolerance to alcohol, and whether you have consumed any food or water along with the bourbon.

Generally, you may start to feel the effects of a shot of bourbon within 10-15 minutes of consuming it, but it could take longer for some individuals.

It’s worth noting that the effects of alcohol can also continue to build over time, so even if you don’t feel drunk immediately after drinking a shot of bourbon, it’s still important to drink responsibly and be aware of your alcohol intake.

References

  1. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm
  2. https://au.reachout.com/articles/how-to-drink-but-not-get-drunk
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