Anyone else feel like tequila compels you to tell everyone within a 10-foot radius what happens before "Part B" ? Well it turns out there is some actual scientific basis for why different types of alcohol — sugary margaritas especially — affect you differently. But it doesn't have anything to do with the drinks.
As we've discussed before, all types of liquor contain the same alcoholic ingredient: ethanol. So there's really no chemical reason why different drinks might affect you so differently. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen.
Instead, our expectations about the way our drinks will make us behave seem to have just as much power over the results as the drinks themselves.
In fact, in a 2003 study published in Psychological Science, researchers were able to make their participants act drunk — without giving them any alcohol — just by telling them they were drinking vodka tonics (complete with limes dunked in actual vodka for good measure). Specifically, participants who were told they'd had alcohol showed memory impairments that we normally associate with drinking, but none of them actually had any liquor. And, in 2012, research published in Addictive Behaviors showed the same was was true of the positive effects we attribute to alcohol, meaning that participants who thought they were getting alcohol acted more confident, for instance.
So if you go into your night out expecting things to get wild — say, you're planning to go out for margaritas and you think tequila makes you turnt — they're more likely to go that way. Yep, the placebo effect is a powerful thing.
Then there are the aftereffects of a night that's heavy on the margaritas. Does drinking fishbowl levels of sugary drinks make you feel even worse the next day than if you'd stuck with other beverages? Science says yes — but don't blame the sugar. One factor is that, with cocktails, you're likely consuming more alcohol more quickly than if you were sticking to a single-liquor drink, and more booze is a recipe for a hangover whether or not you're mixing liquors. And, of course, sugary mixers — we see you, Jose Cuervo — mask the taste of alcohol. That could encourage you to drink more without realizing just how much alcohol you're really consuming, which is something we kind of suck at estimating anyways.
Luckily, the ol' placebo effect also holds true for hangover cures. Whatever works for you, stick to it tomorrow morning.