When we were younger, many of us would be looking for ways to get drunk quicker (some of us may still be doing that after a barney with the wife or husband!).
It might have been because you hadn’t quite acquired the taste for beer, maybe a lack of funds to buy more beer, or simply just a party game of “who can get drunk quickest?”
One method that has been recommended to many of us is drinking through a straw. It may not look cool or sophisticated but it seemed to work, or so we thought.
You would never see the suave James Bond drinking his shaken not stirred martini through a Day-Glo fluorescent bendy straw (but why would James Bond be trying to get drunk quicker anyhow?).
Does drinking beer through a straw get you drunk quicker? Are there any benefits to drinking beer through a straw? Are there any downsides to drinking beer through a straw? And finally, why would anyone drink beer through a hot dog straw (more on that later)?
Does Drinking Beer With a Straw Get You Drunk Quicker?
Let’s start with the most important question first, and I can say unequivocally the answer is no, Drinking beer with straws does not get you drunk any more quickly than drinking from a glass or a bottle.
There’s absolutely no scientific evidence to suggest using a straw with beer will affect your levels of intoxication.
Although a recent study has found drinking stronger drinks like rum, tequila, and whiskey through a straw increases the blood alcohol concentration significantly quicker after a 30-minute period, there was no evidence of the same effect for beer or wine with their lower alcohol content.
So where did this urban myth grow from? And why do so many of us still feel drinking beer through a straw used to get us drunk quicker?
The Straw Theory
The Straw Theory, from which this myth grew, assumes that drinking beer with a straw will somehow create a vacuum that displaces oxygen and allows you to get drunk much more quickly.
As you inhale, you will be eliminating the air from the straw, therefore, forcing the beer into the straw and allowing it to be consumed much more quickly. Additionally, you are inhaling the alcohol vapors of the beer directly into your lungs, which are thought to absorb the alcohol more quickly causing you to get drunk.
Due to the fact that there is no scientific or medical evidence to support this theory, it’s safe to say it’s not true but merely an assumption. Even the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and the popular TV show Mythbusters agreed that sipping beer through a straw doesn’t make you drunk quicker.
Drinking Through a Straw Is Quicker – Myth
Although you may be able to drink cocktails or spirits loaded with ice much more quickly through a straw, the same is rare for beer.
Have you ever tried drinking a pint through a straw? It can be hard work, and easier to give up halfway through and just throw the beer down your neck the traditional way.
Some would argue that using a straw to drink beer allows you to drink more without realizing it. As you will only feel a slight splash of bubbles on your tongue, you will be tempted to sip more and faster.
You may get drunk faster this way, but as a result of drinking too much and actually very little to do with the straw.
Again throwing a beer down your neck quickly from the glass or bottle will have the same effect.
I’ve seen people who can down a pint in less than 5 seconds when they try. There’s also an English tradition of the ‘yard of ale’ glass, where you pour a beer down your neck in one go! Both of which will increase your alcohol consumption and get you drunker.
When drinking beer through a straw, the difference in absorption rate is negligible so it doesn’t make that much difference if you drink your beer with a straw, from a glass, or straight from the bottle.
The Carbonation Levels of Beer
In truth, the reason most people believe you get drunk quicker drinking beer with a straw is more likely to do with the high level of carbon dioxide found in some beers, and nothing to do with the displacement of oxygen.
Carbon dioxide, the gas which makes the bubbles in your beer, is known to hasten the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream.
Those high levels of carbonation will however be present in a beer whether you drink it through a straw or from any other vessel, like a glass or a can.
Are There Any Benefits to Drinking Beer Through a Straw?
Although drinking beer through a straw may not cause you to get drunk quicker, there are a few advantages of using a straw. Don’t go ditching that flexible straw just yet.
Apart from the aesthetic qualities of a straw, it can be a good way of reducing spillage. When talking with others it can be much easier to tilt your head around and be engaged in multiple conversations at once without holding a glass to your face at all times.
And if your beer has ice cubes in (God forbid!) then you don’t have to keep tilting the glass back to get those very last drops of beer out of the glass.
For those of you who like to sport lipstick, using a beer straw is going to help keep it unblemished, and not leave that bright red ring around the rim of the glass. Some of the oils and waxes found in lipstick will often cause the beer to go flat in the glass in much the same way as the grease from fatty foods can.
For people with disabilities, a straw can also be a good way of improving their drinking experience. If somebody has impaired motor senses, drinking from a cup can be challenging, or perhaps even swallowing may be difficult. Using a straw is helpful as it allows them to drink beer more easily and still feel included.
Sometimes when visiting a bar or a club, there is a strong probability the glass you are being served your beer in has been used by many others that same night. Especially when busy, not all bars and clubs correctly wash or handle the glasses all the time.
How often have you had to return a glass because it has lipstick on the rim or even worse big greasy fingerprints down the side? (Or maybe I’m just going to the wrong clubs and bars!)
Using a straw is much more sanitary and will cut down your contact with harmful bacteria.
Often, aluminum cans or bottles may be stored in dusty environments and sometimes places where rodents may defecate on them (yuk!). Placing your mouth directly on the can or around the neck of a bottle may expose you to bacteria which can be harmful to your health.
Straw sipping avoids the need for any contact, however, you could also use an anti-bacterial wipe or gel just as easily to clean the container. The COVID outbreak has ensured there are plenty of those about.
Although most of the sugars in beer have turned into alcohol, some adjuncts added to popular beers, especially fruit-based beers, can result in leftover sugars in the beer. Additionally darker beers like Stouts or Porters can often stain your teeth when drinking from a glass.
If you want to keep your teeth healthy and pearly white then a straw can help avoid too much contact with the beer or any other mixed drinks you may enjoy.
What Are The Disadvantages of Drinking Beer With a Straw?
Don’t go out buying a bulk pack of plastic straws just yet! It’s not all good news, there are some downsides both for your health and the environment.
Health Effects of Drinking With a Straw
The most common side effects of drinking through a straw are stomach upset, nausea, and bloating. Drinking with a straw captures air that will travel through your digestive tract causing bloating and gas.
With the high levels of carbonation in many beers, drinking beer through a straw might not be the best idea for people who already suffer from upset stomachs, acid reflux, or bloating.
The chance of another syndrome known as smoker’s lips can also be increased by the continuous use of straws to drink your beer. Drinking through a straw means puckering your lips, pretty much like a smoker, which, over time, can cause wrinkles to appear around the corners of your lips.
Although there has been a big push in recent years for eco-friendly straws, many bars and other outlets still offer single-use plastic straws.
Straws made with plastic on the whole tend to be non-biodegradable, wasteful, and can often be made with some toxic chemicals. They are not the best choice for sipping your beer when there are biodegradable straws and much more preferable alternatives.
One of the most popular options are bamboo straws which are plant-based and can be easily recycled. A durable straw, bamboo has far fewer negative impacts on both your health and the environment.
Other alternatives to plastic straws include:
- Grass straws
- Paper straws
- Silicone Straws
- Glass Straws
- Metal straws (often reusable and in handy pocket containers to take out with you)
- Hay Straws
- Corn straws
- Edible straws including meat straws (see below)
Although some of these alternative straws may also have their disadvantages, on the whole, they are much healthier than using a plastic straw, and you are helping to save the planet too.
The Hot-Dog Beer Straw
We can’t finish our discussion of drinking beer with a straw without mentioning one of the more bizarre straw-and-beer stories out there.
A viral video was uploaded to Twitter by the famed film director Nicolas Heller showing a Yankees fan using a makeshift straw fashioned out of his hot dog to drink ballpark beer from his cup.
Although the Yankees beat the Mets for their second win in a row, more attention was paid to the hot dog straw guy, with over 3 million views on Twitter just two hours after the game.
Opinion was divided on whether the hot-dog beer straw video was a work of inspired genius or just some sicko idea. Although a hot dog straw may be natural, contain none of the harmful toxins of plastic straws, and is definitely biodegradable (you eat it!), I’m not sure I would personally try or recommend such a meaty straw!
Beer With a Straw – The Takeaway
Is it okay to drink your beer with a straw? That depends on you!
Let’s start with the most obvious – Drinking beer with a straw DOES NOT get you drunker, or get you drunk quicker. The beer is still the same drink when you add a straw, it still has the same alcohol content and the same effect on getting you drunk as drinking from a glass, a bottle, or a can.
Drinking beer with a straw doesn’t generally speed up how quickly you are drinking a beer (unless, of course, you are using a straw to shotgun a bottle of beer) so it won’t shorten the time it takes to get you drunk.
Although there are a few benefits of drinking with a straw, they are outweighed by the disadvantages to both your health (bloating, acid reflux, etc) and to the environment.
If you feel you must use a straw to drink your beer, try to use a biodegradable option or reusable straw such as a bamboo or stainless steel straw. Just don’t go down the hot dog straw route, please!