Christmas Cheers – A Guide to Better Alcohol Choices

Getting into the Christmas cheers? These guidelines for Sensible Indulgence this Christmas might help you make better alcohol choices for fewer hangovers and less headaches.

About Hangovers and Reactions

Hangovers, headaches and bad reactions to alcohol are usually caused by:

  1. dehydration
  2. congeners – impurities produced during fermentation, giving the drink it’s taste, colour and aroma. More congeners = a worse hangover
  3. preservatives – e.g. sulphites, can trigger asthma, stuffy nose, sinus congestion, headaches, irritable bowel, behaviour disturbance and skin rashes.

Five Tips for Minimising Hangovers and Reactions

  1. Reduce dehydration – space alcohol with water and drink water before bed.
  2. Minimize reactions – choosing drinks with minimal preservatives or congeners.
  3. Sensitive to sulphites? Choose wines from small regional producers who tank between 5,000 and 10,000L. They generally have better control of preservatives.
  4. Reduce calories and sugar intake by mixing drinks with soda/mineral water, or drinking less.
  5. Boost antioxidants by swapping soft drink mixers for cranberry/pomegranate juice.

What to Choose – a Rough Guide

Alcoholic drinks are marked “ok”, “not so good” and “best to avoid” based on the above. One standard drink contains 10g of alcohol.

OK CHOICES (In moderation):

Drink and normal serving size Standard drinks* Alcohol (and calories) Information
150 mL of good quality champagne and sparkling wine 1.4 s.d. 12%  (106) Polyphenol antioxidants may protect against neural damage
150 mL of Rose from sangiovese or grenach grapes 1.5 s.d. 8.6% (102) Low alcohol summer style wine with less sugar than other rose
150 mL of Good quality red wine 1.5 s.d. 13% (117) Some beneficial antioxidants, good quality wine has less added sulphites, fewer congeners**
150 mL of Good quality white wine 1.4 s.d. 11.5% (105) Good quality white wine has less added sulphites, fewer congeners**
30 mL nip of Vodka or gin mixed with soda (no calories) 1 s.d. 40% (64) Less congeners than dark spirits. Less sugar than many other drinks
375 mL can or stubby of Preservative free beer: Full (F), Mid (M) and Light (L) Strength F = 1.4 s.d.

M = 1 s.d.

L = 0.8 s.d.

F: 4.8% (135)

M: 3.5% (90)

L: 2.7% (94)

Contains some vitamins and protein
60 mL Top quality sake 1 s.d. 16% (80) Brewed, not fermented. Free of sulfites, congeners, additives and preservatives



Drink and normal serving size Standard drinks* Alcohol (and calories) Information
30 mL nip of Dark rum & whisky 1 s.d. 40% (66) Higher levels of congeners. Cheaper brands also contain added colour. Added sugar and calories when mixed with coke
30 mL nip of Scotch & light rum 1 s.d. 40% (66) Relatively high levels of congeners – worse when mixed with soft drinks
150 mL of Cheap red wine 1.5 s.d. 13% (117) High-level congeners and sulphites
150 mL of Cheap white wine & cheap sparkling wine 1.4 s.d. 11.5% (105) High-level of added sulphites
30 mL nip of Tequila/Brandy 1 s.d. 40% (66) Highest levels on congeners


Liqueurs are traditionally intended to compliment bitter coffee at the end of a meal. You’re liable to feel very sick the next day if you drink large quantities.

Drink and normal serving size Standard drinks* Alcohol (and calories) Information
30 mL of Liqueurs such as Midori, Crème de Menthe, Amaretto, Malibu and Kahlua. 1 s.d. 40% (66) Loaded in sugar, colours and artificial flavouring
40 mL of Baileys 0.6 s.d. 17% (130) Added cream, preservatives, colour and flavor, 36% fat content



Try to avoid at all cost!

Drink and normal serving size Standard drinks* Alcohol (and calories) Information
375 mL can of alcopop

(pre-mixed spirits)

1 – 2 s.d. 4.5 – 7%

(214 – 260)


Loaded with sugar, colour, flavour and preservatives.

Christmas Cocktail

35 ml vodka
1 tbs crushed ice
½ tbs lime juice
35 ml pom lite pomegranate juice
35 ml sparkling mineral water

Fill glass with crushed ice and pour on the vodka, top up with lime juice, pom lite and sparkling mineral water. Try adding some pomegranate seeds for an extra twist.

This article is adapted from an article by Judy Davie. Information on organic wines from Mogo Cellars.

Melanie White

Melanie White

Chief Inspiration Coach

I’m a quirky scientist and a Health and Wellness Coach who helps 35+ women to understand and eat right for their body type.