Tag Archives: Asian flush reaction

Beer, wine, and sake and how they affect me

I’m not a big drinker.  I occasionally like a drink, but I never feel like I need a drink.  However, I have developed my own preferences for different kinds of alcoholic beverages.  So, I started thinking about how three different drinks affect me.  They all have alcohol in them, but I react differently to each one.


This is the staple alcoholic drink of many countries, including my home country of Canada and my adopted country of Japan.  When people go out drinking, most will drink beer.  Beer in Japan is very similar to beer in Canada.  I would describe it mainly as a lager type beer.  With an average alcohol content of 5 to 5.5%, this beverage has the lowest level of alcohol of these three.

I like beer, but I find that the last bit in the glass is so bitter that it makes me shudder a bit.  I don’t do well with strong bitterness.  But the more I drink, the easier it gets.  It takes a lot of beer to really affect me.  A glass does very little.  I start to feel it after 2 glasses, but after 4 or 5, I have trouble walking completely straight.  The alcohol in beer sneaks up on me.  It slowly affects me, and it slowly goes away.  It leaves me with an unpleasant aftertaste.  But I still like beer.


I’m not a big wine drinker.  In fact, I can count the number of times I’ve had wine on one hand.  My first experience with wine wasn’t very positive.  I just didn’t like the taste.  I had wine tonight.  It was decent.  It was like dry, alcoholic grape juice.  It wasn’t so fruity, but it was quite dry.  What I drank was a red Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina with a 13.5% alcohol content.  I only drank 2 glasses, and when I was finished, I still didn’t feel the alcohol.

So, how does wine’s alcohol affect me?  It takes a while for it to show itself.  About 50 minutes after starting to drink it, I could finally feel it a bit.  Since I had only 2 glasses, it wasn’t really much.  I felt a little lightheaded, and the feeling kept growing for about half an hour.  It seems like wine’s alcohol has a delayed reaction for me.  Within an hour, I felt nothing from the alcohol.


Japanese rice wine, or sake/nihonshu, is my biggest alcoholic love.  I absolutely love this stuff!  Hakkaizan from Niigata prefecture is my favourite at the moment.  With an alcohol content of 15%, this has the highest level of alcohol of the three drinks.  It also tastes the best, in my opinion.  While beer’s bitterness makes it a bit unpleasant for me, and tonight’s experience with wine was similar, sake goes down so smooth.

It is very easy to drink, yet it is the strongest.  Even if I drink it slowly, the alcohol goes to my head very quickly.  Even the dry sake is easy to drink.  I don’t feel that it’s bitter, which is a bonus.  The alcohol affects me quickly, but I recover very quickly, and I don’t feel the alcohol within a couple of hours.  Although it has a higher alcohol content than beer, its effect is much shorter for me.  And I don’t have any kind of bad aftertaste.  It seems that sake is the perfect alcoholic drink for me.


While beer is the cheapest, and I drink it the most, it isn’t my favourite.  I think my level of satisfaction with the flavour is on par with wine.  Sake wins in all aspects other than price.  It is the best tasting, the easiest to recover from, and the most satisfying experience.

Of course, alcohol affects different people differently.  I’ve noticed that many Japanese people can’t handle alcohol very well, and this has a good explanation.  Most Asian people have an enzyme that prevents the efficient metabolisation of alcohol in their bodies, so it makes them drunk faster.  I have 3 or 4 drinks with little effect on me, while many Japanese people turn red-faced with only one drink.  This is known as Asian flush reaction.  It’s amazing how most people in Japan can’t handle alcohol well, yet it’s very common to go drinking with colleagues and bosses every week. But some people have such low alcohol tolerance that they can’t drink alcohol at all.  It makes them feel sick with just a little bit to drink.

As I said before, I don’t have much experience with wine, but I am interested in trying different kinds.  What’s your favourite kind of alcohol?