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How Much Vodka To Get Drunk?

Charl Joost
Last Updated: February 23rd, 2023

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“You’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.” – Dean Martin

Everyone enjoys the warm, happy glow, the sense of joie de vivre, and the euphoria that a couple of drinks can instill in us. No one enjoys feeling depressed, confused, disoriented, or talking at length on the Great White Telephone.

And then there’s the hangover!

Key to not crossing that all-too-thin white line is figuring out your own particular, personal rate of alcohol absorption.

We will look at the popular drink and give you the answer to the question “how much vodka to get drunk?”:

Vodka, The ‘Little Water’

vodka the little water

Vodka (the word means ‘little water’) is a mixture of water and alcohol traditionally distilled from fermented cereal grains like wheat, maize, barley, rice, and oats. The Irish make alcohol very similar to vodka from potatoes, called poitín (pronounced puh-cheen).

Since 1893, It has had a recognized Alcohol by Volume (ABV) of 40%, which makes it roughly ten times stronger than beer.

When not served ice-cold, it is the central ingredient in a host of cocktails and mixed drinks, viz. the Bloody Mary, the vodka martini, and Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski’s favorite beverage, a White Russian (vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream mixed to taste).

First Things First

Alcohol’s effect is strongest in the evening, after a hard day’s work, then it is in the morning when you first wake up after a full night’s sleep.

Young people absorb alcohol faster than older people so they don’t get drunk as quickly. Nor do the effects last as long.

Your age, gender, height, how much fat and muscle you’re carrying, and even your race and ethnicity factor into how quickly you get drunk! Everything except the color of your eyes, and it’s probably just a matter of time before they find a link there, too.


Men’s bodies by and large (that was not a pun), contain more muscle mass, less fat, and more water than women’s. Men don’t get drunk as quickly because their alcohol is literally diluted – evenly distributed throughout their bloodstreams.

Because women have more fat – and fat takes up more space than muscle – women’s bodies hold less water. Women get drunk quicker because their alcohol is more concentrated, contained as it is in a smaller volume.

At least, that’s the theory. In reality, it works out a little bit differently, but it’s a useful rule-of-thumb.

This all changes after menopause, however, when their ability to absorb alcohol slows down along with their changing estrogen levels.

Male or female, regular, heavy drinking can build up a remarkable tolerance. Alcoholics who start drinking again after decades of sobriety can consume as much on day one as they did just before they gave up with no slurred speech or loss of coordination. In fact, they hardly seem drunk at all.

While the lack of negative side-effects might sound like a bonus, the downside is that they don’t feel the benefits either: no generosity of spirit, no gladness of soul, no overwhelming gratitude for simply being alive!

Race And Ethnicity

race and ethnicity

Alcoholism is less common in East Asia and Polynesia than it is in Europe because of two protective alleles. (An allele is an alternative version of a gene).

Another allele common to people of Asian extraction causes adverse reactions to alcohol that include facial flushing, headaches from high blood pressure, and nausea.

American Indians and indigenous Alaskans are prone to alcoholism, not because of a genetic predisposition per se, but because of a variation in the genes that express two key enzymes -alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) – causes them to metabolize alcohol differently.

The Goldilocks Zone

A Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level of 0.08% is the legal limit in most countries as far as driving is concerned.

0.08% is the percentage at which you start to feel the adverse effects of alcohol. Both your coordination and your judgment are seriously impaired. Plain to see why you shouldn’t be driving a car at this point.

0.02% is when your mood changes and you start to relax. At 0.05%, you become euphoric and start to lose your inhibitions.

Clearly then, this is our Goldilocks Zone: a blood alcohol level of somewhere between 0.03% and 0.06%.

According to the National Institutes of Health, two large tots (1.5 fluid ounces) or three small (1oz) of 80-proof alcohol like vodka (Yes, I know it’s confusing. Proof is the ABV doubled) in the space of an hour-and-a-half will raise your BAC to something approaching 0.06.

Staying In The Goldilocks Zone

staying in the goldilocks zone

Eat something! That’s what my grandmother always used to say: “Eat something!”

Alcohol isn’t digested, it goes from your gut straight into your bloodstream. But if it’s all mixed up with food, that process takes a lot longer.

Don’t drink standing up. Your increased heart rate will only get you drunk sooner. Drink sitting down but know that you’re not going to feel the full effects of the alcohol you’ve imbibed until you get up and walk around.

Oh, and while you’re up, get us a chocolate bar and a bag of chips from the vending machine. You’ll thank me later.

Drink water. If you’ve got a thirst, you’re not going to slake it with alcohol. Quite the reverse, in fact. Alcohol dehydrates you. So just as the Italians drink water alongside their espressos, ask for bottled water along with your vodka and sip it between drinks.

There’s one last thing we can do if we feel ourselves slipping over the edge: drink coke or apple juice. Both contain corn syrup, the main ingredient of which is fructose, and fructose has been proven to not only reduce how long we stay drunk by 30%, but will also increase the rate at which we eliminate alcohol from our systems by as much as 45%.

When All Else Fails

If you can afford to drink, you can afford a ride-sharing service. There’s really no excuse anymore to drive drunk.

In Other Words…

  • To get the best experience of a drink like vodka, limit yourself to three 1oz tots in the first hour-and-a-half;
  • Intersperse your shots with food to slow down absorption and water to offset dehydration;
  • Get up and walk around from time to time to gauge how drunk you really are;
  • Drink a can of coke or apple juice between shots to speed up how quickly alcohol leaves your system.

How Much Vodka To Get Drunk – FAQ

Is it true that charcoal capsules can cure a hangover?

Clinical trials have found no evidence of this. It’s safe to assume that charcoal capsules are a waste of money.

Which hangover cures are the best?

There is no such thing as a hangover cure. The best you can do is drink lots of water and treat symptoms like headaches with small doses of over-the-counter painkillers.

Is it true that you can’t smell vodka on someone’s breath?

Yes, it’s true. Vodka is odorless and tasteless. If you can smell anything on a vodka drinker’s breath, it’s the hops used to make the vodka.

About The Author

Charl Joost

Charl is a trainer, public speaker, and professional writer. While he has been coached to niche down, he has many passions. These include golf, gardening, technology, and a decent cup of coffee or two. Charl loves to learn about new products and tries everything he writes about.

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