Turns Out Spirits Aren’t the Best Way to Warm Up on a Cold Day

Alcohol might make you colder, in fact

Drinking in winter
Drinking in winter has a definite appeal — but it won't make you warmer.
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If you’re fond of a good cocktail or tasty spirit, the allure of either one can be especially strong on a cold winter’s day. It isn’t hard to see why; drinks and warmth are associated in countless ways in culture, from lifting a glass after a day of skiing to enjoying a single malt before a roaring fire. All of these experiences are, in fact, perfectly enjoyable — but it turns out that alcohol itself isn’t going to warm you up. Quite the opposite, in fact.

That’s the big takeaway from a recent Washington Post article by Lindsey Bever. Bever explored the science of booze and body temperature, and found that the conventional wisdom is wrong: alcohol will actually cool you down rather than warming you up.

As Stanford University’s Keith Humphreys told Bever, drinking alcohol sends blood to your skin, which has a perceptible effect. “Your skin is actually getting warmer, and that feels good,” Humphreys told the Post. But there’s a downside to that: when blood goes to your skin, it moves away from your internal organs — and that, in turn, makes them colder. Bever also cites the work of experts who point to the effects of alcohol on the hypothalamus, impeding its its ability to regulate the body’s temperature.

An Argument for a Late-Winter Visit to Portland, Maine
Instead of fighting the crowds who flood this New England town during the summer, pack a warm coat and have it all to yourself now

This might be hard to process, especially if you grew up with tales of friendly dogs making their way across the Alps to rescue skiers, barrels of booze in tow. As Wayne Curtis noted in a 2018 article at The Daily Beast, this never happened in real life. Dogs are friendly and booze is tasty — but if you’re looking to stay warm outside on a cold day, a well-made jacket or coat is your best bet.


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