Spirits with a high ethanol content may be less likely to cause GERD symptoms than beer, wine, or certain mixers.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic medical condition caused by the inability of the lower part of the esophagus to function properly.

As a result, the acid and contents from your stomach back up, repeatedly irritating the more delicate tissue of the esophagus. This results in a burning sensation in the chest (often called heartburn) and irritation of the esophagus.

According to a 2019 review, drinking alcohol can increase the risk of developing GERD. Researchers found that higher intake and frequency were more strongly linked with GERD.

However, a 2022 review found that drinking 3 or fewer alcoholic beverages a week may be associated with GERD.

As such, healthcare professionals often recommend that people who are prone to acid reflux or living with GERD limit or avoid drinking alcohol altogether.

Researchers have conducted several studies to determine which types of alcohol seem to aggravate symptoms more than others, but the results have been inconclusive.

It’s still unclear whether one type of alcohol may be better than another for people with GERD.

Alcohol appears to interact with the stomach and esophagus on a variety of levels. This can lead to acid reflux and the irritation of GERD symptoms in certain people.

Beer and wine

A small 2006 study examined the effects of beer and wine on acid reflux. Researchers asked 25 participants to drink a serving of white wine, beer, or water and then measured if each drink increased reflux.

The researchers found that beer and wine triggered reflux in men and women compared to drinking water only.

Research published in 2008 found that drinking wine could reduce the risk of reflux esophagitis or irritation of the esophageal lining.

However, a 2010 review noted that red and white wine increases the acid produced in your stomach. This could increase the risk of worsening reflux.


Older research from 1993 suggests that spirits with a high ethanol content, like gin, whiskey, and cognac, may be better for people with acid reflux.

High-proof spirits are less likely to stimulate stomach acid secretion than drinks with lower ethanol content.

Spirits with a lower pH level, such as tequila and non-grain vodka, may also be good options.

There are some general tips that everyone with GERD can follow to lower their chances of feeling any alcohol-related reflux symptoms. These include the following:

  • Limit yourself to just one drink: One serving is equivalent to a 12-ounce regular beer, 8-9 ounces of malt liquor, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or one 1.5-ounce pour of distilled liquor.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol 2-3 hours before bed: Lying flat immediately after drinking can increase the risk that you’ll experience acid reflux at night. This is because alcohol can relax the lower part of the esophagus, making it easier for your stomach acid to back up.
  • Keep a journal of all the foods and drinks you consume: If you spot a pattern between drinking a certain beverage and your symptoms, cutting back may minimize your GERD symptoms.

You may also consider what you’re mixing with your alcohol. Some people mix orange juice or carbonated beverages with their liquor.

These nonalcoholic beverages are also known to aggravate acid reflux. Switching to a low-acid fruit juice like apple or carrot juice or mixing a drink with water may help reduce your GERD symptoms.

Some people also smoke cigarettes while drinking. Tobacco use is linked to acid reflux and the development of GERD. This is because tobacco can stimulate stomach acid and cause the muscles between the esophagus and stomach to relax. Tobacco can also directly damage cells of the esophagus and stomach.

When combined with alcohol, it’s easier for cancer-causing substances from smoking to enter these cells. This combination, along with untreated GERD, further increases the risk of cancer of the esophagus.

GERD is a chronic condition that causes uncomfortable and even painful symptoms. It can be aggravated by certain foods and drinks in your diet. One known contributor is alcohol, but it doesn’t affect everyone the same way.

Some research has shown that alcohol reduces acid reflux symptoms, while other research has found it heightens them. By identifying your individual triggers for acid reflux, you can choose if you would prefer to avoid wine, beer, or liquor as a way to reduce your acid reflux symptoms and decrease your likelihood of GERD.