Choosing the best tipple just got a lot easier as there is now a league table of the healthiest alcoholic drinks.
Top of the list is red wine, which decades of evidence suggests may – in moderation, of course – be good for the heart.
But more surprisingly, second choice for the health-conscious is craft cider.
The bad news for those who cannot resist a gin and tonic is that this is the least healthy choice, along with all spirits, including vodka and whisky.
The list was compiled by the nutrition expert Tim Spector, who is professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, and who analysed data on more than 20 popular drinks.
Top of the list of healthiest alcoholic drinks is red wine, which decades of evidence suggests may – in moderation, of course – be good for the heart
They were judged for polyphenols – plant compounds which are good for the gut and reduce inflammation in the body, which is linked to poor health in older people.
Red wine, unlike white wine, has the grape skins left in during most of the fermentation process, so has high levels of polyphenols from the fruit used to make it.
Artisan or craft cider, made with apples or pears, can contain as many polyphenols as red wine, Professor Spector said.
It means a daily glass of red wine, or a 330ml bottle of small batch cider, are among the best choices. Next best is white wine, followed by beer and then spirits, which tend to be more alcoholic and have any polyphenols killed off during distillation.
Professor Spector said: ‘I would not advise people who do not drink alcohol to take it up, but this evidence could help people decide the healthiest options for drinking in moderation. Lately, artisanal cider has had a boom in popularity, rather like craft beer, so many people might enjoy drinking it with their health in mind.
‘Red wine has a lot of evidence linking it with heart benefits, although this is still debated, as is the perfect amount.
‘There are so many myths around alcohol, like vodka being better than gin, or some drinks being better to avoid weight gain, so this may help.’
Cheap branded beer and cider appear to be similar to ultra-processed foods, with some of the health benefits lost in the production process.
Spirits, as well as being short on polyphenols, are often drunk with sugary mixers, such as lemonade or cola, which cause blood sugar spikes.
The bad news for those who cannot resist a gin and tonic is that this is the least healthy choice, along with all spirits, including vodka and whisky
The diet-tracking app Zoe, created by Professor Spector, says they are drinks better to enjoy occasionally, while beer is advised in moderation. He also recommends kombucha, a fermented tea containing up to 40 live microbes, which is good for gut health and low in alcohol.
Red wine is the only drink that scored well as being more suitable to enjoy regularly, although experts note that everyone responds differently to alcohol.
A large study in 2020, involving people in the US and Belgium, and led by King’s College London, found people who drank red wine had a wider range of gut bacteria, which is linked to better gut health.
For those who do not like red wine, it could be worth considering a rosé, which tends to be in contact with grape skins for longer than a white wine.
Professor Spector’s top six drinks are: Red wine, craft cider, rosé wine, white wine, beer, spirits.