What Types of Beer and Wine Have Caffeine?

There are a couple beers and wines that contain caffeine, such as the famous beverages Sparks and Four Loko that are technically beer.

Coffee stouts and porters have also been gaining popularity in recent years. Caffeinated wine is still uncommon however, with only Buckfast being the most notable example of caffeinated wine.

We’ll discuss all of the above examples below, as well discuss alcohol and caffeine’s effect on the body when mixed.

Neither beer or wine are naturally caffeinated. The main ingredients of beer are hops, yeast, grains and water, none of which contain caffeine.

The three main ingredients of wine are grapes, yeast, and water and they don’t contain caffeine either. However, although not traditionally found in these drinks, caffeine can still be added to them. Still, it’s a rarity to find caffeine in these drinks and it remains an unpopular combination. 

Alcohol and caffeine isn’t a new thing, as popular energy drink RedBull contains caffeine and is often mixed with vodka or Jagermeister. There’s also Irish coffee that mixes coffee with cream and whiskey. Long Island Iced Teas are another alcohol beverage that contains caffeine in the form of Coca-Cola.

If we look back in history, we find some truly wild combinations of alcohol and caffeine. Coca wines were on the market before Coca Cola was a thing. These beverages were a combination of wine and – yep, you guessed it – cocaine.

Vin Mariani was the most famous of these wines, and was made in Corsica. It may have been what inspired ‘Pemberton’s French Wine Coca,’ the predecessor of Coca Cola. Coca was outlawed in the US in 1914.

Meanwhile, Mariani – the man behind the drink – died the same year and took the recipe to his grave, meaning that the combination of wine and cocaine died with him.

So while there isn’t a huge market for caffeinated wines and beers, that doesn’t mean they don’t still exist. Let’s take a closer look at some of them. 

Caffeinated Beers

If you asked beer fans if they thought there was caffeine in their favorite drink, they would say no. After all, very few beers list the caffeine content of their beers because, well, unless it’s caffeinated why would they?

But coffee-flavored beers of course have caffeine in them. After all, for a coffee flavored beer you need to brew it with coffee, thereby adding caffeine into the mix.

The amount of caffeine contained in each coffee-flavored beer varies, but for the most part it’s very low at around 2.5mg per can. To put that into perspective, a double espresso contains around 80mg of caffeine, while a large filter coffee can contain as much as 200mg of caffeine.

So if you drank a dozen cans of coffee stout you wouldn’t really get much of a caffeine buzz. While there may be some caffeinated beers with a higher caffeine content, it will always be very low in comparison to coffee.

Four Loko and Sparks are probably the most famous caffeinated beers. If you’ve never heard of caffeinated beer before, chances are you still would’ve heard of these drinks.

Sparks seems to be the first beer to combine caffeine and alcohol. It was marketed as an ‘energy drink’ made from malted barley but that was also alcoholic.

Sparks barely passed as a beer because while it is made from the same ingredients as beer such as yeast, malted barley, and water, it’s missing hops (although beer still can be made without this ingredient). Sparks was both high in alcohol (eventually peaking at 8%) and packed with caffeine.

Sparks was released in 2002, while Four Loko didn’t hit shelves until 2005. This was also a drink that just about qualified as a beer, and was high in alcohol but also incredibly high in caffeine.

Due to media outcry, both Four Loko and Sparks had to make tweaks to their recipes. What was this outcry? That these energy-drink-beer hybrids were being marketed towards children.

Both drinks are still available to buy today but without the caffeine. Another source of backlash came from the US government, who were displeased that the drinks were combining alcohol in drinks with high caffeine content.

Caffeinated Wine

Buckfast dates back to 1890, and the Buckfast Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery in Devon England. The monks there began to develop a health tonic inspired by a recipe that they brought with them from France.

The recipe was modified in the early 20th century and Buckfast Health Tonic was renamed Buckfast Wine. Minor tweaks have been made to the recipe over the years, but as it currently stands the recipe contains around 15% alcohol and has the same caffeine content as Redbull. 

It’s known for getting you drunk fairly quickly, and is often linked to anti-social behaviour committed by those who drink it. 

Is Mixing Caffeine And Alcohol Bad?

Mixing caffeine and alcohol isn’t considered a good idea, and there are a few reasons as to why that is. Below we’ll talk about the effects of combining caffeine and alcohol.

Caffeine is a stimulant that makes you feel alert and awake, while alcohol is a depressant that makes you sleepy and less responsive. In other words, it makes you less alert.

When stimulants are combined with depressants, the stimulant may mask the effects of the depressant. So combining caffeine may conceal depressant effects of the alcohol, making you feel more alert and energetic than you usually would when drinking.

Some people believe drinking caffeine on top of alcohol will sober them up, but that’s not the case. 

Drinking some caffeine may wake you up and make you feel more alert, but it won’t affect your blood alcohol level or the way your body removes alcohol from its system. 

A big risk of mixing caffeine and alcohol is that you don’t feel the full effects of the alcohol. Not only does this lead to you drinking more than you normally would, but engaging in risky behaviour like driving while intoxicated. It could also lead to you hurting yourself, or suffering with alcohol poisoning.

So if mixing caffeine and alcohol is generally not recommended, what about energy drinks?

Drinks like Monster, Redbull, and Rockstar are highly caffeinated energy drinks that often contain lots of sugar and additional stimulants. 

Every energy drink will contain different levels of caffeine. According to the FDA, energy drinks can have between 40 and 250 mg of caffeine in them. To put that into perspective, brewed coffee of that amount has between 95 and 165mg of caffeine.

Energy drinks often come in 16-ounce cans too, meaning that the amount of caffeine in one energy drink is more likely to be 80 to 500 mg. 

Recently, scientists have begun to delve deeper into the effects of mixing energy drinks with alcohol. Some findings have indeed found that mixing alcohol and caffeine does increase the risk of over-drinking and sustaining injuries while intoxicated.

But while mixing alcohol and caffeine definitely has its risks and isn’t recommended, some combinations are safer than others. While mixing the two could lead to over-drinking thanks to the effects of alcohol being masked by caffeine, what about mixing alcohol with drinks that have a lower caffeine content than energy drinks?

Well, this doesn’t eliminate the risk completely but it does reduce it somewhat. 

For example, a rum and Coke made with one shot of rum contains between 30 and 40 mg of caffeine. This is significantly less than a RedBull with a shot of vodka which may contain between 80 to 160 mg of caffeine.

Still, enjoying an Irish Coffee every now and then won’t hurt you. Just like with anything else, moderation is key. You should also always be mindful of both the alcohol and caffeine content.

Caffeine stays in your system for five to six hours, gradually decreasing over time, so if you drink a caffeinated drink within a few hours of drinking alcohol, you still run the risk of not feeling the full effects of alcohol. But the caffeine content of coffee or tea differs according to how they’re prepared. 

For example, drinking 14 ounces of cold-brew coffee before drinking alcohol is not recommended, but a 6-ounce cup of green tea will have little effect. 

But are there any symptoms you should watch out for if you mix alcohol and caffeine?

Alcohol and caffeine are diuretics which means they’ll make you want to urinate more often. Therefore, dehydration is a concern when mixing caffeine and alcohol. Dehydration can also cause you to pass dark urine. Other symptoms of dehydration include a dry mouth, feeling dizzy, and of course, feeling thirsty. 

Still, the biggest concern is the overconsumption of alcohol. This can give you a pretty severe hangover or even worse, alcohol poisoning. 

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include feeling confused and unable to think clearly, being unresponsive, vomiting, breathing irregularly (taking more than 10 seconds between each breath), your breathing slowing down (breathing less than 8 times in a minute), slow heart rate, passing out and having difficulty waking up or staying conscious, clammy or pale skin, severe loss of coordination, or even seizures.

Alcohol poisoning is serious, and if somebody you’re with displays any of these symptoms and you fear they’ve had too much to drink, always seek emergency medical attention.

Caffeine can have a deceptive effect on the body when mixed with alcohol, making you feel less drunk and more alert than you actually are. This can lead to over-drinking or engaging in activities that are dangerous when drunk, such as driving. 

Conclusion

While it’s recommended to stay away from drinks that mix alcohol and caffeine, a rum and coke every now and then won’t hurt you. As always, whenever you’re drinking alcohol be mindful of how much you’re drinking.

Another issue is that many of the caffeinated alcoholic beverages are easy to drink, and have a high alcohol content. Drinks like Buckfast and Four Loko are also popular with young people who may not be used to drinking, and do not know their limits. This, combined with the masking effects of caffeine on alcohol may lead to them over-drinking. 

Besides the examples we’ve mentioned, very few beers and wines have caffeine in them as there isn’t really a market for them. Traditional beer and wine recipes also do not include caffeine.