There will come a time in most of our lives, if we take to drinking in a serious way, when we exceed prudence and drive ourselves head first into a wicked hangover. This is especially likely at the dawn of a new year, when merriment and social drinking are expected. The fact is that hangovers are a known peril for anyone who decides to indulge. Of course we say that we should always drink moderately, and indeed that is the single best measure for avoiding an unpleasant morning. Knowing one’s limits is the mark of the discerning and mature tippler – an ounce of prevention, and all that.
Yet in practice even the most experienced imbibers are often carried away by the excitement of an occasion. Perhaps the smooth, sweet taste of a drink belies its potency (see: Long Island Iced Tea). Maybe once in a while we even settle down to the explicit task of getting well and truly plastered; damn the torpedoes. These things happen.
Intravenous drips in Las Vegas notwithstanding, the most important steps you can take in treating a hangover are preventative. Drink water before, during, and after drinking alcohol. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. A sports drink before bed may help replenish lost nutrients. Another crucial element is getting enough sleep, but that’s almost guaranteed not to happen if you’re closing out a bar.
Let’s assume the worst and say you’ve earned yourself a proper hangover, complete with a headache and upset stomach. You sort of want to die. The good news is that there are options.
For as long as people have been waking up miserable and in pain after a night on the town (or the floor), they’ve been coming up with remedies to lessen the pain and return to some semblance of functioning. These techniques should be tailored to the situation at hand, as they will have varying degrees of practicability depending on just what you have planned for the day after.
As mentioned, time and hydration are the surest cure for a hangover. If you have a clear schedule and the mere mention of alcohol sends your stomach somersaulting, go easy on yourself.
- Start by slowly drinking a cup of lukewarm water
- A cup of peppermint or other herbal tea can help settle your stomach and prepare you for necessary nutrition
- Once you’re ready, try eating some crackers, fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, or raw egg – they’re easy on the stomach
- Avoid coffee and dairy
- Get some sleep and make a questionable resolution to never do that again
Campari & Soda
Sometimes the world won’t let you sleep in the day after a bender. If you have no option but to leave the comfort of your bed, you might need a little something besides a cup of tea. I prefer a simple mix of Campari and soda. The bitters and carbonation soothe the stomach and help to set you right, and it’s not so alcoholic as to leave you impaired.
- 1.5 oz Campari
- Club soda
Pour the Campari over ice in a short tumbler. Top off with soda, and gently sip. One of these should get you through the morning and may stimulate the appetite.
Alternately, you can add a few dashes of Angostura or Peychaud’s bitters to six ounces of club soda.
In distance running (which I do not recommend for sane people) you will sometimes see a runner begin to lose control of their legs and suddenly collapse near the finish line. They’ve exerted themselves beyond their physical limits, but their mind (obviously troubled to begin with) wants to go on despite an obvious and awkward inability. It’s called “hitting the wall,” and it’s very much like what can happen to an endurance drinker.
Sometimes you come up against the wall of vengeful sobriety and you physically can’t go on – though you must, for some reason or other. You must! In these circumstances, and only in these circumstances, I cautiously advocate a “hair of the dog” approach to hangovers. Keep in mind, this only delays the inevitable and will probably increase the severity of the eventual reckoning.
There are a slew of cocktails that are geared to reviving your corpse, but I’d like to focus on one that incorporates a bit more nutrition into the mix. This cocktail includes a raw egg yolk to provide a measure of easily digestible sustenance along with a bracing wallop of rum. There are some variations on this one that call for Pernod or crème de cacao in addition to the rum and curaçao. It’s all about your tastes.
- 2 oz Rhum Barbancourt, the well-known Haitian rum
- Dash of orange curaçao (I used Cointreau, which is not as sweet)
- Dash of brandy
- 1 tsp grenadine
- 1 egg yolk
Before mixing, separate the egg yolk, discarding the white. Add all ingredients to a shaker. Dry shake contents to mix the yolk with the other ingredients. Add ice and then shake until cold. Strain into a cocktail glass.
As may be apparent, this drink is less about wowing someone than it is about returning you to an upright position. It is built for one purpose, and that purpose is not necessarily to delight the senses. It is to stave off the consequences of your debauchery for a few more minutes, and sneak a bit of food into you at the same time.
That said, it does have a certain palatability to it. It’s neither too sweet, nor too rich. The orange liqueur even makes it taste somewhat healthy, almost like it belongs at breakfast. Not a prize-winner, but it will be there when you need it.
Let’s hope that the occasions to use these hangover cures are few and far between. Here’s to health and happy drinking in the New Year!