Each week in In the Cups, we talk about the glories of booze. We've talked about beer, wine, cocktails, and spirits, and how to enjoy them to the fullest. Sometimes however, all drinkers have to face the harsh reality of the hobby. For us boozehounds, that reality is the hangover.
Alcohol sucks water and nutrients from your body, leaving it lethargic, achy, nauseous, and dehydrated. The only real way to avoid a soul-sucking hangover is to not drink too much, or to not drink at all. Yeah, not an option for me either. The severity of a hangover may be worse if you've mixed drinks ("Stick to beer, you're in the clear; beer then liquor, ever sicker," or so the saying goes). And hangovers get worse the older you get. So we all have that to look forward to.
While there is no cure, there are plenty of remedies people look to for relieving hangover symptoms. Some are more, ahem, homegrown than others; some just help you open your eyes and face the day. I've polled bartenders, brewers, cooks, Cougars, artists, and medical professionals for their top hangover remedies. These remedies may not all work for you, but hopefully one of the methods below will help you the next time you wake up feeling like death warmed over.
An Ounce of Prevention . . .
A few preventative measures can help ease the symptoms of a hangover. According to Johns Hopkins Medical School, ibuprofen, naproxen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications may help prevent the aches and pains associated with hangovers. Staying hydrated is also key. Drink water or Gatorade between drinks and drink plenty of water before you go to bed. And don't start drinking on an empty stomach.
Dull the Pain
OK, so you ignored the prevention part and wake up with your head pounding and your tongue feeling like sandpaper. And why is it so damn bright in here? Take a bong toke. In the Seattle area, weed seems to be the prevailing painkiller of choice when it comes to hangover remedies. That, or I hang out with too many stoners. Can't get your hands on some leafy green? Try a couple of Advil. Avoid acetaminophen (Tylenol), as it can wreak havoc on your liver.
Of course another favorite hangover remedy is the hair of the dog. There's a reason Bloody Marys and mimosas are popular brunch menu items. Why the hell else would anyone ruin perfectly good Champagne by mixing it with juice? Graduate-level drinkers swear by a shot of bitters in the morning, like Fernet Branca, Gammel Dansk, or Underberg. And one bartender, asked about his favorite hangover remedy, simply replied "Two words. Ramos Fizz." This classic cocktail mixes gin, cream, orange flower water, simple syrup, lemon juice, and an egg white for a frothy concoction that will either make you feel like a genteel Southern lady . . . or make you puke.
Even though you were drinking all night, all that alcohol sucked the moisture out of your system. Rehydrating is key. A friend who's an RN in Chicago suggested keeping a 1000ml bag of Lactated Ringers, a saline solution, and some IV tubing on hand. Of course, most of us don't have access to medical supplies, nor the desire to self-administer an IV. For the rest of us, plain old water will help, though drinks like Emergen-C, ZipFizz, Gatorade, and Pedialyte will replenish electrolytes faster. Others swear by milk, Red Bull, ginger ale, and protein shakes.
Feed the Beast
Overwhelmingly, when it comes to the hangover, most drunks look to food to ease the quease. Comfort foods can make you feel you have a little bit of soul left. A recent article in The Telegraph suggested the bacon sandwich as the perfect hangover remedy. Elin Roberts of Newcastle University's Centre for Life was quoted as saying "Food doesn't soak up the alcohol but it does increase your metabolism helping you deal with the after-effects of over indulgence. So food will often help you feel better. Bread is high in carbohydrates and bacon is full of protein, which breaks down into amino acids. Your body needs these amino acids, so eating them will make you feel good."
Other high-carb and/or high-protein hangover favorites include a greasy breakfast, Mexican food like menudo, bananas, pho, protein shakes, and a Dick's Deluxe or other burger. Blue Moon Burgers featured a "Hangover Burger" for their burger-of-the-month created by @seattlewinegal. It included Swiss cheese, bacon, french fries, and a fried egg. You can still order it off the build-your-own burger menu.
In The Hungoevr Coobkook, British author Milton Crawford has created recipes based on how bad a hangover is. For a mild or "broken compass" hangover, Crawford includes a recipe for Deviled Kidneys on Toast--fried lamb's kidneys with a tomato and cayenne sauce, served over toast. For the "gremlin boogie mixer," the worst category of hangover on Crawford's scale, he recommends a fresh pureed juice including carrot, orange, apple, and ginger juice. Ginger is a known antiemetic, which helps prevent nausea and vomiting.
Get the Blood Flowing
WSU grads leave Pullman with a college degree (hopefully) and an unofficial degree in drinking. A former colleague of mine--a Cougar and legendary drinker--swears that a brisk jog followed by lots of water is a surefire way to beat a hangover. He's not alone. Getting the blood flowing--if you can manage it--can make you feel more like a member of the human race. Of course there are better--and more enjoyable--ways to get the blood flowing. Like sex. Swiss doctors conducted research several years ago to estimate that orgasm mobilizes the immune system of the human body as it increases the number of killer blood cells that detect and destroy foreign microorganisms.
Getting the Toxins Out
A night of drinking leaves your body poisoned with toxins. If you don't want to sweat it out, you need to throw it up or poop it out. In general, diuretics should be avoided since they further dehydrate your body. Coffee, however, will get your bowels moving and has the bonus effect of waking you up. Or you can down some prune juice, chomp down a fiber bar, or pour yourself a bowl of bran cereal.
What's your favorite hangover remedy? Don't be stingy--share your tips in the comments section.