Hangover cures: every culture has them, and everyone has one. After a night out, we’re chasing the human obsession with washing away the sins of alcohol
Maia Lomelino // Contributor
Name // Illustration
If you are over 19 years old, you have probably been through this: a night out with friends, a party, or a game night where you go a little overboard with the booze.
Picture this: 9:47am, you’re “awake.” There’s a foul taste in your mouth that can only be described as “old moldy socks.” Your head hurts. There are so many dark circles under your eyes you’re wondering if you’re finally becoming a human-raccoon, and you’re are pretty sure that you can hear the church bells ringing at Saint Peter’s basilica… in Rome. This personal hell of nausea and pain, enough to make you promise to never drink again, is a hangover.
Just to rip that bandaid now: there’s no cure for hangovers, and if what everything they say is true, after 25 you can only expect bills to pay, student loans and even worse hangovers.
Time wounds all heels, or something like that. Sometimes we get a little wiser, but if you’re not wise enough to stop drinking—fear not. Like aging, the hangover cure is its own business full of breakfasts, cocktails, juice cleanses and pills. Japan even has a whole market niche dedicated to the coveted idea of hungover nirvana. Hangovers might not have a cure, but there are a few things that might make you feel maybe not better, then at least a little less miserable.
On my search for the best treatment for this nasty evil that makes us wish for a painless and immediate death (or sci-fi style headache cure), I came across a fair amount of chaotic weirdness before getting to the good stuff. After talking with friends from around the world, family, researching books, and even getting advice from a real doctor, I’ve managed to separate the chaff from the wheat of the hangover world.
In ancient Greece, the staple cure was a breakfast of owl eggs and sheep lung. The ancient Roman gobbled down a deep-fried canary to revitalize after one too many rounds. You’d be pressed to find fried canary in Vancouver, but Juke Fried Chicken is a hidden gem in Chinatown (they even have hangover fries!)
The first most suggested cure within my social network circle was a raw egg before and after drinking (in the name of food safety, do not try this one unless you are absolutely sure your eggs are grade A, in other words, pasteurized). For the prairie oyster aficionado, eggs contain the amino acid cysteine which assists the body in breaking down alcohol. An egg doesn’t exactly cut it after a rough night, though. Take it from party rights champion Mike D of the Beastie Boys, “forget the hair of the dog thing, you’ll be needing the whole coat.”
Many from the Brazilian crowd mentioned a popular cure with older folks is a tablespoon of olive oil after drinking. Honestly, I prefer my olive oil as a salad dressing, thanks very much. Another friend said tomato cup noodles with a tablespoon of sugar is the ticket. I guess it really makes any medicine go down. Perhaps this is the true Brazilian way, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Also known as a “Thai aphrodisiac” for mysteriously vague reasons. The legend goes that a delirious, hungover cowboy once mumbled something about needing his “prairie oyster.” Honestly, I only know about this drink from watching Addam‘s Family Values where there’s a kid friendly virgin version on the baby’s bottle after a party. The classic prairie oyster is a shot consisting of olive oil, an egg yolk, a spoonful of ketchup and dash of hot sauce topped with salt and pepper. Some folks also call for a shot of brandy. Practically a gourmand mayonnaise for breakfast.
Somewhat less weird and more delicious personal advice came from yet another Brazilian friend: bolognese spaghetti and a Coke. I’m pretty sure the effect is more psychological rather than physical, but who would refuse a mama’s plate? Bartender Magazine publisher Ray Foley recommends drinking a flat beer left out overnight. Likewise, Brazilians are also keen on the widespread belief that the best hangover cure is to just never stop drinking.
Mexicans seem to follow the same line of thought. One Mexican remedy explained to me consists of “Las Micheladas” beer, clamato, and spicy salsa. I guess “keep drinking” is a valid palliative in the sense that you can’t be hungover if you’re still drunk. So, a kind of Latino style Caesar that seems to follow the Mexican aphorism “a mi la muerte me pela los dientes,” which means something like, “death will peel my teeth.” Mexicans are not amateurs!
One Canadian-Ukrainian said that all her friends in Odessa drink pickle juice to keep the hangover demons at bay. Others said their Asian mothers swear by hot lime juice with ginger. So far, the recurring themes are Spaghetti Factory meets Fear and Loathing and… pickles.
Exactly what it sounds like, which is thankfully not Nickelback. It’s a shot of pickle juice riding on the back of a shot of Jameson’s. Far from Odessa, the pickleback was born at a country club in Brooklyn when a very hungover bartender decided to shoot Old Crow after eating pickles. A single pickle has around 1208 mg of sodium, which is something like 50 per cent of your daily recommended intake. Well, salt assists in water retention? I’ve heard the Wise Hall has 6 dollar picklebacks year-round. Hey, it’s your stomach.
Beyond pickles and eggs, food is a common fixture of hangover cures. Canadians like to have poutine, the British have a full Breakfast with eggs, tomato, beans, black pudding, mushrooms, hash potatoes, and toast. Then there’s the domain of the rich and famous. Frank Sinatra had gin and cream, Roger Moore liked to have ice cream, Lady Gaga likes to eat croissants the morning before going drinking, followed by green juice and a Yoga session the day after. Alice Cooper is said to blend tuna fish, pistachio ice cream and milk in what can only be described as an instant-puke recipe. Julia Roberts likes to alternate champagne and carrot juice, and Prince Harry is rumored to resort to a strawberry milkshake the morning after. It’s hard to argue with that one. Royalty, even the runaway type, knows what is good in life.
C.M. Lindemann, a Ph.D. student with an MSc in pathology from the University of Sao Paulo, says that the best thing anyone can do is hydrate, eat light, and eat something sugary—but not in excess. Sugar is supposed to “trick” the brain into prioritizing it instead of alcohol.
There’s drinking water, and there’s drinking water at six am with a hangover. Standing in front of the kitchen sink, desperately chugging glass after glass in a Hercules mug from 1999. It’s just water. As much as you can drink.
According to Lindemann, water helps break down the aldehydes which are byproducts of the liver synthesizing alcohol. “Other than that, any medicine for pain and nausea, and by my own experience, some coffee for a pick me up.” Also, if you couldn’t tell from the bathroom line, alcohol is a diuretic (it makes you pee more). Stanford University agrees that water is essential after a dance with some alcoholic spirits. Dehydration isn’t going to do a hangover any favours.
Basically, the consensus is water and sugar. The best candidate for that is probably a sports drink with electrolytes. Vitamin B also helps as alcohol makes us feel tired from all the extra work our body has to put in to synthesize it. Cold grapes are a good and natural way of getting some needed sugar and water, too.
Don’t just be a smart student, be a smart drinker: Eat before chugging and have water between shots. Thank me later.
Anyone seeking a better living through alcohol could take a page from Sun Tzu, and know thy enemy (in this case, your own drunk self). Sometimes, we really are our own worst enemies.
Now, if you are eager to try any of those tips but don’t know where to start, here are some more pleasant drink recipes. All in the name of empiric knowledge.
Two limes cut in 4 halves and crushed (almost a lemonade), sugar to taste, and a dose of cachaça. You can add some water to help break the lemons and dissolve the sugar. You can substitute the Brazilian cachaça by vodka, but then you should call the drink “Caipiroska”.
The James Bond : Vodka Martini — shaken, not stirred
Two ounces of premium (also known as whichever one you can afford) vodka and 3/4 ounce dry vermouth followed by an optional couple dashes of bitters and lemon twist or tree olives for garnish. Put everything (minus the garnish) in a shaker and bam, you’re Mr. Bond, James Bond, ready to fight Freddie Merc—I mean, Rami Malek in a tuxedo.
One of the most alcoholic beverages of the Star Trek galaxy and illegal in all Federation territory. If you’re ready to break galactic treaty, mix 1 ounce blue curacao and 2 ounces vodka on ice in a tall glass. Complete it with sparkling water and lemon-lime soda to taste.
You already know what this is. 4 ounces of ginger beer, 1 1/2 ounces vodka, 1/6 ounces lime juice. Combine the vodka and ginger beer in a copper mug or highball glass filled with ice. Add lime juice. Stir gently and garnish with a lime slice. You can fake a fancy “lime foam” with a little lime whipped cream for a gourmet touch.