Hangover cures – I know them well. After countless mornings of waking in hell I’ve formulated my very own hangover cure based on hard experience, superstition and (possibly dodgy) science. So without further adieu, here’s the recipe for the official Bar Zine Hangover Cure:
Throw two chopped bananas, two cups of milk, honey, a shot of vodka, a dash of bitters, a few shakes of Tabasco and Worcester sauce into a blender and squelch. If you’re lazy you can just use orange juice instead of bananas and milk, as oranges contain potassium that helps reduce the morning-after jitters. If you’re really lazy, you can ditch the other ingredients and just suckle on the vodka bottle – but hey, let’s at least pretend to be responsible here.
The wobbly science* behind the shake is:
- The bitters soothe the stomach
- Juice contains C and B vitamins that supposedly break down the residual toxins in the stomach and give an energy boost (as people who use Berocca can testify). It also has fructose, which helps metabolize alcohol
- The vodka provides the hair of the dog – doctors won’t recommend this but it certainly takes the edge off
- Chilli releases endorphins and has historically been known to act as a pain reliever and hangover cure
- Bananas contain the electrolytes magnesium and potassium, which the body loses after the frequent trips to the loo that alcohol brings on.
- Honey contains potassium and fructose
- Milk apparently relaxes the blood vessels, thus easing headaches
- Worcestershire sauce … ok, there’s not a single shred of scientific evidence to show this works. None – and I searched for it. But it is a traditional hangover cure and contains so much goodness that it must help. Right? Right?
But back to the feature.
Everyone, it seems, has their own hangover cure. The Romans induced vomiting, Jeeves (a butler in many of PG Wodehouse’s stories) made a concoction of Worcester sauce, raw egg and red pepper; the Polish and Russians drink pickle and sauerkraut juice; the Hungarians eat cabbage soup; the Ukrainians keep drinking; the Koreans devour bean sprout soup and kimchi (pickled cabbage); the French swear by onion soup; army guys like drinking milk before bed and using oxygen tanks the morning after; Germans eat pickled herring; the Mexicans slurp a soup made from tripe and chilli and modern Western teenagers advocate greasy hamburgers and Coke.
So who’s right?
We like the Ukrainian solution but a common factor in the other solutions is soup, which makes sense as dehydration is a huge part of hangovers (alcohol restricts the amount of water absorbed by the body, hence the frequent bathroom visits). Chilli, which we’ve already explained, is also common and as for cabbage – well, we couldn’t find any hard scientific proof of it working (hell, we couldn’t even find any soft scientific proof) but it is rich in nutrients and is known to be an anti-inflammatory.
In the 1930s milk was marketed by the State of New York as a hangover cure, judging from this Time magazine article from the day. We explained above that milk apparently relaxes blood vessels, which is why some suggest drinking it before you go to bed after drinking. As for the morning after: if the Bar Zine smoothie doesn’t appeal, then chocolate milk is rumoured to be effective.
Keeping an oxygen tank handy seems a little nuts to us but the theory is that alcohol lowers the amount of oxygen in your body – and that helps cause hangovers. This is also why some people suggest exercising while hungover, although we think that’s insane. Another theory is that dancing while drinking helps your body to metabolize alcohol better – which is, unfortunately for those who have seen me dance, a practice I occasionally subscribe to.
Greasy food divides people: some claim it irritates the stomach lining while others say it provides protein. Ultimately, it comes down to whatever works for you. There is, however, a strong argument for eating eggs, as they contain large amounts of cysteine. You see, the liver converts alcohol to acetaldehyde, a toxin which can be broken down with the help of cysteine. If you can somehow eat eggs while downing shots of vodka then the cysteine will work even better – but that would make for a pretty freaky party.
If you can’t stomach eggs then Vegemite toast is recommended because of the large amount of B vitamins it contains.
And then there’s the Aussie hangover favourite: Coca Cola (otherwise known as The Black Doctor). This has always done the job for us: it hydrates (even though some doctors claim you should avoid caffeine because it dehydrates), it boosts your sugar levels (at least in the short term), and the caffeine is a mild pain reliever.
As for avoiding hangovers: well, you probably already know you should eat something fatty before drinking to slow the absorption of alcohol and that you should drink water in between drinks, but a lot of people don’t know about congeners. These are a byproduct of fermentation that are found in much greater quantities in red wine and other dark drinks such as bourbon and aged tequila than in clear drinks such as vodka – and are one of the main factors behind hangovers. For example, one often quoted study claims that 33 per cent of test subjects who consumed 1.5 gms of bourbon experienced hangover symptoms while only three per cent of those who consumed the same volume of vodka experienced symptoms.
Ok: I really should end the article now but I’d feel remiss if I didn’t touch on the two cocktails known for helping the hungover: the Bloody Mary and the Corpse Reviver #2.
A simple Bloody Mary is made from:
- tomato juice
- Worcestershire sauce
- Tabasco sauce
- celery salt (sea salt will do)
- black pepper
- sugar and
- lemon or lime juice (preferably the latter).
Recipes vary – one of our favourite cocktail authors, Christine Sismondo, suggests adding shaved horseradish for extra pep (she also says breakfast is her favourite drink of the day) and there’s a trend for bartenders to shy away from bottled or canned tomato juice and make it themselves from fresh tomatoes. The other ingredients should be added according to taste: just remember that you’ll need roughly two shot glasses of vodka for the hair of the dog to kick in and you shouldn’t be shy with either the Tasbasco or Worstershire. Build the lot up in a tall glass, stir (celery sticks are really not needed) and you’re set to go.
The Corpse Reviver #2 – named for its ability to give life – was created in 1934 by bartender Harry Craddock at London’s Savoy Hotel and is not for the faint hearted. It’s made with equal parts
- Lillet blanc (a French aperitif that’s similar to vermouth)
- fresh lemon juice
- Cointreau and
- one or two drops of either absinthe or pastis (an anise-flavoured aperitif – think Pernod).
Unlike the Bloody Mary you should shake the ingredients and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. If this doesn’t work, nothing will!
* The journalist in me insists on saying that most of the above information is – for want of a more technical term – as wobbly as I am after five tequila shots. While some of the above theories are backed by medical concepts, the truth is that most so-called hangover cures have no hard scientific evidence behind them and it says something that the most respectable scientific study we found, which was published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ), showed that there is no proven hangover cure – it unhelpfully concluded that the only way to avoid a hangover is to not drink. Since that isn’t an enjoyable option, however, I instead decided to follow the lead of quacks and con men as it’s a lot more romantic. As such, please keep in mind that most of my sources are alcoholics and most of my methodology involved drinking in bars and waking up the next morning in the foetal position next to my cat.
*** If you have a hangover cure that works then we’d love to know what it is – so leave a comment below: