Hangovers are monsters or, at best, extremely rude. They upset your regular bodily operations with gleeful bursts of disorder. They run through the peaceful streets of your brain like so many aggro soccer hooligans after a victorious match, making the things that normally sustain you—sounds! light! friends!—seem like treacherous infiltrators bent on your destruction. Some bar veterans would tell you that hangovers are chaos, and to fight them requires still more chaos, an action painting of grease to quell your morning or early afternoon plight. But they are wrong.
Hangovers have a grammar to them. They are logical. To fight them, you need math. Specifically, the Brunch Drink Order of Operations.
The Brunch Drink Order of Operations has a simple premise: Brunch is a meal that is secretly all about liquids. It is a time you can sit at a restaurant with up to seven beverages without anyone really looking askance. Your mug of coffee seems a natural fit next to your frosty bloody mary, as would a thermos of tea nestled next to several exotic juices. Unlike dinner, where you might have certain beverages timed to coincide with courses, brunch requires no pairing menu. It is a jumble, so that you may best administer soothing sips of different medicinal categories to your hungover or very tired person all at once.
For purposes of the BDOO there are five main categories of beverages: alcoholic, caffeinated, sugary, hydrating, and nutritious. Yes, some things can be both caffeinated and alcoholic (rest in pain, Four Loko) or sugary and hydrating (I see you Gatorade) or sugary, and, debatably hydrating (my own beloved Slurpee). Plain seltzer is just hydrating, but add lemon juice and it could be considered nutritious, if your nutrient of choice is Vitamin C. The BDOO has room for all of us.
My method of neutralizing the hangover brutes is to make sure to have at representative from at least three of those categories present at brunch. Hydrating first, then two other candidates, depending on your need. Seltzer, coffee, and a bloody mary is my personal trinity, though you could also have an iced tea, a Perrier, and a mimosa, or a Gatorade, Red Bull, and coconut water. A kombucha, a Mountain Dew, and a shot of Jager also qualifies. (And if that is your choice, where are you going and can I come?) If you opt for a frozen Irish coffee and a side glass of water, that’s all your categories right there. Sail your own sea, y’know?
Some people might find that sticking to only hydration, caffeination, or intoxication is what works for them, and I respect that. But I am a beverage maximalist, most at home in a merry clutter of novelty glassware. So it’s not surprising that for me, the BDOO is the way and the light. Hydration is the first step, as I mentioned, but the secondary and tertiary categories vary according to what kind of day it will be. At the lake on vacation, leaning into the alcoholic makes sense, with a little backnote of instant iced coffee. If I’ve decided, as I do periodically, that this will be the day that I start living a healthier lifestyle, then it’s probably more in the nutritious zone with a sugar or caffeine for motivation. Make math work for you.
My understanding of the BDOO crystallized on New Year’s Day in New Orleans in 2012. I had joined a group of friends to stay in the city of 24-hour bars and go-cups for a long weekend, and, we had all aggressively poisoned ourselves. One particular member of the group, a wiry musician, had injured himself gravely with a fishbowl full of Hurricane. As we walked to get brunch in the early afternoon, he pressed his hands together, as if in supplication to the hangover gods to spare him. As we sat down, a waitress came over to take his order. After we had put in our requests, he lifted his head from his hands to reel off a list: “I’d like an orange juice, a water, a Bud Lite, a bloody mary, a coffee, and a Diet Coke.”
The server, unfazed, nodded and whipped around to attend to the other desperate customers. And my friend, though not completely cured of the havoc he had wrought on his liver, nursed the organ expertly, sipping from his array of glassware by using his own personal BDOO: Emergency Edition.
It was then I realized: Restraint is for other meals. This is the philosophy deeply embedded in the BDOO. There is no reason to choose between brunch beverages. You can have them both. You can have them all. It is, in fact, imperative that you do so. Rejoice, but not too loudly. You are probably hungover.