We’ve all been there: that moment you regain consciousness after a night of drinking way too much, and you know deep in your skull that the whole day is going to be a wash. If only there were some kind of hangover cure that would help you fast-forward through the next 12 hours and regain the non-deathly state you were in before drinking six martinis and an entire pitcher of beer.
Unfortunately, there isn’t. You will recover, but in the meantime you’re going to feel like garbage. Still, there might be a few drinks to make you feel a little less like death. And if the effect is just in your head? Well, that’s exactly where it needs to be. When it comes to hangover cures, a placebo effect is as good the real thing. Sometimes, you’ve just got to believe.
Seltzer with Lemon
It goes without saying that after all the booze you put away (and then peed back out) you need to drink water. But water is boring and not fun to drink, especially after you’ve been entertaining yourself all night with cocktails that take a team of bartenders to make. So why not spruce it up with a little carbonation? Add a lemon wedge for a little vitamin C and imagine that you’re drinking a restorative beverage at some old-fashioned European spa with its very own mineral spring. Put on a fluffy bathrobe and swallow a few Ibuprofen, and soon enough the sun will stop seeming like your mortal enemy.
Earl Grey Tea
Coffee drinkers know that we need our morning fix or we’re going to regret it. When your head is already in pain, the last thing you need is a second headache from caffeine withdrawal. But sometimes, when you’ve just dissolved the last of your stomach lining in a bucketful of gin, a cup of joe is just too much to handle.
That, dear reader, is why God invented tea. Personally, I share Jean-Luc Picard’s fondness for bergamot-flavored Earl Grey, but any black tea with a decent amount of caffeine will do. Add a little milk and sugar the way the British take it, and you’ll be cozying your way back to being a functioning person in no time. And, if you don’t need quite so strong a caffeine boost, you could go for green tea with all of its antioxidant properties. Just drag yourself to the kettle and brew a cup. It’s the first step.
The hair of the dog is real, my friends. In fact, a disconcerting number of cocktails were invented as hangover cures. Of course, most health professionals would advise against this remedy—you’re just digging yourself in deeper, after all. Plus, if you keep going, be warned: Hell hath no fury like the hangover that comes after a bender. As Tallulah Bankhead wrote in her autobiography, the hair of the dog is “as logical as trying to put out a fire with applications of kerosene.”
But when you realize that nothing productive is going to come of this misbegotten day, you might as well have a cold one and get a little relief. Technically, the hair of the dog is supposed to be whatever it was you were drinking the night before (the whole phrase is, after all, “the hair of the dog that bit you.”) But let’s be honest: That makes no sense. What you need is a nice, tasty beer.
Not just any beer, however. Now is not the time for malty porters and stouts, or for a super-hoppy IPA. And you definitely don’t want some gross macro-lager, which will probably make you retch. No, hangover beer should be light and fruity and come with a slice of orange. Take a bottle into the shower with you, and emerge feeling like a brand new person.
Virgin Hot Toddy
There’s a fine line between drinking hot toddys to cure a cold and waking up the next morning with both a cold and a hangover. But everything in a hot toddy that’s supposed to be good for real illness—honey, lemon, cloves—is also good for the illness you’ve just inflicted on yourself. Honey is already a traditional hangover remedy, lemon has that precious vitamin C, and the other ingredients are probably good for you, too. (Why not?) If you really want to make it a cure-all, add a little fresh ginger, since that helps with digestion (see above, re: gin and stomach lining), and also because it’s delicious. And, if you’re already on that hair of the dog train, you can skip the “virgin” part and toss in a shot of whisky as well.
Exotic Vegetable Juices
We all know that most juices, no matter how sludge-like and green, are just another sugary way to spend the money you didn’t just spend on shots. But right now it doesn’t really matter what you drink, so long as you replenish your fluids. More important: in your current state, if it feels healthy, then it is. So go ahead and buy the strangest juice you can find. Rutabaga juice, carrot juice, beet juice? Sign me up. Coconut water is a recommended hangover cure because of electrolytes, and that seems like a good idea. The same goes for Kombucha and any other suspicious-looking beverages you can find at your local convenience store. If it tastes bad, that probably means it’s good for you.
When it comes to hangover treatments, the bloody mary is basically a combination of the hair of the dog–type cure, and the exotic vegetable juice-type cure. It’s got tomato juice and horseradish and vodka, so it must be restorative. But the bloody mary brings another factor into play: hot sauce. Spicy things are supposed to be good for hangovers because they make you sweat, ridding your body of the toxins you went to such lengths to put into it the night before, and also because they make you want to drink water. And since I’m a person who likes bloody marys, it sounds good. Just add an extra dozen shakes of Tabasco, or a good squirt of Sriracha, and get ready to burn that hangover away.
When it comes to hangover cures, the prairie oyster is where the training wheels come off. It’s got a lot of the same ingredients as a bloody mary but is much more grosser, despite not having any alcohol. Simply put, the prairie oyster is a whole raw egg in a glass, plus Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Somehow, this drink, despite being horrifying, is effective enough to merit a hallowed place in hangover lore. It’s the drink that Jeeves makes for Bertie Wooster in P.G. Wodehouse novels; it’s drunk by Liza Minnelli in Cabaret; it shows up everywhere from The Addams Family to The Jeffersons. And if you want to make it a hair of the dog, you can. Add booze, and now it’s an amber moon. Personally I will admit that this is not a go-to. But if it works for Bertie Wooster, that’s a pretty strong endorsement.
However you might feel in theory about curing a hangover with more booze, even the thought of another drink might be enough to put you at the wheel of the porcelain bus. This is where bitters come in.
These days, bitters are mostly used as cocktail ingredients, and they do contain quite a bit of alcohol. But their original purpose was medicinal—so medicinal that they’re considered “non-potable,” which is why grocery stores are allowed to sell them. And while you could put a few shakes of angostura in your seltzer or your coffee—actually, that’s a very good idea—you could also go for a little bottle of Underberg, a German bitters that come in cute paper-wrapped little bottles. With a secret recipe consisting of aromatic herbs from 43 countries and naturally occurring vitamin B1, this little powerhouse will put you back on your feet in no time.
Another thing you need to do when you have a hangover is eat. But food, well, ugh. Pretty soon you need to get something down the hatch, however, or everything is going to be worse. But what if you could drink your breakfast—ballast yourself with real food and rehydrate all at the same time? Enter the oatmeal smoothie. There’s no real recipe for this other than what you feel like at the time, but it’s all pretty intuitive. Oatmeal (obviously), maybe some brown sugar, milk, a banana for potassium. Just put it all in the blender and make sure it’s tasty enough that you’ll want to drink it. Now, doesn’t that feel better?