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David Ellis, On the Sauce with ‘hair of the dog’ hangover cures

·5-min read
 (Maks Styazhki)
(Maks Styazhki)

Not a huge point of pride, but I’ve come to be an authority on hangovers, having experienced every kind commonly known and the rarefied set that materialise only in fixed circumstances — say, the numb-cheeked daze that follows a 12-hour lunch or the midday malady that trails breakfast Martinis. I have had seasick stomachs and moustached teeth, a head with a dent, and eyes so dry it’s a toss up between using drops and WD40. And you think yours are bad.

Aside from the miracle days, the get-out-of-jail-free days — some people buy lottery tickets on these occasions, feeling charmed, but I know there’s only so much luck to go around — hangovers simply come and go: usually the trick is to grit the teeth and get on with it. In fact, that’s my only certified cure, besides drinking litres of water on either side of sleep (and sleeping in the first place). Get up and go. There’s no need to copy those sadomasochists who do an hour on the treadmill — sweating it out works, but it’s hell — and even the gentlest of moving about gets the system slowly croaking into life. Besides, it’s a distraction; if you’re lying in bed — well, there’s only the pain to think of.

Drinking through a hangover — what you might call thirst aid — does have the obvious pitfall of slowing beckoning on outright alcoholism, but there’s comfort in knowing it’s been done this way since Antiphanes, that old Greek hoot, came up with the expression “hair of the dog” in 400BC, which I assume must have been a big year for going on the piss.

Besides, there is some truth to the morning stiffener: if you’ve tried it, you’ll know. Oisin Rogers, landlord of Mayfair’s Guinea Grill recommends the Rogers’ Bucks Fizz, a glass of white wine into which a Berocca is dropped. At least there’s some vitamin B in it. Fellow Irishman Richard Corrigan says the trick to the efficacy of a traditional Bloody Mary is ensuring the horseradish is freshly grated. Last year he swore a chilled glass of Ruinart Blanc de Blanc was the way to go, though, which I appreciate: Corrigan, the boozer for all budgets.

In my manically thumbed copy of Salvatore Calabrese’s How To Cure A Hangover, there’s what the maestro dubs the Barman’s Cure, in which — if you can stand the howling of the blender — cherry tomatoes are mushed up with chives, black pepper, basil and celery salt, and strained over a stack of ice in a tall glass. The finishing touch is a shot of vodka.

It works and is less shameful than stirring up Calabrese’s Suffering Bastard, though in terms of embarrassingly named cures, the Corpse Reviver in all its various guises does wonders for anyone with a mild case of the deaths. The No. 2 is the choice of the connoisseur (pick your own euphemism): I use Kol bartender Maxim Schulte’s recipe, and shake gin with Cointreau, Cocchi Americano, dashes of absinthe and lemon juice. Harry Craddock, who in 1930 wrote boozer’s Bible The Savoy Cocktail Book, famously said of it: “Four of these taken in swift succession will un-revive the corpse again.”

Drinking through a hangover has been done since Antiphanes came up with the expression ‘hair of the dog’ in 400BC, which I assume must have been a big year for going on the piss

Presuming Craddock actually meant four-in-a-row clears the pain, not ups it, “un-revive” seems to be precisely the wrong thing to say. Maybe that says something about the reliability of advice suggesting four-in-a-row.

If bartending duty is a step beyond, a pint tends to fix things. Two shots of espresso in a Guinness is a wonder; the levelling stout, the lifting coffee. It can also be drunk at speed, vital for those running behind. It’s also probably much safer than my other discovered cure of dropping soluble solpadeine in a great slug of Scotch, which works but also feels like it should be followed by a fortnight in the Priory.

Liquid cures needn’t all be hard. David Moore of Pied a Terre swears by a hot chocolate, so long as it comes with a McDonald’s sausage muffin on the side. Like anyone else who knows it “as the little red ambulance”, Kitchen Table’s James Knappett advises Coca-Cola, because of the sugar — although Knappett also says he drinks coke with his Christmas dinner, so your mileage may vary. Kol’s Schulte has a quicker method, placing a sugar cube between his teeth and drinking water till it’s dissolved. Weird, but it works.

I like grapefruit juice with a bit of salt in it myself. Still, one of the biggest party girls I know has been swearing blind that Nomo No 1 is the way to go: these are activated carbon tablets that work by absorbing all the acetaldehyde the liver produces when it breaks down alcohol, acetaldehyde being the poison that gives hangovers their gruesome flavour. I’ve tried Nomo on a couple of nights and the tablets seem to work — not foolproof but they help. The only trouble is staying sober enough to remember you’ve got ‘em, which eluded me on first go. There’s a cure for hangovers, then, but none for drunkenness. Party season, it takes some prep.

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