Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Hangover Cures

A few weeks ago, at the Abergavenny food festival, I was in the audience for a talk on the subject of hangover cures held by chefs Fergus Henderson, Shaun Hill and journalist, Chris Hurst.
The cures suggested onstage weren’t a million miles away from my own hard won antidotes, gleaned from many wasted years of trial, much error and scant few conclusions. But then I was gobsmacked, some might say literally. Introduced to something entirely new in my experience, something revelatory. A potential silver bullet for all future suffering caused by a surfeit of alcohol, the cure-all that is a Dr Henderson.

As I entered the theatre, I was handed a small glass of murky, brackish, green and brown liquid, seemingly the contents of a flu sufferer’s hanky, scraped into a glass over ice. The straw protruding from it, obviously functioning as a stake through its foul heart. This revolting looking cocktail, (an unholy combination of the Italian herbal monstrosity Fernet Branca and Crème de menthe), was being touted by Fergus Henderson as the answer to any and all hangovers.

Against my better judgement, I bravely took an exploratory sip. Instantly, I was seven again, at the dinner table being force-fed boiled to death cabbage or sprouts, eyes closed and face contorted into a deathly grimace, lips curled back in the absolute epitome of disgust. But then, a funny thing happened. The shock dissipated, faded away and left behind it a curious green, brown, minted haze tinged with a bizarre almost electrical current of mental alertness. On stage, Fergus likened the feeling to a rebounding ‘ping, ping, ping’ down his chest.

Astounded, I took another sip, and another, amazed to find that I actually liked it and wanted more. The ultimate test of course would be the stupidity/bravery of self-prescribing a Dr Henderson whilst in the throes of a raging hangover. Against my better judgement, I’m seriously tempted and shall report back when I do.

Dr Henderson

If you fancy trying this wonder cure yourself, the ratio for a Dr Henderson is two parts Fernet Branca, to one part Crème de menthe, mixed together with ice.
Good luck.

In the meantime, my own tried and tested hangover cure is thus. If you’re sensible, as soon as you come staggering in, no doubt stinking of kebabs and Sambuca, head to the kitchen and neck a whole pint of water before bed. This one simple action could save you from enduring the whole hangover experience entirely. Obviously a glutton for punishment, I always forget to do this and wake up feeling like death, in which case I follow the next step.

The pint of water you forgot to drink before slumping into bed, combined with 2 Paracetamol is the foundation of the cure. If you’re going to be sick, obviously get this out of the way before, or all your efforts will be wasted. Next you want to lie very still, in a darkened room, softly moaning in agonised self pity. Do this for around an hour until the pills kick in and it all becomes a bit more bearable. Then you can crawl into the bathroom to brush your teeth and have a hot shower. After this, you’ll emerge feeling a hell of a lot better. But you’re not there yet. You need a steaming mug of tea, and a fried bacon and egg sandwich. The greasier the sandwich, the better it works in soaking up alcohol. I have no idea of the science behind this, best not to question it, just accept its absolute rightness with blind faith.
Follow the prescribed steps, and you will feel fantastic and ready, once again to face life and all it’s challenges.

But I should point out, this only works for the standard everyday hangover. Sometimes, and we all do it, we go a little bit bonkers. We push it just that little bit too much, stupidly convinced of our own particular invulnerability to the devil drink. The resulting hangover is nothing short of epic. In cases like this, try and drink the water, and keep down the painkillers. Forget about the shower and brushing your teeth (making it to the bathroom for anything other than copious bouts of vomiting will be beyond you). Bacon and egg sandwiches? Forget it, just the thought will plunge you into a spinning hell of misery and nausea.
Basically, if you were a racehorse, they’d be dragging you out back and putting you out of your misery with a Webley. You’ll just have to lie there, endure and wait for it to wear off.

Obviously, a hangover is a very personal thing. I’d love to hear how you deal with it.

What do you recommend as the best cure for a hangover?
Am I wrong; is there in fact a remedy for an epic ‘pray for death’ hangover?
Have you ever tried a Dr Henderson the morning after? And did it actually help?


Anonymous said...

I abide by your first principle in hangover cures - a pint of water and paracetamol (although if im able I do both of these before bed!)
- if i dont do the above then I again try and do it the next morning
- if its absolutely terrible and I cant face anything and am about to die then I go for the hair of the dog - which is really what a Dr Henderson is about isnt it?! I didnt try this until i was utterley desperate not to ruin a family do but can absolutely swear by it. Usually I get someone to make me some lunch and I have a small glass of wine or beer to go with said lunch and then miraculously im okay! The hardest part is the first sip!
Try it - it works :)

Hollow Legs said...

I get very vomity (NICE!) with hangovers so I usually find the only thing I'm able to do is sip Lipton's Iced Lemon Tea and eat watermelon will about 12pm and then have a MEGA lunch, usually pasta based, before going to bed. Or slumping at my desk.

Dan said...

Annonymous - Thanks for a a very comprehensive reply. Hair of the dog works? The very idea seems to run against common sense. Cheers for the tip, I shall give it a go and report back with results.

Lizzie - Oh no. Vomity is bad...but better out than in, as they say. Watermelon sounds like it could be a real winner in the refreshing stakes. No greasy breakfast, more of a carby lunch for you. I think as long as you get something suitably substantial down you to soak up the booze, you're half way to recovery.

Ben Jackson said...

Best hangover cure is chilli extract. It burns your face off so bad that you feel so thankful once it wears off that you forget about the hang over and gleefully get on with the rest of your day....

Fiona Beckett said...

Water is key. Even litres the next morning is good. I'm a strong advocate of - and have to thank Sig of @scandilicious for - citrate de bétaine, a kind of souped up Alka Seltzer they sell in French chemists. Next time you find out someone's going to France (us, for example) get them to bring you some back. Fernet Branca is bleugh. I've never tried it with crème de menthe but it sounds even worse.

Sharmila said...

I suffer massively when I have a hangover, and everyone around me generally knows it. I'm not one for soldiering on through.

When I was in Osaka on my honeymoon last year, I managed to freakishly wake up with the most raging hangover after drinking not that much (cruel, so very cruel). As we had to fly to Hong Kong that morning, and I didn't want to vomit all over the plane (I have a pathological fear of being sick), I went into the pharmacy in the airport and through extensive mime, managed to get the lady behind the counter to give me something to aid my hangover.

Not being able to read the instructions, I was a bit perplexed to be presented with a pack full of sachets containing a load of small, dark green granules. Fearing the worst, necked them down with some water. They tasted foul, but by god, my hangover sickness was cured instantly. Instantly! I wish I'd bought more - I'm down to only a few sachets now, and I haven't a clue what they are.

PDH said...

Soluble paracetamol and codeine before bed and then copious cuprofren the next day helps me through.

I get two hangovers these days though... The first is the headache which subside by lunchtime to be replaced with nausea!

Gastropuppy said...

you could always try the concoction that Jeeves' provides to Bertie Wooster to soothe his "morning head": raw egg, chilli and Worcestershire sauce.

Anonymous said...

For a moderate hangover - water + nurofen, plus return to bed for an hour.

A few things which have helped with the moderate hangover in the past:
Bacon sandwich, but not a fry up (too hard to digest)
A giant salad - sounds odd but this has put me right after many a hangover in france. Salad should have ham, cheese and various nice things in it. Dressing should be on the side, since a vinegary dressing can send my stomach into spasms.
Some kind of asian noodle soup. If at home, a mix of chicken stock or broth, with garlic, ginger, chilli, greens, noodles, beansprouts, chicken or tofu.
Hair of the dog in the form of beer (1 pint, no more, no less) following food also helps.
Accompanied by lying on the sofa and watching come-dine-with-me

For major hangovers, just forget it. I lie in bed all day moaning to myself, trying to sip a bit of water and get through the day. I can usually stomach something light in the evening (eg asian veggie noodle soup) before sleep and anticipation of the next day.

Fernet branca? may as well stick my fingers down my throat..

Dan said...

Ben Jackson - Unusual hangover cure, make yourself feel worse to take your mind off the hangover. Think I'll have to take your word for that one.

Fiona - Agreed, water is definitely key. Liking the sound of Citrate de Bétaine, thanks very much. Prepare to be hounded next time you're off to France then. Unbelievably, Fernet Branca and Creme De Menthe over ice somehow works. I'm as amazed as anyone else.

Sharmila - A mystery Japanese granular instant hangover cure! find out what it is, you could be importing it and making millions.....want a business partner?

Pavel - Headache followed by nausea, doesn't get worse than that mate.

The Pie Eyed Diner - Now that sounds like a excellent suggestion....thinking perhaps it's design will make me instantly nauseus, clear the pipes as it were and therefore aiding recovery.

Annonymous - A giant salad is something new to me as a hangover cure. Interesting. A few people mentioned on my Pho post that an asian style soup is good for hangovers.

Unknown said...

I specialize in monstrous hangovers, occasionally I'm let off with a casual case of nausea (headaches are rare as I'm quite good at remembering the water before bed, whatever happens), but a proper one will have me waking up, thinking I'm fine, only to be crippled an hour later when I finally sober up, and copious trips to hug the loo. I'm so envious of those who huey before bed, stomach of iron until the next day for me sadly. Once I can keep water down I tend to favour coca cola and a packet of ready salted Walkers, and then about 4pm when I start being able to stand/walk it's all about the 'nearly got rid of my hangover' feast. Which I eat about a quarter of because my eyes are always bigger than my stomach. I went through a phase of avocado on toasted bagel with lime juice, but you can never beat a Maccas.

miss south said...

Be careful with paracetamol. It makes the liver work harder and means less chance to process the alcohol overnight, making hangovers worse very often.

Get thee some serious Vitamin B supplements from a health food shop, not Boots own brand crap. Take two before drinking, another one when you come in with the water. Then have a Berocca in the morning first thing. Proceed with grease eating.

I used to get paralysing hangovers on even a drink or two and since I discovered Vitamin B, I spring out of bed fresh as a daisy whilst using my fake hangover as an excuse to eat bacon!

Unknown said...

Sounds like a great talk (and a great post) my personal favourite hangover cure is hot chips with lots of salt and vinegar and a coke. It can't be a diet coke has to be the original full fat variety. Works every time. Which of course is hardly ever... erm.

Helen said...

I read once that melon is really good for a hangover because it has something in it...um, can't remember what and it might be a placebo effect but I always feel better when i eat some; think it settles the nausea somewhat. Diet coke and pork products are the way forward. Followed by constant carb-binges throughout the day. As you say though, sometimes there's nothing for it but to lie there and moan.

Helen said...

Also, I bloody love Fernet Branca so I'm well up for trying Fergus' cure!

mazing Gloves Oven Gloves said...

Wisdom says, "Prevention is better than cure".So we should be careful.

@olivercocker said...

Hangover cure, two McDonald's double cheeseburgers and a half litre bottle of Lucozade Sport. A brisk walk with a giddy spaniel helps too.

Dan said...

The Little Dinner Lady - Coke, Walkers crisps and avocado on toasted bagel with lime juice?!!...sounds like a complete car crash hangover cure. But if it works, it works!

Miss South - Paracetamol, really? that is interesting, I had no idea. Vitamin B is the way forward you say...I'll have to give that a try. Sounds almost too good to be true and has to be put throught it's paces. Thanks!

Gourmet Chick - Chips and a full fat Coke...presumably it's the caffeine that sorts you out? Reading the comments it's amazing that everyone has a different method for dealing with a hangover.

Helen - Another melon advocate. Wonder what the hell is in it that soothes a hangover? lots of water? Pork products I heartily endorse. Carb and grease binges are also the way forward. You love Fernet Branca?!!! hahahaha you're one of the few that do I reckon! Definitely try a Dr Henderson and see how you get on. I'd love to hear.

Mazing Gloves Oven Gloves - Probably Spam, but relevant spam...for a change, I shall leave your comment here as an example to others.

Olivercocker - Macdonald's double cheeseburgers....I'm almost ashamed to say like them when I'm drunk. I've lost count of how many arse-end of evenings I've been staggering home, happily munching on those. But as a hangover cure? hmmmmm although they do have the required soothing grease factor, so probably a good choice. (Found out the other day that two contain just under a 1000 calories, if you're counting!)

Anonymous said...

A bottle of Portugese Ucal chocolate milk is a fantastic hangover cure, really does settle the stomach no matter how much trouble you're in. Not very helpful if you live somewhere without a large Portugese community I know.

Brazillians swear by coconut water and it worked very well for me, although now back in London you have to rely on overpriced cartons of the stuff, rather than a nice big nut lopped off a tree. But still, delicious and full of rehydrating electrolytes.

And if still in doubt: bloody mary. works every time.

Was introduced to fernet branca only the other week and quite liked it in a cough medecine sort of way. will have to give the Dr Henderson a try.

Dan said...

Annonymous - Another interesting and lengthy comment on the subject of hangover cures. Thank you. I feel like a complete novice with my 'run of the mill' bacon sandwich and water cure. The proposed ideas so far have numbered among them some incredibly exotic suggestions. I'm pleased to see you've continued that trend.

Anonymous said...

Get Berrocca and a vitamin C supplement, both in their effervescent forms, mix in one glass and drink. then, only drink soda water for about an hour then have a hot toddie.
this was all we had at a festival after going gangbusters on the last night, scavenging around the campsite the next morning we found only the above. haven't looked back since.
Soda water also works when you are absolutley plastered and need to sober up, drink a small can in one go and it'll make you very sick (so best to drink while in the loo) but afterwards you should be good to go home, or keep going. definitly good to incorporate into the morning after routine, specially if you are nauseaous. i've converted people from South Africa to Bristol.

Ross Gardner said...

I quite often awake at my lowest hungover ebb staring down the barrel of a double shift in the kitchen. A rampant lunch service (prior intake copius apple juice, zero food) followed by 2 pints woodfords wherry at The Three Kings, Clerkenwell on the break (perhaps some roast beef monster munch) then back to a full house for dinner usually does the trick. I am often raring to go again come close of service at 10pm.

Dan said...

Ross Gardner - I know the Three Kings in Clerkenwell, I used to work just around the corner. Your hangover cure diet sounds a bit hit and miss to be honest, but I have to heartily endorse any and all inclusion of beef monster munch in any diet. They are mazers. That is all.

Anonymous said...

Have ONE beer or shot, drink plenty of water, eat if you can, take a shower and get cleaned up, and go out for a walk. The fresh air and getting your blood circulating will work wonders. The ultimate hangover cure is a sedative like librium. That will totally knock it out. But not everyone has access to that and of course, you can't drive for the rest of the day if you take one.

Anonymous said...

Anything that will give you a sedated effect will make you feel better. Alka Seltzer cold plus is a good one because it has aspirin, will settle your stomach, and has an antihistimine. Nyquil is an excellent hangover cure also. You really have to be careful with all this stuff, though. You definitely don't want to be taking medication if you are still intoxicated. This is for the day after when you are good and sober.

Anonymous said...

I can deal with not feeling well physically, it is the hangover depression and anxiety that really gets me. This is a very underestimated and never talked about part of a hangover. Every time I have way too much to drink, I don't feel right for a couple of days.

Anonymous said...

Just happened upon this post whilst googling Fernet Branca. Seeing as they make a Fernet Menta now, maybe the creme de menthe is superfluous?
Anyway, I find the best hangover cure is an orgasm, and no it's not the cocktail. Get those endorphins flowing!
Sir Henry.