I was on vacation all week, which was fantastic. I watched the marathon on Monday, went on a date with my wonderful wife in the middle of the week, caught up on reading and sleep, and, sadly, discovered that I am not as hangover-proof as I thought. I have simple rules to prevent hangovers, and they are generally effective and easy to implement. But when I have nothing to do the next day, actually going through those motions doesn’t seem quite so urgent and I let them slide. It was at this point that I discovered I not only can be hungover, but that I can be wretchedly hungover.
Time was, I could wake up after an hour’s sleep, eat a couple Starbursts to bump the sugar, drink a cup of coffee and two of OJ, and the old body was back to normal. Now, however, I apparently need to follow a strict regimen in order to be able to stand the next morning. The steps, which you likely already know, but I’ll outline regardless, are as follows:
- Drink a glass of water every two drinks. I know people say between or with every drink, but screw that. That’s way too many trips to the bathroom, and since you’re generally slamming that pint of water to get to the next real drink, you’re not absorbing most of the nutrients anyway.
- Eat before and after. This is so simple. The worst hangovers always come when there’s a sea of booze in your belly with no food sponges to soak it up. Eat before you go to the bar, or eat something while you’re there. And when you get home, even just a peanut butter sandwich — carbs and protein! — before you go to bed can seriously reduce the ferocity of the hangover.
- Eat again. Even if you don’t think you can keep anything down when you wake up the next morning, give it a shot. This is where a bacon sandwich is your best friend. Just don’t burn it, because there’s nothing like crispy bacon shards on the way back up. Again, bread is a fantastic booze mop and you should never tire of using it as such.
- This is the don’t list: Advil before bed is just fucking up your liver even more when you mix it with booze, don’t give it more shit to process; juice before bed is disaster as all the acids will just churn in your stomach and probably cause you nausea, while water just sits; just like coffee while you’re drunk doesn’t make you sober, coffee while you’re hungover won’t make you more alert, but if you need a cup in the morning just to shake off the cobwebs it won’t hurt, but don’t overdo it.
- HAIR OF THE DOG: a great drinking story involving my mother and Poplicola as well as this week’s drink after the jump.
After I graduated college, Pop and I lived in a large house a few miles from campus. One weekend (the 50th anniversary of D-Day, as it happens), my mother came up to visit and Pop and I took her for a whirlwind tour of the town. We went to a nice restaurant for dinner and then bar-hopped for a couple hours, trudging home around midnight, which was quite late for Mama Ghost. Nonetheless, we weren’t ready for bed yet and stayed up til the wee-est of hours watching West Wing DVDs and catching up, all while nearly finishing up a 12 pack of Otter Creek. With church beckoning in a few hours (yes, Pop and I were those guys who not only went to church in college, but showed up to church woefully hungover), we finally packed it in around three.
At nine, I hopped in the shower, followed by Pop, giving my mother some extra time to sleep it off. She came downstairs, looking like she’d slept in a bus station and went into the bathroom. Not 30 seconds later Mama Ghost shuffled into the kitchen, where Pop and I had gathered. She nodded at us and opened the fridge, whereupon she opened the final Otter Creek, downed half of it and put it back. She turned to go back to the bathroom, but catching our bewildered stares, she stopped and said “HAIR OF THE DOG WHAT BIT YA” before closing the door behind her. My mother is a champion.
Of course, Hair of the Dog is a myth. Drinking more booze to cure a hangover works in the same way that drinking will get you through frontier surgery. It’s effective because it eliminates the symptoms, but it does nothing to correct the underlying problems of dehydration and hypoglycemia, and actually slows the recovery process. That said, it’s sure as hell fun to try out on a lazy Saturday morning after a frenetic Friday night. That’s why this week’s drink is the hangover cure nonpareil: The Bloody Mary.
First thing’s first when it comes to the Bloody Mary: Don’t buy a mix. Don’t do it. It’s easy enough to make your own mix, you can tailor it to your specific tastes and it looks impressive to people if you’re so hungover you can’t even stand but you can make a kickass drink to start off the morning. You can, in a pinch, just throw some tomato juice and some vodka in a glass, if that’s all you’re capable of doing, and no one will judge you. After all, you’re drinking at 10am, they’re probably already judging you or congratulating you for your initiative.
While you might not be judged, you also won’t be swimming in accolades if all you do is mix two liquids together. The Bloody Mary can be as elaborate or as simple as you’d like it to be, and it’s one of the few drinks that you can really add a personal stamp to without it becoming a different drink. Like to add tabasco and red pepper flakes? Totally cool. Want to up the horseradish at the expense of the Worcestershire sauce? Get it done. Think that V8 with a sprinkle of orange juice adds a little more complexity? Let your imagination be your guide. Experiment! It’s 8am, a soccer game is about to start and everyone can only taste last night anyway. This is your chance to be Flanagan from Cocktail.
The basics, however:
- Fill a glass with ice (I generally use a pint glass, but use whatever you want)
- Add at least a shot of vodka (again, depending on your hangover or your plans for the day, add more or less)
- Pour in your tomato juice, leaving room at the top for the rest of your fixin’s (V8, with its extra vitamins and nutrients, can make the Bloody Mary seem like an actually sensible choice, so I recommend that to soothe the conscience)
- Drop in a little celery salt (Please, whatever else you do, don’t miss this, it’s actually pretty key)
- Grind in some fresh pepper, enough that it’s obviously there but not so much it covers the surface.
- Shake in some Tabasco (not Frank’s and not some super-hot sauce or Sriracha or any of that garbage. Don’t get cute. You’re not trying to punish yourself, or burn your face off.)
- Add in twice as much Worcestershire sauce as Tabasco. (Just trust me on this at first, but if you’re going with epic amounts of Tabasco, just try to keep the drink from turning brown. It’s called a Bloody Mary for a reason.)
- 1/8 tsp of horseradish. (I generally use double that, but I go easy on the Tabasco. I’ve also had Bloody Marys with ginger instead, which is a bold choice, but if pulled off successfully makes for a unique and enjoyable experience.
- Lemon juice. Better yet, just put a slice of lemon and a slice of lime in there. It adds color to a very monochrome drink.
- Garnish (lemon and lime are not garnishes, they’re working in this drink) with a celery stalk, and use it to stir everything together.
I know it seems like a complicated mess, but it really boils down to two: 1. Pour shit in a glass. 2. Stir the glass. You need to have this stuff on hand, but if you do, this takes about 3 minutes, and you can spend the next hour sipping it, zoning out, and forgetting about the turtle that’s knocking around your brain.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Your hangover cures/stories, Bloody Mary recipes, and suggestions for next week in the comments.