Hangovers are an intensely personal matter-that abrasive, gritty feeling behind the eyeballs; the persistent headache like a thunderstorm; the disinclination to further tax the digestion. No wonder so many intrepid adventurers have spent time searching for an effective cure.
It’s said that Sir Winston Churchill- a man who ran our war effort on a tidal wave of Pol Roger Champagne-had his own infallible hangover cure: a brace of cold snipe and a pint of port. The wonder is that he didn’t opt for woodcock, as they have a much more pungent flavour and would deliver an even more intense shock to the system. Kingsley Amis, another noted toper, offers some forthright advice in his helpful book Everyday Drinking: ‘Firmly take a hair (or better, a tuft) of the dog that bit you. The dog, by the way, is of no particular breed; there is no obligation to go for the same drink as the one you were mainly punishing the night before.’ The estimable Jeeves tended towards the ‘concoctions’ school of hangover eradication, and would ply young Wooster with a glassful of raw egg and Worcestershire sauce.
Friends in the medical profession confirm that the effects of over-refreshment can be offset by taking in easily digestible sugars and vitamin C-the only problem being that as fast as you take the vitamin C on board, your body busily ships it out. Orange juice is along the right lines, but not likely to crack the case. Time for one of those fizzy vitamin C tablets, perhaps?
It’s certainly counter-intuitive, but one great comfort to anyone mired in a savage hangover is the ‘full Monty’ greasy-spoon breakfast-if you can get it down. Double sausage, double egg, bacon, baked beans and a fried slice will restore the inner man (or woman), although the indigestion this remedy may cause can prove almost as unpleasant as the hangover it vanquishes.
Then there are the people who consider exercise a panacea for all ills: ‘A brisk walk on a windy day is all you need to blow your hangover away.’ These people are prone to wise saws such as: ‘You never finish a session in the gym feeling worse than when you arrived.’ The response of a dedicated drinker is probably: ‘I never finish a session in the gym because I don’t ever start one.’
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One friend of mine would have it that hangovers are entirely your own fault, and that they’re primarily a sign that you aren’t drinking enough. He claims that the hangover symptoms are evidence that your body isn’t processing alcohol efficiently; ergo, you’re out of practice and, ergo, you should be drinking more, and more often, to raise your game.
In an admirable display of self-interest, many of the available hangover cures take the form of recipes for alcoholic drinks to revive and fortify the afflicted. In a 1960s cocktail book (sponsored by Booth’s Gin), there is the formula for a Heart-starter: ‘Fill a pint glass two-thirds full with warm water, add a double measure of Booth’s Gin, then add a tablespoon of effervescent liver salts. Stir, drink and wait.’ Victims of this drink should take comfort from the adage ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.
When the evening service is finally over, chefs are primed for a few serious drinks. But the next shift in the kitchen is only a few hours away, and as a hangover would be an unbearable encumbrance, they have developed various ways of curing the malaise. In his book Nose to Tail Eating,
Fergus Henderson of St John restaurant tells you how to make a Dr Henderson- his father’s legendary hangover cure: ‘Two parts Fernet Branca, one part crème de menthe, ice.’ The instructions are charming: ‘Mix together and drink. Do not be put off by the colour. Be careful, this is so effective, you can find yourself turning to its miraculous powers with increasing regularity. Do not let the cure become the cause.’
Another dangerously delicious cheffy restorative is the Hix Fix, a Champagne cocktail endorsed by our own Mark Hix and selling in great numbers at his restaurants. Take an old-style bosom-shaped Champagne glass, add a few Morello cherries that have been steeped in Julian Temperley’s cider brandy, and top up with Champagne.
The problem with hangovers is that they’re all different. Six pints of strong winter ale wreak a different kind of havoc to a magnum of claret. But one discipline really does help-force yourself to drink a couple of pints of water before retiring. In the morning, you’ll be better fixed to revel in some of the more exciting cures.