From mother’s milk to a BRAT diet: 5 ways to ease a hangover

Why drink on St Patrick’s Day (March 17)? The tradition began as a feast day held in honor of St. Patrick, on the anniversary of the day he died, March 17. With the day falling during the Lenten season leading up to the Easter holiday, observant Christians were allowed to put aside their Lenten restrictions on food and alcohol consumption on this day, which helps explain the tradition of St Patrick’s Day drinking.

Thatsa lotta beer. Being the fourth-most-popular drinking day in the US (behind New Year’s Eve, Christmas Day, and July 4), St. Patrick’s Day sees the consumption of 13 million pints of Guinness alone. Perhaps you’ll be personally imbibing several of those 13,000,000 pints — and also you may be one of the many people feeling hung over on the day following the revelry, March 18.

Ounce of prevention, pound of cure, blah blah blah. Obviously, the most sure-fire way to avoid the pounding headache and crushing nausea of a hangover is to limit alcohol intake, or avoid it altogether in the first place. But where’s the fun in that?

At any rate, many popular hangover “cures” are dubious, at best. But there are some ways to ease, if not totally erase, the effects of hangover. Some have a vague basis in medical or scientific fact, while others you should consider as popular “folk” remedies —

Cab-Calloway-Jumpin-Jive1) That java jive.* If, like me, you have to have some coffee every morning, lest you face the caffeine withdrawal demon headache, you may want to make use of coffee as your hangover remedy. However, caffeine narrows your blood vessels and boosts blood pressure — which may actually make the hangover worse. Have a little coffee on waking, then wait half an hour and see if you feel better or worse for having drunk it, before you have more. And while you wait, peruse these coffee recipes, and see if one of these wouldn’t make you feel better anyhow.

*Cab Calloway, above, says that” jumpin’ jive makes you like your eggs on the Jersey side “(hep hep), aka fried eggs with sunny-side yolks up and well-cooked crispy whites.

Also? Don’t forget – coffee is actually a diuretic. If you’re having coffee to ease your headache, also drink some plain old water to offset the dehydration your “coffee cure” might cause you.

Bloody-Mary-On-the-Dock-Karyn-Christner2) Shaggy dog story. Many old-timers say that the gentlest way to ease your way out of a hangover is a healthy serving of “the hair of the dog” (that bit you), i.e., another alcoholic drink. That weekend-morning Bloody Mary may perk you up, but its benefits are short-lived.

The alcohol that may temporarily help your hangover symptoms could harm in the long run. Hangovers make you feel horrible because alcohol is toxic, and piling on another drink will just delay the inevitable.

If you want to go that route, here are some famous / infamous hangover cures that are attributed to some famous / infamous heavy drinkers of the last century –

Sinatra-and-MitchumTough guy drink: An actor who often played “tough guy” parts, Robert Mitchum had a hangover cure he dubbed Mother’s Milk, aka, the Ramos Gin Fizz. It’s a mix of gin, lemon juice, lime juice, egg white, sugar, cream, orange flower water, and soda water. Mitchum introduced the drink to (similarly famous heavy drinker) Frank Sinatra, who swore by the remedy and took to calling Mitchum “mother” for years to come. He supposedly even mailed Mitchum a card every Mother’s Day in thanks.

Not Moloko Plus: Anthony Burgess, the linguist and novelist who wrote ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ drank a concoction known as Hangman’s Blood: “Into a pint glass, doubles of the following are poured: gin, whisky, rum, port and brandy. A small bottle of stout is added and the whole topped up with Champagne … It tastes very smooth, induces a somewhat metaphysical elation, and rarely leaves a hangover.”

Ernest Hemingway named one of his (several) hangover elixirs “Death in the Afternoon,” after his bullfighting story. The morning-after drink includes an absinthe and champagne mix, and requires a healthy dose to take effect (“Drink three to five of these slowly.”)

Breakfast-bacon-eggs-toast-david-erickson3) Heavy and hearty? Plenty of folks swear by the “curative” properties of a heavy meal following a night of heavy drinking: eggs and bacon, biscuits and gravy, chicken-fried steak, and pretty much any of the fried fare and comfort foods from the all-night restaurant that’s near the scene of your late-night escapades.

Scientifically-speaking, this is as questionable a “cure” as easing your hangover with another cocktail. Greasy food after drinking is as likely to give you heartburn or an upset tummy as eating heavy food under any other circumstances.

Another option? Eat a hearty (and/or heavy) meal *before* or during your night out on the town. Food helps slow the absorption of alcohol, and the longer it takes the alcohol to reach your blood stream, the longer it is until you become intoxicated. Or plan ahead, and prepare something hearty and actually delicious/wholesome that you can pop in the oven (and then pop in your mouth) when the hangover rears its beastly head. For example, this Bourbon Pecan Overnight French Toast (yum!) is easy to prep in a casserole dish, and bakes with no fuss in about half an hour.

4) BRAT diet. Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast. Your mom fed you this when your tummy felt nauseous when you were a kid, and guess what? It still works great now that you’re a grown up, and you occasionally have a bout o self-inflicted nausea. Those carbs in some simple toast and crackers can help bring your blood sugar levels back up. Want an especially grown-up take on this childhood remedy? For a marvelous morning-after BRAT diet meal, you’ll love this recipe for Bloody Mary Bruschetta.

5) The breakfast of (sports) champions? Although we don’t know for certain that hangovers are the effect of dehydration, we do know that consuming alcohol does cause the dehydration that may (or may not) cause the hangover. For that reason, many “experts” swear by treating their hangover with a generous-sized sports beverage (like Gatorade). Sports drinks replenish depleted sugars and fluid-balancing electrolytes. Countering your dehydration and replacing some of that fluid you’ve lost will help you feel better, whether you opt for juice, water, Gatorade, or some other non-dehydrating beverage.

Not a Gatorade fan? We recommend a tall, non-alcoholic Fus’tini, made with seltzer or club soda, with a splash of your favorite Balsamic Vinegar.  It’s bracing and refreshing, without being overpowering or sickly-sweet.

Photo credit: Bloody Mary on the Dock, by Karyn Christner
Sinatra and Mitchum, via Pinterest
Breakfast: fried eggs, bacon and toast by David Erickson