However unpleasant the dreaded hangover might be, the fact is that we humans have been hopeless at avoiding them for thousands of years.
Ironically, a hangover is at its worst when all of the booze you’ve imbibed has finally left your body. When your blood alcohol hits zero, things begin to take a turn for the worse. Your liver begins by processing ethanol, and then things get nasty once it moves onto the secondary culprit, methanol. In an entertaining (and troubling) article by Joan Acocella the writer points out that there’s not one single definition of a hangover, but rather a “network of woes” including “headache, upset stomach, thirst, food aversion, nausea, diarrhoea, tremulousness, fatigue and a general feeling of wretchedness”. All of these effects merge with a significant drop in brainpower.
What’s actually happening during a hangover is something of a mystery. Scientist types do agree, however, that the effects are generated by a combination of dehydration, withdrawal, low blood sugar, inflammation and chemicals that your body releases to break down alcohol, which are actually more toxic than the alcohol itself. Thanks, body.
The cause of the hangover itself is no mystery whatsoever: it depends entirely on how much – and what – you drank the night before. While there’s no getting away from the fact that the more you drink, the worse you’ll feel, it is true that dark-coloured drinks have more impurities and will make the next day more terrible than white wine or vodka will.
While we’ve had zero success in avoiding the hangover (take prohibition, for example), what we have been rather talented at is coming up with ways of easing our pain the next day.
The most enduring ‘cure’, of course, is the hair of the dog (a phrase that references the idea that biting the dog that bit you would heal its bite). Besides such imaginatively named concoctions as the Suffering Bastard (gin, brandy, lime juice, bitters and ginger ale) and the Corpse Reviver (Pernod, champagne and lemon juice), the most popular hair of the dog is the Bloody Mary, perhaps because it masquerades as a healthy start to your day.
Invented somewhere in New York in the 1920s (it’s too good an idea for one person to claim it), the Bloody Mary combines tomato juice, lemon juice and vodka with a dash of Worcestershire and Tabasco Sauce, and a shake of salt and pepper. Traditionalists will drink their Bloody Mary garnished with a lemon wedge and a trunk of celery waving out the top of the glass.
Also popular – and less conspicuous – is the Bellini, a delicious cocktail created with sparkling wine and white peach juice. Originally served in Venice, the Bellini traditionally uses prosecco, which can be substituted with any sparkling. However, if you think your Bellini might be improved by some expensive French Champagne, think again – Champagnes are usually too funky to proffer the clean, refreshing taste that a good Bellini should deliver.
If you can’t quite handle the thought of another drink, the big breakfast is almost universally recommended. At the Middle Park Hotel, the MPH Sportsman's Breakfast (bacon-wrapped rare breed pork sausage, black pudding, two farm eggs, bacon, house made baked beans and field mushrooms on toast) will undoubtedly do the trick. Some researchers even agree that eating lots of protein and fat will divert your bodily processes from dealing with alcohol to instead process the foods. This, however, is really only a short-term fix. Indeed, you’ll have to handle the alcohol eventually.
Let’s face it, there are only two sure-fire ways to cure a hangover: wait it out, or drink less in the first place. In the meantime, a Bloody Mary and Sportsman’s Breakfast surely can’t hurt.
All the hair of the dog remedies, plus a range of curative all-day breakfast meals, are available at the Middle Park Hotel.