David Ellis, On the Sauce with questionable hangover cures

Going Out | Pubs, Bars and Nightlife

David Ellis, On the Sauce with questionable hangover cures

From a Rogers’ Bucks Fizz to Guinness bombed with coffee, David Ellis runs over his favourite liquid cures for a night gone too far

I believe I have  experienced every kind of hangover commonly known, as well as the rarefied set that materialise only in fixed circumstances — say, the numb-cheeked daze that follows a 12-hour lunch or the midday malady that trails breakfast Martinis. Getting older, and with that more worn out, they have worsened; death seems to beckon with its blackened fingers some mornings. I have sat in showers, had seasick stomachs and moustached teeth, a head with a dent, and eyes so dry it’s a toss up between using drops and WD40. And you think yours are bad.

Aside from the miracle days, the get-out-of-jail-free days — some people buy lottery tickets on these occasions, feeling charmed, but I know there’s only so much luck to go around — hangovers simply come and go: usually the trick is to grit the teeth and get on with it. In fact, that’s my only certified cure, besides drinking litres of water on either side of sleep (and sleeping in the first place). Get up and go. There’s no need to copy those sadomasochists who do an hour on the treadmill — sweating it out works, but it’s hell — and even the gentlest of moving about gets the system slowly croaking into life. Besides, it’s a distraction; if you’re lying in bed — well, there’s only the pain to think of. Somewhat irregularly, I have found putting on a crisp white shirt helps too; it is harder to dissolve when dressed up. The clothes urge you to perform. 

Drinking through a hangover — what you might call thirst aid — has the obvious pitfall of slowly encouraging outright alcoholism, and it does bring on a certain listless rot. Still, there’s comfort in knowing it’s been done this way since the old Greek hoot Antiphanes came up with the expression “hair of the dog” in 400BC, which I assume must have been a big year for going on the piss. Or for dogs. 

Besides, there is some truth to the morning stiffener: if you’ve tried it, you’ll know. That said, morning drinking might be said to addle the senses. Last year, for instance, The Devonshire’s landlord, Oisín Rogers, recommended the Rogers’ Bucks Fizz, a glass of white wine into which a Berocca is dropped. This year, the wine has been lost (Berocca stays). What else works? “Two poached eggs on buttery toast, with two sausages and brown sauce. A cup of builders’ tea,” he says. “And a pint bottle of stout at room temperature.” Room temperature? Quite. You wouldn’t want to catch cold off a morning beer. 

Drinking through a hangover has been done since Antiphanes came up with the expression ‘hair of the dog’ in 400BC, which I assume must have been a big year for going on the piss. Or for dogs

The mix of tea and a pint — that is, a mix of soft and hard (drinks, you pervert) — seems to be a common theme among those clued up. Robin Gill, perhaps best known for Darby’s, goes for a double espresso… with a limoncello chaser.  Jamie Shears of Mount St, meanwhile, officially recommends a Dominoes with a large bottle of Fanta. “But,” he admits, “hair of the dog is always the best way.” Any particular hair, any particular dog? “Start with Rekorderlig cider, then back to the beers.” 

If having more than one drink as the cure feels a little louche, Shears is, at least, in good company. One of the most famous hangover-cure cocktails is the Corpse Reviver No. 2, which does wonders for anyone with a mild case of the deaths. I use bartender Maxim Schulte’s recipe, and shake gin with Cointreau, Cocchi Americano, dashes of absinthe and lemon juice. Harry Craddock, who in 1930 wrote boozer’s Bible The Savoy Cocktail Book, famously said of it: “Four of these taken in swift succession will un-revive the corpse again.”

Presuming Craddock actually meant four-in-a-row clears the pain, not ups it, “un-revive” seems to be precisely the wrong thing to say. Maybe that says something about the reliability of advice suggesting four-in-a-row. But at least Shears can rest easy. The No. 2 is also the choice of Gordon Ker, founder of Blacklock. “It belongs to a family of drinks once known as ‘anti-fogmatics’,” he explains, “and is so named for its ability to revive someone suffering from the night before. It certainly does the trick!” 

If bartending duty is a step beyond, a pint tends to fix things. Two shots of espresso in a Guinness is a wonder; the levelling stout, the lifting coffee. It can also be drunk at speed, vital for those running behind. It’s also probably much safer than my other discovered cure of dropping soluble Solpadeine in a great slug of Scotch, which works but also feels like it should be followed by a fortnight in the Priory.

Should a case of the shakes put paid to the idea of boozing again, stick to the softs. David Moore of Pied a Terre swears by a hot chocolate, so long as it comes with a McDonald’s sausage muffin on the side. Like anyone else who knows it “as the little red ambulance”, Kitchen Table’s James Knappett advises Coca-Cola, because of the sugar — although Knappett also says he drinks coke with his Christmas dinner, so your mileage may vary. Schulte has a quicker method, placing a sugar cube between his teeth and drinking water till it’s dissolved. Weird, but it works.

Eating, really, is probably the only true path forward. Martin Williams recommends the homemade wagyu chorizo sausage with firecracker sauce at M Restaurant — but then he would, he owns the place. But his idea of heat (the firecracker sauce is aptly named), is one shared by Ayo Adeyemi of the excellent Akoko.  “When I’m hungover, I tend to cook something that packs a punch to help me sweat off the alcohol,” he says. “Peppersoup is the ultimate spicy comfort food. I add an extra Scotch Bonnet to ramp up the heat, and incorporate either lamb or beef for some much-needed protein. Once I’ve had this — I’m ready to go!”

I suspect Adeyemi has not had the hangovers I have; the idea of cooking in the midsts of one… well, Christ. Perhaps it’s worth prepping; this is best done before drinking. I tried making a morning-after meal one night, only to wake up with a decimated kitchen and a nasty set of blisters down my palm. There’s a cure for hangovers, then, but none for drunkenness. Better luck next time.