While it’s possible that you’re among the lucky few who never get a hangover no matter how much you drink, chances are higher that like the rest of us mere mortals, you sometimes need serious help revivifying the next day. If you’re in our boat, then grab your sunglasses, stagger over to those leftover bottles, and steady yourself to drink your way out of this spiraling hell hole. Unappealing as booze may sound right now, the only way out is through.
The truth is that we’re minor league drinkers compared to the masterful people who man our favorite bars. So we called in the true professionals—people who have handled more than their fair share of their own and others’ hangovers in their time. Who better to tell us how to cure what ails us than the people who facilitated our road to ruin in the first place? We promise that logic will make more sense after a drink or three.
First off, you’re not going to want to just drink alcohol. Diane Corcoran, Beverage Director of Three Dots and a Dash and Bub City in Chicago, acknowledges that your next-day drinking should be diverse. "I'm that annoying person at brunch—I typically have four drinks in front of me after a night out,” she explains. “I’ve got to have coffee, water, Coke, and a vodka-orange juice. Water to hydrate, caffeine for obvious reasons, and the vodka OJ for a vitamin C boost with booze to help re-balance the system (and help with the pain).”
Not every cure works for everyone, however—and not all of your hangovers need the same solutions. We rounded up a variety of pro tips to cover everything that ails you, and every hangover you may be in.
Sweet & Sours
Photo: Flickr/Kevin OMara
“For a serious hangover cure, you need a drink with revitalizing qualities,” says Ivy Mix, co-founder of charity speed bartending competition Speed Rack and head bartender of Leyenda in Brooklyn. “So go for sweet, sour, and savory. Your concoction can be as simple as muddling half a lime with a little maple syrup, a pinch of salt, the spirit of your choice, and topping with soda. It’s easy, delicious, and refreshing.”
Several traditional hangover cocktails like The Painkiller fall into this easy-sipping, wade-in-slowly approach. However, Ivy’s absolute favorite version has a bit more zing. “Personally? I make myself a kombucha and sherry cobbler. Get your favorite kombucha—I like the gingerade kind—and a light fino sherry. Muddle some lemon and berries in a ball jar, add a few ounces of sherry and a cup of ice, shake, then top with kombucha. Don’t go big! This is the time for long tall drinks with lots of water and juice. ”
Drew Sweeney, Beverage Director of Bodega Negra and The Beach at Dream Downtown in New York, agrees. “I’ve found that when I overindulge, starting the day with a big, fresh vegetable or fruit juice is one of the best ways to bounce back. It’s a way to get over the hangover while simultaneously replenishing all the vitamins and minerals your body is craving.” Don’t worry, he doesn’t intend to leave out the booze. His favorite potion, called The Energizer Bunny, combines a shot of vodka with a shot of carrot juice, a slice of fresh ginger, a squeeze of lemon, chamomile ginger syrup (What? You don’t have that in your fridge, you animal?), and a dash of bitters.
For some, the traditional medicine of bitter herbs is going to be the second elixir to cure what ails you. Classically herbaceous cocktails like Death in the Afternoon (absinthe splashed in a glass of champagne) hit the spot after a night questionably spent, but you can amp it up a little.
“Go for a refreshing, medicinal reset button,” Katie Byrum, bartender at The Up & Up in New York says. “You want a witchy potion of bitterness, bubbles, and spice that’s going to scare away last night’s lingering demons.” Sounds scary. And also probably effective.
“Buy some good, spicy ginger beer—like Blenheim’s—and some amaro,” she says, referencing the bitter-sweet Italian herbal liqueur. “I like to always have Ramazzotti, Gran Classico, and Cynar on hand, but buy what you like! It's your struggle.”
If you’re beyond the capability of smashing together a cocktail yourself, slink over to the nearest bar and order a simple herbal drink, Katie says. “Keep it low-proof and long. Order an Americano! It's the perfect cocktail to slide you back into a normal state: sweet vermouth, Campari, and soda. I usually steer clear of stiff drinks, unless my friends know what happened to me and decide to punish me with tequila shots.”
Speaking of shots, the idea of doing one when you’re hungover may leave you gagging, but Kevin Masterson, Bartender at American Cut suggests just sucking it up and taking a straight shot of Fernet Branca to get you going in the morning. “It’s similar to Jäger, without the sugar or the accompanying Red Bull. Just take it straight.” Shudder. It probably works, but at what cost?
While the idea of drinking a glass of tomato juice on its own sounds like something only Betty Draper would do, tomato juice remains a mainstay of hangover remedies, and for good reason. This otherwise outdated beverage is packed with good stuff that can help your body right itself. Basically, when you’re hungover, your liver is spending all of its energy trying to handle the booze you’ve shoved at it to bother keeping your blood sugar right. By replenishing your body with glucose, you’re helping your body start to sort itself out. Plus the water and lycopene in tomato juice don't hurt either.
But a standard Bloody Mary isn’t always the best bet. Tim Heuisler, of Time Restaurant in Philadelphia, suggests a surprising variation.“There aren't many whiskey-based drinks that are either A) socially acceptable or B) actually enjoyable before noon,” he says. Tim recommends a concoction he calls “The Braveheart” which is basically a Bloody Mary featuring Black Grouse, a Scotch whisky, in lieu of vodka. “The smokiness pairs great with the spiciness of a solid bloody mix,” he explains. “Plus, it's garnished with bacon, so there's no way it can be bad for you.” We couldn’t agree more.
Similarly, Julio Cabrera, Head Bartender of The Regent Cocktail Club in Miami, recommends literally beefing up your Bloody game with a concoction called the Bloody Bull. Take your standard Bloody Mary and add a shot or two of beef bouillon—this is about as manly as a slightly liquored-up consommé can get.
The gentlest version of all comes recommended by Keith Neslon, Bevereage Director of TAO. “In my opinion, you don’t want too many bubbles or spices in a hangover drink, since you’ll need it to be easy on the stomach,” Keith explains. “I have unfortunately come to rely on a ‘red beer.’ It’s basically a mild version of a michelada: half tomato juice and half beer. The tomato juice kills a lot of the beer’s carbonation…and the beer should be just bitter enough with just enough alcohol to settle your stomach.” Ok, that just sounds delicious. And we’re not even hungover anymore.
Erin Sullivan, currently of Shagwong in Montauk, offers our favorite hangover remedy of all. “Do you know what I really recommend for a hangover?” Erin asks, eyebrow raised. “You probably won’t want to write about this, but I think the best thing is to have sex: it releases endorphins which are natural painkillers. An orgasm is the best way to kill a hangover.”
Makes total sense. Anything else? “Oh, I definitely think you should drink, too,” she laughs. “But use a different base liquor than the night before. I don’t believe in the hair of the exact dog that bit you—the idea of drinking more of what I drank last makes me nauseated. For instance, I maybe overdid it a bit on the bourbon last night, so I had a shot of rum as soon as I woke up this morning.”
Breakfast of hard-partying champions, indeed.