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Thirst Aid: Cocktails that can cure a hangover

Drink up: a hair of the  dog can be just the thing for a swift recovery  (Natasha Pszenicki)
Drink up: a hair of the dog can be just the thing for a swift recovery (Natasha Pszenicki)

Party season, now long underway and rattling on until January — always the guiltiest month — is neither a marathon or a sprint: it’s an endurance test, basic military training for bon vivants.

Hangovers are the inevitable dampener. At their simplest, they're to do with dehydration and all sorts of chemical imbalances, but the science matters less than the symptoms. They tend to sink in one of four ways; there’s the ice-pick pains, which hammer holes in the brain with excruciating precision. These render simple little things — walking, opening eyes — impossible. The cause, more often than not, is too many ciggies the night before and if you don’t want to amputate, the only choice is to medicate: ibuprofen works better than paracetamol, and is easier on the liver, too.

For the full body wretchedness, the sickness and the shivers, food is the answer. Beer writer Melissa Cole says it best: "Just have a bacon butty and a gallon of tea because, let's face it, that's all most of us really want."

Those suffering woozy and with a throbbing face likely still have plenty of booze in the bloodstream – for this, drink down a liquid cure. If all three types have arrived together, it’s a case of the deaths; throw whatever you can at it. But, as much as it may hurt, don’t lose your head: everything will fade, including anxiety. The trick is to treat the hangover early and keep it up throughout the day – look after the afternoon shakes as well as the mushed morning brain.

 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

No hangover is fun, but one cure easier than any other is taking the Hair of the Dog. If it smacks of problem drinking, remember it’s been practised for centuries: the expression comes from a few lines scribbled by the Greek comic poet Antiphanes back in 400BC. It’s also a longstanding industry favourite. Chef Richard Corrigan, who has an uncanny ability to render most of the city’s food writers unable to type after an evening drinking, recommends clearing the head with a glass of Champagne — Ruinart Blanc de Blanc, to be precise — while former Guinea Grill landlord Oisín Rogers says that after a nip in the freezing Serpentine, “breakfast with half a bottle of good Claret and I’m right as rain again for lunch service.” He may or may not be joking.

If red wine for breakfast is too much to handle, Lauren Shockey’s new book, Hangover Helper, champions cocktails as a cure. Three classics are particularly good, as long as you’ve eaten something first. The Bloody Mary is queen; as well as the vodka and a good spice mix, the trick is to add plenty of Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and lemon juice. On a hangover, a good Bloody Mary should be a sharp slap to the face: not entirely enjoyable, perhaps, but it’ll damn sure wake you up.

Second is the Prairie Oyster, which uses Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco again, this time mixed with red wine vinegar and a raw egg, to be taken as a fortifying shot. In the Savoy, the American bar — who made all the drinks pictured at the top of this page — modifies the recipes to add gin and ketchup for a longer drink that’s easier to go slow with. Don’t work around the egg, either; it’s a welcome hit of the amino acid cysteine, which helps the liver wash out acetaldehyde, a toxin generated when the body tries to breakdown booze.

The final classic is the Corpse Reviver No 2, which the hotel’s Harry Craddock dreamt up in the 20s. Former head bartender Maxim Schulte made his by shaking gin with Cointreau, Cocchi Americano, dashes of absinthe and lemon juice. It’s a bright, bracing and perky mix where the name says it all: it pours the life back into its drinker.

These all work mid-morning, once the floor is level again. In the afternoon, the little red ambulance — Coca Cola — is good for keeping sugar levels up and stopping the shakes, although Schulte has a trick he says works better. “Put a sugar cube between your front teeth, then drink water till it disappears,” he says, “I do this about 4pm or so, there’s nothing like it.”

Meanwhile, Boatyard Distillery man Declan McGurk, also has a personal cure: "Given I'm such an upstanding citizen, I never suffer from hangovers... but there have been a couple of late nights where my wife has decided she should leave a botle of fizzy pop and a packet of prawn and cocktail crisps by my bed to aid the restorative process."

A note on coffee, which is sometimes said to be bad for a hangover as it doesn’t help with the dehydration. Fair enough, but it also provides that much needed energy boost, as it bumps up blood pressure: the trick is to wait, say, half an hour and have something to eat first, or else it’ll turn your stomach.

Still, the only sure-fire solution is water. Have pints of it before bedtime, and keep some within reaching distance for when you wake up wretched during the night — alcohol always disrupts sleep. “Leave a bottle beside the bed,” says Wine Car Boot founder Ruth Spivey, “Make sure it’s sealed — the last thing you want is to knock it over the sheets mid face-plant. You’ll be feeling bad enough the next day without waking up wondering if you’ve wet yourself as well.”