The Hat-Stretching Hangover

A wee nip, a bit of indulgence the night before, and the next day you’ve got a blistering headache. Your tongue’s as rough as a berber rug and somehow the cool tile of the bathroom floor is more comfortable than your space-age mattress. What’s to be done?

When it comes to a hangover, sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. A friend of mine says an old Slav he knows swears by cow-patty tea. The Mongols used to drink tomato juice garnished with a sheep’s eyeball. Chimney sweeps favored milk with a spoonful of soot.

The sous chef where I work wants to try using one of those green mega-multi juices in the health food store as a mixer for his liquor. He’ll have the curse and the cure in one frosty salt-rimmed glass. This sounds like an abomination to me, like committing the sin in the confessional just to be closer to redemption. No report from him yet if this works.

Really, once you’ve poisoned your body with drink, the only cure is time. But there are certain titillating remedies that may provide relief, even if it’s only to tell yourself that you are doing something to ease the pain. When the genie you let out of the bottle scrambles your brains on the inside of your non-nonstick skull, you’re ready to try something—anything—for a little respite.

First and foremost, drink a non-alcoholic beverage like water. You need to rehydrate: Alcohol wrings you out and hangs you out to dry. Juice or sports drink will help get those electrolytes back in balance and provides fructose (sugar) to burn up alcohol. So have a glass of o.j. with your breakfast.

If your tummy can take it, eat some eggs. The protein boosts metabolism to clear the toxic sludge out of your system. Eggs are also rich in cysteine, an amino acid that can help bust free radicals that accumulate as the liver breaks down alcohol. Cysteine is available in supplement form as N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), but wouldn’t you rather have the huevos rancheros? Or go ahead and have one of those “Heart Attack on a Plate” specials, say, a greasy hash-stack combo. The oil and fat will help your body absorb the vitamins it’s lacking.

If you’re really bad off, you could try some activated charcoal, the stuff they use at poison control centers just before they pump your stomach. It absorbs impurities. But if you can’t stomach the idea of munching on the Kingsford, cabbage does much the same thing—helping isolate, bind, and eliminate toxins. Personally, I get bilious just thinking about sauerkraut, so I opt for a nice burn on my hash browns.

A “morning after” tea of kudzu, an ancient Chinese remedy, might also do the trick. Studies have suggested that kudzu may lessen the effects of intoxication. Daidzin, a chemical compound found in the plant, may curtail the craving for booze. So, if the intense pain behind your eyes doesn’t make you swear off the sauce, maybe the tea will.
Tomato products are a longtime favorite among regular revelers. Some say the acidity of tomato is too much for delicate stomachs, but a host of morning-after beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) such as the Bloody Bull, Dancing Bull, Bloody Mary, Virgin Mary, and the Prairie Oyster attest to the soothing power of the tomato. Many of these pick-me-ups contain some combination of tomato juice, raw egg, Tabasco, and pepper. Sometimes beef broth, lemon, and a splash of alcohol (usually a clear one like vodka—you might stay away from“brown” liquors for a while, buster) are also tossed in the shaker.

How does it take the edge off? Well, the tomato provides a healthy dose of vitamin C, an antioxidant that builds the immune system and neutralizes toxins. The pepper or Tabasco contains capsicum, a natural analgesic that may ratchet down the pain. And the egg, of course, provides protein and cysteine.

As for the hair of the dog, it’s supposedly the byproducts of the alcohol that actually cause the pain, so putting a little liquor back in the system may make you feel better. The clock is reset, if you will. But the new booze will eventually be broken down into toxins, so the hair of the dog really just delays the inevitable, unless you plan on being drunk forever.

Caffeine is a double-edged sword. It alleviates headache but contributes to dehydration. To me, the thought of a morning without coffee is like descending a few more levels into hell. I suggest alternating the java with water or juice.
And what’s the best breakfast place to ease you into the morning after the night before? Everyone has their favorite, but mine include the Uptown Bar (for the big Bloody Mary and the pint glasses you can take home), Mickey’s Diner (sometimes when it’s still the night before), Al’s Breakfast (best if the service is surly and the guy behind me is whistling “The Girl from Ipanema” through his nose—it gives me a reason to be irritable) or any little diner to which someone else, clean and sober and unhung, is willing to drive me.

If this all sounds like a bunch of hooey and does nothing to save you from the knee-trembling, stomach-churning, lip-quivering effects of your latest hangover, consider the advice of writer Robert Benchly: “A real hangover is nothing to try out family remedies on. The only cure for a real hangover is death.” Maybe. But I say a good three-egg scramble is better than lying in a pool of your own stinking sweat waiting to die. Besides, even the condemned get a last meal.

In case you’re so addled that you don’t remember how to get to the Twin Cities most celebrated breakfast joints:

Al’s Breakfast
413 14th Ave. S.E., Minneapolis
(612) 331-9991

Mickey’s Diner
36 W. 7th St., St. Paul
(651) 222-5633

Uptown Bar & Cafe
3018 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
(612) 823-4719