Dish + Drink Special Feature: The Best Hangover Cure is Hangover Prevention - Intoxication Week


By Dane Feldman

Photo courtesy of Sarah-Jane.

Getting a hangover after a night of drinking can, to some, feel inevitable. There are those prone to hangovers after every time they drink heavily, while others rarely have them at all. As with so many other inconsistencies in health, it’s important to remember that each person is different, and hangovers are no different. A person’s body weight, gender, and even race are all key in determining how much or little a person can drink without getting sick.

Before many of us ever reached our 21st birthday, we already developed our very own personal hangover cures. For me, it’s almost always been Gatorade and toast. But how many of these cures really work? The truth of the matter is that there is an actual body science to hangovers and how to both avoid them and cure them; but that didn’t make the less-reputable remedies any less fun to try, of course.

When I was first learning how inconvenient hangovers can be, my first instinct was to think about preventatives. After experiencing a few less-than-stellar hangovers (is there any other kind?), I began to theorize a bit about the causes of my worst episodes. It seemed the saying, “beer before liquor never been sicker, liquor before beer you’re in the clear” applied to me. So I’ve been abiding by that maxim ever since without really knowing if there is any truth to it.

As it turns out, there is scientific data that shows that the carbonation in beer increases the rate of alcohol absorption. This also applies to soda, so it is important for hangover prevention to avoid carbonated beverages prior to drinking hard alcohol.

After continued hangover experiences through the years, I’ve also found that hard liquor is a likely culprit for my really painful mornings. Though, I rarely encounter a hangover if I drink only clear liquor through the night, specifically vodka or gin. I have nothing against going back-and-forth from a vodka-based cocktail to a gin-based one.

I also noticed that I don’t often have hangovers if I drink only darker liquors, like any type of whiskey or even dark rum. Trying a little bit of everything, though, seems to mess with my system quite a bit. This is especially true when these cocktails contain a fair amount of sugar. One of the best hangover prevention tips I can offer is to avoid sugary cocktails.

Lastly, as far as hangover prevention goes, consuming water is key. Prior to going out drinking, it’s important to hydrate. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes our bodies to push out more liquid than we put in, so it dehydrates us quickly.

That dehydration plays a huge role in whether or not we get hangovers. My own mother has a formula to go by if your night out is a spontaneous one: for every cocktail you have, drink eight ounces of water. This only looks more difficult than it actually is in practice, especially if you’re drinking at a bar or restaurant. If the water is in front of you, trust me you’ll drink it and you’ll get plenty of refills.

If planning ahead isn’t your cup of tea and you prefer hangover cures rather than hangover prevention, there are still a few things you can do. When it comes to finding a cure, I’ve tried almost anything that’s been suggested. Some say the best cure is a Bloody Mary first thing in the morning, but the last thing I want after a night of drinking is a spicy and thick tomato juice and vodka. No thank you.

I have plenty of friends who swear by the greasy breakfast sandwich. It doesn’t matter what’s on the sandwich as long as it is greasy, fatty, protein-packed, and involves some kind of buttery bread. While eating is a great remedy for the hangover, it’s only okay if you’re not heaving/haven’t thrown up at all. In my experience, the greasy breakfast sandwich tastes great, but will only push off nausea for a few hours rather than kill it.

Photo courtesy of Ktoine.

Though If your hangover is more potent and you feel more sick than you feel dehydrated, a more back-to-basics approach might be appropriate. Drink water and eat some plain toast or pasta. Sometimes, nursing a hangover is a bit like nursing a stomach bug. Common sense goes a long way here. I know there are people who swear by the Bloody Mary (I’ve been known to swear by multiple mimosas), but it’s my experience that consuming more alcohol in the morning can push off a hangover rather than cure one. In this sense, it’s even less effective than the greasy breakfast sandwich.

With this knowledge, the best advice out there is to avoid hangovers as best you can. Drink water before, during, and after drinking to best combat dehydration and nausea. While it may take different quantities of alcohol for a variety of people to get hangovers, there is a biological explanation for avoiding and curing hangovers. Sandwiches may only work for some people, but water will work for everyone.