A Complicated Literary Quest to Cure a Hangover
After a night out with a few two many alcohols and a bit too little water, I wind up trapped, hungover in my hot and bright apartment, every bit of my predicament my own making. I’m always on a mission for a breakfast cure. Some people swear by thick breakfast sandwiches, dripping with bacon grease and runny yellow egg yolk. Condescending family members will insist the only cure for a hangover is not to drink at all, which of course isn’t an option. As a pragmatic Party Adult who prides herself on the fine art of Healthy Intoxication, I generally focus on replenishing nutrients; alcohol consumption depletes an alphabet soup of vitamins: A, B1, B2, B6, C, D, E, and K.
One of my go-to hangover cures is from Dorothy Baker’s Cassandra at the Wedding. The novel’s first-person narration bubbles up from the volcanic mind of the title character, a queer woman in her late twenties, who is rattled and ruled by her anxieties and deals with them by fleeing her therapist/lover and diving neck deep into whatever bottles her beloved father keeps in the liquor cabinet. The middle third of the novel contains a tour de force of a literary hangover. At breakfast with her grandmother, Cassandra whips up her preferred hangover cure: “‘I’ll tell you what let’s try,’ I said, ‘just on speculation. Let’s take this orange juice and whip an egg into it, and just see.’”
Later in the scene, Cassandra pours a “seriously considered amount” of vodka into the mix, then consumes it quickly. Immediately thereafter, her head quiets and she’s able to banter quite nicely with Granny. In eggs: iron, thiamin, vitamin A, and lecithin. In orange juice: vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium, as well as the following members of the B-complex family: folate, niacin, thiamine, and vitamin B6.
I tried Cassandra’s cure slumped over my kitchen table while my best friend Sara looked on nonplussed. Standing up with the spins while the ingredients blended was difficult, but the drink itself wasn’t hard to get down despite my nausea. The taste of both egg and vodka disappear, with the overall experience like drinking a glass of orange juice with the volume turned down on it, somehow orange-y but not acidic. It felt good going in, and with the added jolt of sugar from the orange juice, I was able to leave my home and accompany Sara on a visit to the Yeasty Boys food truck for some of the only good bagels available in Los Angeles.
Sara had declined to partake in my hangover cure, eyeing the raw egg suspiciously. Personally, I’ve never worried too much about that, but I do respect those who still have raw egg-PTSD after the salmonella panic of the 1980s and ’90s. For some non-eggy alternatives, I turned to Steph Russ, my favorite mixologist and party bartender. Her gorgeous book, Energy: Cocktails To Get You Up (photographed by Pete Deevakul) is half semi-satirical energy cocktail recipe manual and half Day-Glo coffee table art book, and is among my most treasured tomes. I scheduled a cocktail session with for a Sunday morning after a friend’s birthday party and dragged myself to her LA east side apartment for some hair-of-the-dog TLC.
The first of two cocktails she prepared for me treats a nauseous, vomiting hangover. She called it “Spit Up” and made it with cheap vodka, but explained that I could substitute any liquor, based on what I was drinking the night before. While she doesn’t think the practice is 100 percent necessary, it makes her feel better to treat a hangover with the exact same alcohol. “This is already in my system, destroying me,” she said, so why not let it replenish as well? Her other hangover cocktail overall tip: mix weak drinks, no need to overdo it or tip back into tipsiness; let the alcohol soothe, not intoxicate.
Russ pulled out a bottle of Pedialyte, an ingredient I’d never encountered before. Pedialyte is a juice designed for babies to replace fluids, zinc, and electrolytes to help prevent dehydration caused by vomiting or diarrhea. According to Russ, you can use any flavor of Pedialyte, but she likes Mixed Fruit the best because it has the look of baby throw-up. Russ shook the Mixed Fruit Pedialyte with vodka then poured into a champagne flute. The resulting cocktail tasted like a lost flavor of Gatorade. She served the completed drink with a saltine balanced on the top of the flute. With the made-for-babies formula of the Pedialyte and the gentle salt tang of the cracker, Spit Up made me feel cared for and swaddled.
Russ developed the second cocktail, the Bloody Bloody Mary, to soothe period pain, but it also works very well for headache-based hangovers. Russ combined the vodka with her favorite Bloody Mary mix, then seasoned both the drink and the rim of a the pint glass she served it in with Tajín, a seasoning blend consisting of Mexican chilies, lime juice, and sea salt, available mostly in Mexican markets and discount groceries. I’d never tasted Tajín before, and was immediately addicted. Russ’s official recipe doesn’t include the seasoning because it’s not available nationally, but if you can find it, you must use it.
Russ serves the Bloody with two Midol. We clink glasses and take the pills with a big sip of our delicious lime-and-chili spiced cocktails. Although Midol markets its use to cramping female teens, the active ingredients are just Tylenol’s painkiller, Acetaminophen, and caffeine—a combination that’s certainly beneficial in less bloody contexts. “I don’t know if it’s true but I’ve heard that caffeine is good for you when you’re PMSing because it stimulates blood flow, which is why it also helps with headaches,” Russ said. Even if it’s not true, the psychosomatic benefits could pick up science’s slack.
I left Russ’s with a new set of weapons in my hangover-cure arsenal. The next time I woke up with my eyes crusted and head pounding, I whipped up my own concoction: Mixed Fruit Pedialyte, vodka, and egg, blended until frothy, taken with two Midol and a pack of saltines. Maybe I’m fooling myself thinking that I can witchcraft my way out of hangover suffering, but I swear my new favorite morning drink soothed my riots in half the usual time.
Here's how to make these drinks yourself.
- 2 ounces vodka
- 4 ounces Pedialyte Mixed Fruit
- Saltine crackers for garnish
Pedialyte rehydrates and replenishes sugars and electrolytes that are lost during sickness. Spit Up is the perfect hangover drink for times when you're feeling nauseous or have recently thrown up.
Bloody Bloody Mary:
- 2 ounces vodka
- 4 ounces Bloody Mary mix of your choice
- 2 Midol caplets
Bloody Bloody Mary is designed to ease period pain but can also help alleviate hangover symptoms, especially headaches. Season your Bloody Mary to taste and chase with Midol.