Hangovers do not discriminate. If you’ve made it to adulthood, chances are you’ve probably had one—especially at this time of year, when the holiday parties go into overdrive and those sparkling flutes of champagne and stockpots of mulled wine are plentiful. Deep down (and maybe not even that deep down), we all know that the copious amounts of alcohol consumed in December—usually accompanied by a few salty canapés and little else—wreak havoc on our systems. (By the way, if the room is spinning when you get in bed, put one foot on the floor—it really works.)
We grilled a doctor, an osteopath, and a nutritionist on the causes of post-revelry misery—those waves of nausea, the pounding headaches, and feelings of sheer listlessness. So we reach for something to ease the pain—a pile of greasy fries, maybe. Some might advise three slices of pizza. Perhaps an Alka-Seltzer and more fries? Turns out that hangover “cures” (and let’s be honest, there is no real cure beyond time and hydration) vary depending on where you live.
No matter whether the hangover was caused by wine, sake, vodka, or a few too many pints, we wanted to see how the rest of the world faces the morning after. All of these purported remedies have a few things in common, including sugar, a little salt, hydration, and heat. While we would be kidding ourselves to presume they cure all, they do help…at least a little.
1. UMEBOSHI, JAPAN
Umeboshi is a type of Japanese plum that’s harvested when the fruit acids are at their peak. Then the fruits are salt-cured, fermented, and sun-dried to the point of extreme tangy-ness—and some swear they’re a hangover miracle cure. The acid in these fruity pickles coupled with their high mineral content and alkalinity is said to help reduce the inevitable feeling of discomfort caused by imbibing just a little too much. You could go through the laborious process of making your own umeboshi, but save yourself the time and buy a jar. (Read the label to make sure there’s no dye or corn syrup added.) Any reasonable attempt to beat a hangover starts the night before. Get into bed, chug a glass of water, and pop a plum. Chew slowly and spit out the pit before falling into that fake deep sleep that only alcoholic overindulgence can summon. These miracle sours are full of natural electrolytes like sodium and potassium, and the brininess makes you want to drink even more water, which, hungover or not, is a good idea.
2. LECHE DE TIGRE, PERU
Leche de tigre is not tiger’s milk as the name suggests. Instead, it’s the puddle of juices left at the bottom of a bowl of ceviche. It sounds weird, but think about it: The combination of lime, fish stock, spicy chili, and cilantro is really a miracle cocktail of salt, electrolytes, vitamins, and protein. Pour the leftovers in a blender, blitz, and knock it back. If you’re really repulsed by this notion (don’t be—it tastes great), chase your shot with some ultrahydrating coconut water. Peruvians have long sworn by this remedy to lift those sunken hungover spirits, and while it won’t cure the hangover completely, the zesty, spicy broth will put the wind back in your sails.
3. HAEJANGGUK, KOREA
“Haejangguk” is Korean for “hangover soup.” Literally. This catch-all term covers endless variants—as in all cultures, every family has their own recipe—but the soup base is pretty universal. A mineral-rich stock of ox bones, a ton of shredded cabbage, chilies, and aromatics laced with whatever veggies are left knocking around your fridge will do the job. goop’s director of content operations, Diana Ryu, swears by a bowl of this soul-warming stuff for breakfast but confesses to omitting the most nausea-inducing ingredient—sunji. Traditionally, these cubes of ox blood fortify the broth with extra protein and punch to help diminish the nauseating effects of excess alcohol. Partygoers beware: This is not a dish that can be rustled up in minutes. Think ahead, store a few liters of broth in your freezer, and the rest is easy.
4. BACON SARNIE, UNITED KINGDOM
A sarnie, for those who don’t know, is Brit-speak for a sandwich. And as far as the Brits are concerned, a bacon sarnie is the cure for hunger, heartbreak, an empty bank account, and most importantly, a hangover. They’re not wrong. Toast two slices of white bread, smear on a layer of sugary ketchup, add a few shakes of HP Sauce, and sandwich crispy—never burnt—bacon in the middle. The bread is carb-y, while protein-rich-but-still-greasy bacon feels like it’s helping lift the inevitable hangover brain fog. Even the most inept home cook can pull together a decent sarnie—it’s foolproof. The prep takes mere minutes, and the scent of sizzling bacon is enough to bring anyone back from the dead.
5. BANYA, RUSSIA
To combat the effects of too much vodka, Russians swear by the banya. Immortalized by Pushkin, who described the experience as “the Russian’s second mother,” it’s technically a spa experience. And yes, parts of it are relaxing, despite the light flagellation involved. The practice dates back to the fifth century and centers around rebirth with the four elements of earth, wind, fire, and air all incorporated. Yes, you will get naked, but no, it’s not weird. (Public banyas are separated by gender, but you can often book a private experience.) You sit in a wooden hut heated to what feels like a ludicrous temperature and sweat and sweat in the steam. When it all becomes too much, a plunge into an ice bath cools you down before you go back to the steam. The most exciting and hangover-reducing portion of the experience involves being gently lashed with birch branches, called venik. It’s almost like being dry-brushed with leaves and branches—the energizing effect is the same. It all ends with a shot of kvass, a drink made of fermented rye bread and fruit, to settle the stomach.
6. HULA HYDRATOR, GOOP
We would be lying if we didn’t admit to some late-night revelry after work. Luckily, kitchen goddesses Ana Hito and Caitlin O’Malley have our cure covered with goop’s Hula Hydrator smoothie. A tall, cold glass of naturally sweet frozen mango and pineapple blended with hydrating coconut and vitamin-rich leafy greens feels cool and refreshing. And we would still be lying if we didn’t fess up to following this smoothie with too much caffeine and some sort of irresistible baked good. But hey, we try.