Joe Sixpack: Delay a hangover with 'hair of the dog' drinks

Posted: December 29, 2011

WHEN YOU load up the cooler this week for your New Year's Eve soaking, take a moment to think about what you're going to drink on the morning after.

Ah, yes, the hair of the dog that bit you.

Hard-earned experience has taught us that the best hangover cure is prevention: Go easy on the bubbles and drink plenty of water. An aspirin before bedtime works wonders, too.

But preparing for the worst is my motto, so here goes.

The phrase "hair of the dog" is traced to the ancient Hippocratic philosophy of similia similibus curantur ("like cures like"). The ancient remedy for rabies called for spreading dog hair into the open wounds of dog-bite victims.

It's completely nuts, of course - a solution that could only be the product of a unbalanced mind. Which probably explains how ailing beer drinkers came up with the idea of treating alcohol overdoses with still more alcohol.

The Oxford English Dictionary says "hair of the dog" as a hangover cure first turned up in literature in 1546, in the proverbs of English writer John Heywood:

I pray thee let me and my fellow have

A hair of the dog that bit us last night -

And bitten were we both to the brain aright.

We saw each other drunk in the good ale glass.

It's worth noting that Heywood did not exactly live in an age of advanced medical science. In his day, physicians cured you with bloodletting and the liberal application of tinctures of lead and mercury.

Sadly, five centuries of tireless research still hasn't provided us with much more effective antidotes than a plate of greasy food, a gallon of black coffee and email spam for bogus hangover pills.

The fact is, the hair of the dog works. It has something to do with delaying the metabolism of methanol, which means the relief is only temporary, unfortunately.

Still, if one of these beer cocktails can get you through the Mummers Parade . . .

Ale Flip: A "flip" is an old English term for a mixture of beer, rum and sugar heated with a hot iron, which causes the mixture to froth, or flip.

Heating the sugar is the secret of this drink. But on the morning after, you need immediate attention. So, simply combine one raw egg, 3/4 teaspoon of sugar, and 2 to 3 ounces of ale in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass, sprinkle with nutmeg and serve.

The Corpse Reviver: Before Prohibition, bartenders offered a host of cocktails guaranteed to wake the dead. Here's one: Toss a shot of tequila and a shot of sangria into a glass of cold lager.

Beermosa: It's the working man's Mimosa. Just mix equal parts beer and orange juice in a glass.

Michelada: The classic Mexican drink is the beer equivalent of a Bloody Mary. Pour one lager into a pint glass, add 2 ounces tomato juice, hot sauce and salt to taste, and garnish with celery and lime.

Too much work? Try a Red Eye instead. It's just tomato juice and beer with a dash of salt.

Still dragging?

In his memoir, Everyday Drinking, British novelist and epic boozer Kingsley Amis recounts author Evelyn Waugh's Noonday Reviver. It's one hefty shot of gin and a half-pint of Guinness poured into a large tankard and topped off with ginger beer.

"The mixture will certainly revive you, or something," Amis wrote. "I should think two doses is the limit."

Which works the best? Who knows? But beer cocktails are a lot more appetizing than the purported hangover cure in Mongolia: two pickled sheep eyes in a glass of tomato juice.

"Joe Sixpack" is by Don Russell, director of Philly Beer Week. For more on the beer scene, sign up for his weekly email update at Email:

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