If there's one dictum that all of humanity can get behind, it's hangovers suck. The throbbing headaches, the fluey shakes, the gut-churning bedspins—it doesn't matter if you spent the night pounding Pabst Blue Ribbon or vintage Bordeaux; when you're hungover, you want one thing: to make all the awful feelings stop.
Hangovers are a great equalizer, one so universally dreaded regardless of class, race, or religion that almost every culture boasts homespun "cures" to treat them. In Mexico, a favorite restorative is chilaquiles, flash-fried tortillas doused in chile sauce and topped with cheese and fried eggs. Brits, on the other hand, recharge with gargantuan English breakfasts complete with baked beans, grilled vegetables, and various porcine delights.
But not all of these “magic bullet” remedies are so innocuous, and some sound like they could do more harm than good if you're unfamiliar. Here, we delve into a world of fascinating hangover cures, from morning-after offal soups to pickled eyeballs to raw-egg shooters.
Cow intestine, calves' feet, and milk: these are the three main ingredients in khashi, the slippery white stew that Georgians (of the Caucasus, not the Peach State) swear by as a hangover panacea. Invented by peasants who couldn't afford better cuts of meat, this proletariat dish eventually caught on with every echelon of Georgian society for its purported deliciousness and curative properties. Though boiled stomach might be the last thing you'd want to put in your stomach after a night out, the Georgians could be onto something, since collagen, a structural protein abundant in tripe, is said to reduce inflammation.
Where to get it: Khasheria, Tbilisi
If you've ever had ceviche, then chances are you've tried what the Peruvians call tiger's milk. Leche de tigre is essentially ceviche's nutrient-packed runoff, a puckering citrus marinade that pools in the bottom of the bowl when no seafood remains. Often spiked with spicy ají amarillo and sprinkled with cancha (corn nuts) and red onion for crunch, it's said to jump-start your dulled, muzzy senses—that is, if you can get past the idea of slurping fishy fluids first thing in the morning.
Where to get it: Jiron Marino, Lima
Naples, Italy: Gassosa dall'acquafrescaio
A Neapolitan tonic on the brink of extinction, gassosa dall'acquafrescaio blends fresh-squeezed Sorrento lemon juice, sparkling volcanic water, and baking soda to create a frothy "eruption" in the glass (a wink to nearby Vesuvius). Supposedly the mineral water replenishes the body's lost electrolytes, while the baking soda acts as an antacid to soothe the stomach. It all sounds refreshing until you get a whiff of the Telese-brand water, whose high sulfur content makes it reek of—let me be blunt here—farts. Adding insult to injury, tradition dictates that you must guzzle the liquid before it billows over the rim. (To see what I mean, watch the last 30 seconds of this video.) Grazie, but we hit our quota for unadvisable chugging last night.
Where to get it: An unnamed kiosk by Porta Nolana gate featured on the Culinary Secrets of Backstreet Naples walk
Mongolia: Mongolian Mary
In outer Mongolia, hangover nostrums can get pretty macabre. Locals carve out sheep’s eyes, pickle them to hard-boiled-egg consistency, and slurp them down in a glass of tomato juice (hence the “Mary” moniker). I'm all for nose-to-tail eating, but facing lamb eyeballs is a bit intimidating after a night of boozing.
Where to get it: Rural Mongolian homes and yurts
USA: Prairie Oyster
To make a prairie oyster—the 19th-century hangover remedy lauded in James Joyce’s Ulysses and P.G. Woodhouse’s Jeeves and Wooster series—start by cracking a raw egg into a glass. Splash in a few dashes of Worcestershire and Tabasco, add a grind or two of pepper, and tilt the whole mixture down your gullet. (For a hair-of-the-dog variation called an Amber, pour in a shot of whiskey.) In theory, the egg provides protein and other key nutrients, while the hot sauce acts as a gustatory alarm clock; in practice, unless you coddle the egg in boiling water before prepping this cocktail, you’re playing Russian roulette with your digestive system.
Where to get it: DIY, if you dare
Korean haejangguk (literally “hangover soup”) is the catch-all genre of beef-and-vegetable stews customarily devoured after soju-fueled bacchanals. It’s an umami bomb that starts with a seaweed-beef broth and can include any number of add-ins such as mushrooms, abalone, scallions, and sea cucumber. The catch? The most beloved variation, “sunji,” calls for congealed oxblood, a likely dealbreaker for squeamish eaters.
Where to get it: Chungjindong Haejangguk, Seoul
Lutefisk, or “lye fish,” is such caustic stuff that it can irreparably damage sterling silver. Yet to many Norwegians and other Scandinavians (plus hordes of Midwesterners), this gelatinous, fetid fish is a bona fide delicacy, essential to the Christmas spread and an excellent antidote to aquavit-induced hangovers. To make it, air-dried cod is softened it in lye, a chemical commonly used soaps and oven cleaners. The fish is then soaked to lower the toxicity, and the result is one of the most pungent foods on earth.
Where to get it: Gamle Raadhus Restaurant, Oslo
South Africans have a supersized solution when it comes to curing hangovers: ostrich-egg omelets. Weighing three pounds and holding the equivalent of two-dozen chicken eggs, a single ostrich egg can easily sate a crowd of spent partiers. The tricky part is cracking it open; for that, you'll need a hammer and some elbow grease.
Where to get it: Belthazar Restaurant, Cape Town
Kvass is a mildly alcoholic (0.5–1%) beverage made from stale rye bread that is sometimes infused with lemon, strawberries, or raisins. It's simultaneously malty, bitter, and sweet, andi t's one of Eastern Europe's most widespread hair-of-the-dog restoratives. Once you get past its murky brown appearance, it can actually be quite refreshing. Kvass has been around for 1,000 years, and there's no sign it's going away anytime soon.
Where to get it: Roadside stands selling the brew in Russia and neighboring countries
Germans take their Katerfrühstück, “hangover breakfast,” almost as seriously as they take their drinking, and traditionalists will tell you that nothing exorcises a hangover better than the humble rollmop, pickled herring folded around shaved pickles and onions. Though an urban myth suggests that the brine may help replenish lost electrolytes, none of that matters if you can’t keep the little fishies down to begin with.
Where to get them: Brüecke10, Hamburg