‘Oysters’ vs. Coke: popular European hangover cures

Article published on Sept. 25, 2009
Article published on Sept. 25, 2009

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Have a read of these European hangover cures - it might make you not want to drink again. From a Polish ‘bull shot’ to a James Bond-style ‘prairie oyster’ via a good old hair o’ the dog, the advice is to get concocting

What is a hangover anyway? Scientists present contradictory theories on this subject. Some believe that it is caused by a lack of water in our brain, explaining our need to provide our organisms with lacking liquids. Others blame an intoxication of methanol (of which consumption in large quantities may result in death), which can be found in beer and vodka in very small quantities. So why do we feel the effects of a hangover no earlier than the following day? The answer is: our organism deals with ethanol first, and the oxidation of poisonous methanol starts only later.

Drink to counter the drink

(Image: ©frf_kmeron/ Flickr)One of the most popular methods to fight a hangover is to have an alcoholic drink in the morning. The extra serving of ethanol will process a breakdown of methanol. Every nation has different theories on the way we should provide our body with additional alcohol. The neighbouring Poles and Germans recommend taking a sip of the same kind of alcohol that got you into this sorry state. Frenchmen prefer drinking pastis, which is 45% sweet vodka. If you’re feeling creative, there are some legendary recipes for drinks to help you recover from a hangover. A hair of the dog is concocted with gin + tabasco. James Bond’s favourite remedy is a prairie oyster, made from a separated egg, big dashes of Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces, a dash of brandy and malt vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. The oyster effect comes from swallowing the yolk in its entirety – preserve it by breaking the egg into a glass. In Poland, Byczy Strzał, or ‘Bull Shot’, is a little more complicated: you need a beef bouillon, flavoured with Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, salt and pepper.

Whilst Poles drink pickle juice to tend to their heads, Italians opt for a cup of strong coffee with salt, which can be quite risky as it is diuretic. The Latvians and Italians both enjoy a glass of coke without gas; the sugar rush is enough to calm you. It is also a good idea to have isotonic drinks, water, and tea with sugar or even better, with honey – the glucose it contains speeds up our metabolism.

And breakfast?

Prepare not only a glucose-rich breakfast, but also a digestible one. Frenchmen say that eating toast provides relief. Italians opt for pasta and potatoes, whereas Germans prefer salty dishes such as herrings because salt keeps water in organism. Poles swing the other way, and prepare a dessert called (Image: ©avlxyz/ Flickr)kogel-mogel, which dates from the 17th century. It consists of two egg yolks, three teaspoons of sugar and honey and raisins (optional). Undoubtedly, a prize for the most sophisticated anti-hangover plate should be awarded to the Spaniards who treat themselves to Puchero (‘Big Saucepan’, see the recipe below), which resembles the Polish bigos, which is marinated cabbage, or Hungarian letscho, a thick vegetable stew. 

If all the methods remain fruitless, you can always resort to an old British method and smear your armpits with lemon juice: you’ll retain more fluids and fight dehydration.

Recipe for Puchero according to Robert Makłowicz, a Polish journalist and famed fanatic of European cuisine:

(Image: ©juanje/ Flickr)Ingredients:

1 kg of beef

300 g of pork (loin)

100 g of Kishka (blood sausage)

100 g of Chorizo sausage

100 g of bacon

2 onions

2-3 carrots

2 potatoes

2 sweet potatoes

1 small pumpkin

1 leek

2-3 sweet corns

salt

- Fresh ground black pepper

- Bring saucepan of 3 litres of slightly salted water to the boil. Add beef and pork and cook for an hour

- Add peeled and sliced carrots, peeled halves of onions, a white part of leek, sliced corn, Chorizo, Kishka and bacon. Cook over low heat for another hour (as if it were a broth)

- Half an hour before the end of the cooking time, add peeled and chopped potatoes and chopped but unpeeled pumpkin (without the skin it would come apart)

- Season with salt and black pepper. Enjoy!