Let's just get this out of the way: There is no actual cure for the hangover you will have on New Year's Day. Sorry. Hangovers follow an immutable law of the universe: For every action, there is an equal and horrifyingly light-sensitive reaction. (And also, possibly, some throw-up.) Even though we all know this, many of us will still start the New Year in desperate need of a way of dealing with the pain that invariably follows Champagne and pretending to know all the words to Auld Lang Syne. So, in honor of New Year's Day — or as I call it: "Dear God, never again, I promise to be better, just make the room stop spinning" Day — let's look at the various hangover potions out there and see what they say about us.
The first thing to note is that there are two hangover-management camps: People who attempt to preemptively neutralize their forthcoming hangovers (Hangover Prevention, or H.P.), and those who throw caution to the wind and hope to successfully mitigate their hangovers after the fact (Hangover Redemption; H.R.). Chances are, at some point, you've tried both.
H.P.: Ways to Deal With a Hangover Ahead of Time
• Drinking in moderation
Oh, good for you. Look at you all awake and chipper and happy. Now, would you stop acting so smug and let the rest of us wallow in our shame?
• Lots of water between drinks
This system combines the excessive drinking of people too young to ever get all that hung-over — ah, to be 19 again — with the problem-solving skills of a real grown-up. As the Internet will tell you, drinking a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink you have does two things: (1) combats the dehydrating effects of booze, and (2) slows down your actual drinking.
The main thing to consider with this H.P strategy is that those who employ it have been down this road before, but they still refuse to actually just drink less. So, they drink a bunch of water while they get hammered. In this way, they have managed to cultivate a sober, reasoned voice within their drunken brain.
• Eating a big meal (or slurping olive oil) before drinking
This is basically the same mentality as the water method above: You know shit's going to get bad, but you're gonna go for it anyway, so you might as well do what you can ahead of time. That being said, if you really are taking a spoonful of olive oil before you head out in hopes that it will help you (something people actually do), please do so while looking at yourself in the mirror: You need to own up to what's happening.
• Taking vitamins or some crazy pills named, like, Shooter or Chaser
This H.P. method is my personal favorite because people who employ it have decided to rid themselves of sobriety and reason, and have instead put their faith in something they probably saw advertised on Adult Swim. While wonderfully optimistic, those who rely on this strategy are only doing themselves a disservice because, thinking they have successfully curbed the next-morning after-effects of drinking, they'll go overboard and just make things worse. And yet: Everyone deserves to fly too close to the sun at least once, so if you're considering this, you might as well go for it.
H.R.: Ways to Cure a Hangover After the Fact
• Drinking lots of water (or Gatorade) to replenish your electrolytes
Every single hung-over person on the planet does this. In fact, it's less a hangover "cure" than it is a hangover "symptom." Some people swear by sports drinks like Gatorade or Power Juice or whatever. That's fine, but everyone will know what's really going on if they catch you drinking a Revive-flavored Vitaminwater before 10 a.m.
• Drinking lots of coffee
Similar to the above H.R. method, in that basically everyone does this. It's not really going to make you feel any better, but coffee is great, so go for it.
• Hair of the dog
Eventually, on every hero's journey, he or she realizes the only way out of something is to go through that something; you can't slay the dragon by simply replenishing your electrolytes.
And so, this H.R. method has been around as long as cocktails have. In fact, some people think the first cocktails — booze mixed with sugar, bitters, a splash of water, maybe a little fruit — were invented to deal with the crushing hangovers that developed after drinking straight booze the night before (I have no idea if this is actually true, but when you think about cocktails as morning-specific drinks, the rooster-derived name — cock-tail — makes some sense, right?). To that end, many of our most enduring cocktails — the Bloody Mary, the Zombie, the Corpse Reviver, anything with the word "fizz" in its name — are still only really consumed in the morning.
It's a gutsy move, getting drunk again as a method of dealing with the fallout from getting drunk the first time, and as such, is only really employed by three kinds of people: Pro-level drinkers (i.e., people who work in bars and solve lots of problems with ‘more alcohol’), college kids who love the idea of cracking open a beer at 10 a.m., and reasonable people who are having their worst-ever hangover and holy hell just give me anything to get rid of this headache.
All you're really doing here is postponing the inevitable ("the inevitable" being either another hangover or chronic alcoholism), but it sure is a fun way to go about it.
Evidently, this is a thing people swear by. This is an H.R. method that's clearly for people who don't drink to excess all that often. The science behind it is that your body releases pain-easing endorphins as you work out, but my sense is this is also a way for drinkers to prove to themselves that they are not that person from last night. No, no, they are a person who goes for runs and has good abs!
• Showers (hot or cold)
This is literally the least you could do, and it's something you should do anyway, so don't act like this is "curing" anything other than filth.
• Pain relievers
This is the old standby, and the H.R. method most often adopted by all our weekday drinkers. But note: Pain pills will not work if you are hung-over in a deep and fundamental way, so this system is best for people who say peppy things about their hangover like, "I'm actually a little hung-over this morning!" or "Whew, I had quite a night last night!"
• Greasy food
Apparently there is something in eggs that helps deal with the poison in your body, though I am sure there are other non-breakfast foods that would do the job even better. Let's be honest: People choose this H.R. technique not for the chemical composition of eggs, but because it's fun to go to brunch. All good nights deserve a good morning, which is why this is best for groups of hung-over people. After all, what's almost as fun as drinking Champagne with your friends? Drinking Champagne and eating huevos rancheros with your friends at two in the afternoon.
(Sub-note: I am told some people advocate eating burnt toast. I am fine with this, but refer to the spoonful of olive oil above and ask yourself if it's worth it.)
• Sleeping it off on the sofa
Most H.R. strategies are about distracting yourself, or your body, from how crappy you feel. This one indulges in it. In a way, it is the opposite of the exercise H.R. method, with an added touch of shame. The exerciser proves to him- or herself that they are not as debauched as they behaved last night; the moaner/sleeper, on the other hand, just asks themselves over and over, "Why?"
• Burying yourself in sand up to your head, or huffing smoke from a fire
These are, apparently, actual, documented hangover cures. All I can say is that it would take a lot of work to bury yourself in the sand, or even to build a fire, while hung-over. So whoever would actually do this is pretty industrious, probably.
Of course, the only thing you can really do this New Year's Day is wait out whatever miserable headache you have and promise yourself that this year you're going to be more responsible. I promise, this is really the last year for this.