A bartender hears a lot of things. Tears-in-your-beer breakup stories, far-fetched fish tales and a few tidbits of homespun wisdom, too, like how to cure the dreaded hangover. Over the years, Johnny Michaels, the chief bartender at La Belle Vie in Minneapolis, has collected tidbits of hangover advice and compiled them in a five-step cure for when he needs to serve medical advice with his Manhattans.
But is it scientifically sound? Michaels wants to know. So we put his hang-over cure to the scientific test: a vetting by Dutch psychopharmacologist Joris Verster, professor at the Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and the founder of the international Alcohol Hangover Research Group. So here it is -- mixologist vs. scientist:
Johnny Michaels' Hangover Cure, Step 1: Two days before you plan to do a lot of drinking, down lots of water, then continue to drink plenty of water until you go to your party.
Prof. Verster says: There's no scientific reason to load up on water before a bender. Alcohol dehydrates the body remarkably fast, so even well-hydrated people get dehydrated after they drink.
Michaels' Hangover Cure, Step 2: Lay off sugary foods and desserts while you're drinking. That'll keep a hangover headache in check.
Verster says: Tests proved the sugar-free approach to be baseless. Cutting back on sugar may make a difference to your waistline, but it's not going to make a difference to your hangover.
Michaels' Hangover Cure, Step 3: Take two aspirin before going to bed.
Verster says: It hasn't been definitively proven, but taking an anti-inflammatory medication, such as aspirin, might be a pretty smart thing to do.
Michaels' Hangover Cure, Step 4: The morning after, drink a lot of hot water (because hot water hydrates you faster than cold water) or drink warm Pedialyte.
Verster says: Drinking plenty of water does little aside from preventing the dry mouth and thirst that people feel the next day. The troublesome symptoms of a hangover -- the dizziness, the stomach troubles, the headache -- don't have anything to do with dehydration. If you're thirsty, drink water. And plain water is fine.
Michaels' Hangover Cure, Step 5: The following day, take a dose of liquid vitamin B (available at health food stores) or a couple of energy gel packs.
Verster says: Vitamins won't help, either. We tested this theory. In fact, in 2005, we published a study in the British Medical Journal in which we found that no single cure prevents or relieves hangover symptoms in any significant way.
Vester's advice: Pay attention to the type of alcohol you drink. The highest risk of hangover comes from drinking (in this order): brandy, red wine, rum, whiskey, white wine, gin, vodka, beer.
Also, go easy. According to our research, it takes 14 beers, seven glasses of wine or six liquor-based drinks to get to a hangover, but that's the average. Your individual threshold could be much lower.
Alyssa Ford is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer.