It's the time of year for spiked eggnog, mulled wine, and hot buttered rum. We're all about celebrating the season with loved ones and specialty cocktails, but we want to avoid feeling hungover the next morning at all costs. If a party happens to get a little too merry, understanding why hangovers happen can help you feel more calm and in control the next day. Plus, we sat down with Elliott Clark — cocktail enthusiast, founder of The Apartment Bartender, and one of our most solid Instagram follows (find him at @apartment_bartender) — to get his tips on preventing and curing a holiday hangover, made up of one part headache, one ounce dehydration, with a twist of heartburn.
How Hangovers Work
According to the Washington Post, hangovers occur due to a buildup of a toxic compound called acetaldehyde. After we drink, our body processes the alcohol and produces acetaldehyde. But here's the thing: Acetaldehyde is carcinogenic and 10 to 30 times more toxic than alcohol itself. It can cause symptoms like vomiting, skin flushing, sweating, and nausea. Sound familiar?
The Mayo Clinic adds that since alcohol is a diuretic, you tend to go to the bathroom more often when you're throwing back a few beers. This can dehydrate you and make you feel thirsty, light-headed, or dizzy. Alcohol can also irritate the lining of your stomach, hence the post-party tummy troubles. Lastly, your blood vessels actually expand when you drink booze, which may be the culprit behind that splitting headache.
Before and During the Party
How can you avoid the aforementioned symptoms? While the only surefire way to prevent a hangover is to drink less or not at all, we understand this strategy may be unrealistic. After all, it's the holidays. "If the hangover is inevitable, you can still do things to help alleviate the symptoms of a hangover," says Clark. "My advice is to not drink on an empty stomach and drink water in between your cocktails."
So before you head out, eat a small snack — something full of protein and healthy fats. And instead of plain water in between drinks, try club soda with a lime or lemon. The bubbles and colorful fruit will make hydration feel festive.
After the Party, when the Hangover Hits
By eating and downing water, your hangover hopefully won't be epic the next day. But if you find yourself feeling far from festive, continue hydrating with water. You can also stock up on a few of Clark's essential hangover cures. "Take some pain relievers like ibuprofen and drink a Pedialyte, which is high in electrolytes and lower in sugar than drinks like Gatorade," he says.
Clark's last tip may not be quite as scientific, but it sure sounds tasty. "Sipping a beer or mixing up a negroni the morning after a hard night out helps curb the headache a bit," he says. "A little rally goes a long way during the holiday season."
Speaking of which, check out some of Clark's seasonal specialties, like this chai old fashioned or spiced pear tequila cocktail, for your next holiday gathering. Not only will your cocktail be the star of the show, but you'll be armed with tips for how to prevent and cure tomorrow morning's hangover.