Last year, Boston Beer Company founder Jim Koch taught me his little secret for drinking all night without getting drunk. The resulting piece I wrote did pretty well, but the one comment I kept getting from readers was: “That sounds alright…but what I really want to know is how to drink all night and not wake up hungover!” (Actually, a lot of people also wanted to know how to not get so fat, too.)
So, for the past year or so, in the name of besotted science—not to mention self-preservation as I’ve entered my mid-30s—I’ve been experimenting on myself by getting drunk and trying the most prominent “anti-hangover” products I’ve found on the market. Not everyone can afford fancy IV treatments, but luckily there’s a lot of cheaper options these days. There’s before-bed capsules and morning-after pills (ha!), chewables and effervescents, sprays and restorative drinks, and even fruit-flavored lozenges. But are these just pricy placebos in pretty packaging, or do they actually work?
Here are my findings on what, if any, over-the-counter products I can truly recommend taking after you just drink yourself under the bar.
Before-drinking pills: KÜRE Hangover Prevention and Recovery
Website: no website, only a Facebook page
Ingredients: gelatin, microcrystalline cellulose, silicon dioxide, and magnesium stearate
Cheesy motto: “Make one good decision tonight.”
Wouldn’t the unnecessary umlaut in the name mean it’s pronounced cyo͞o-yer like, uh, führer? Whatever the Teutonic implications here, that’s not the shadiest thing about KÜRE (all caps). More damning is the fact that the product has no website, a pathetic 12 likes on its Facebook page, and is only sold on Amazon at a deep discount. Now I’ve bought all sorts of questionable stuff from Bezos before, but this might be the most suspect of all (though, admittedly, the product has 34 Amazon reviews averaging 4.2 stars—better than a couple books I’ve written). Claiming “natural quality, high potency, no stimulants or caffeine,” I took two capsules as advised before attending a beer festival. I still woke up with a pounding headache and an immense need for a Western omelet. (Which is still better than this guy, who after taking KÜRE noted, and I quote, “I had this awesome neon-yellow piss come out of my penis.”)
After-drinking pills: Toniiq
Ingredients: Lingzhi Extract Powder
Cheesy motto: “Work Hard. Play Harder.”
Toniiq—you’ll quickly start seeing how important weird spellings and unnecessary q’s are to the anti-hangover trade—was actually the first “dietary supplement” (wink wink) I tried, and it’s still perhaps my favorite. The premise is simple: keep a Toniiq packet (about the size of a wet-nap, and fairly pricey) on your nightstand, or nearby wherever you plan to pass out. Inside the packet are three pills, two black, one white. You take the black pills before bed, the white one in the morning. Of course, remembering anything at the end of a drunken night aside from “How late is Sal’s Pizzeria open?” is often difficult, but I’ve found this one actually works if you follow that exact strategy. Post-experiment, I continue to keep pill packets on my person at all times because I’m always a few hours away from a potential hangover.
Lozenges: Nurse Noni’s Hangover Sucks
Ingredients: dried cane syrup, corn syrup, citric acid, natural flavors and colors
Cheesy Motto: “The simple way to ease a hangover!”
Sure, I loved the concept of popping raspberry lozenges to eliminate my morning katzenjammer—“Sore throat, Aaron?” “Nope, tried to drink an entire Cocktail Explosion by myself last night.” But, this product does not have a single ingredient that could be considered healthful and was far less enjoyable to suck on than a Werther’s Original. If anything, the added injection of cheap sugars may have exacerbated my hangover, making me think “Nurse Noni” was probably certified by the kind of island medical school that converts into a piña colada shack once night falls. Not officially “evaluated” by the FDA, producer Three Lollies also makes seven different flavors of “Preggie Pops” to help women fight morning sickness. Hangovers suck and so do these scam drops.
Chewables: Mercy Hangover Prevention Chewables
Ingredients: “proprietary blend of select amino acids, vitamins, antioxidants and herbs”
Cheesy motto: none
Sometimes when you awake to a booze-battered brain, even the most basic tasks seem monumental. And by basic tasks I mean walking, drinking, and swallowing. I frequently find myself unable to hydrate simply because I’m too wrecked to even go to the kitchen sink, pour myself a glass of water, and then tilt my head back for a few seconds to swallow. And that’s why I love the concept of anti-hangover chewables. Because chewing, why heck, I can even do that while lying prone on the couch dreaming of a quick death. The fact they come in a tasty Blood Orange flavor? All the better. It’s like Mentos that brings back neurological function. Still, I don’t see them dominating the anti-hangover scene without a cheesy motto. Might I recommend they get John Stamos to be their celebrity spokesman? “Have Mercy!”
Ingredients: “a powerful combination of aspirin and caffeine”
Cheesy motto: “Own the night, save the day. Happy hours lead to unhappy mornings.”
For some reason, I’ve always been grossed out by Alka-Seltzer’s pop-pop-fizz fizziness, and Blowfish has the same method of ingestion. Blowfish claims the effervescence both protects your stomach and allows the product to enter your system much quicker than an ordinary pill or tablet. This “Official Hangover Remedy of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas”—bro!—tastes like lemon-lime Gatorade and actually kind of worked for me. Best of all, Blowfish was by far the cheapest of any of these “cures” (around a buck per tablet packet) yet offers a money-back guarantee if the product doesn’t help. Which, even if it doesn’t, you’re probably too lazy of drunkard to possibly apply for an online reimbursement considering you’ve spent an hour trying to order Seamless.
Sprays: Sprayology Party Relief
Ingredients: too many to list—including, but not limited to, Taraxacum and Organic Alcohol 9%
Cheesy motto: none
It’s hard for me to trust any sort of hangover relief that comes in understated packaging, uses correctly spelled words for its name, and lacks any sort of cheesy motto, but alas, that is what we have courtesy of one of the Internet’s leaders in “homeopathic and vitamin oral sprays.” With Party Relief, you’re supposed to Binaca two sprays under your tongue prior to tying one on. I did in a packed East Village bar, a cute bartender looked at me strangely, and the next day I woke up realizing I had a $30 spray bottle that not only wouldn’t cure my hangovers, but also wouldn’t improve any bad breath issues either. Damn, I should have gotten permission to expense things before undergoing this experiment.
Ingredients: a “proprietary blend” highlighted by prickly pear cactus extract and milk thistle
Cheesy motto: “Make one good decision tonight.”
Continuing to prove that q is the most crucial letter when it comes to ridding the world of hangovers, RESQWATER (all caps) is pretty much just a sports drink. It comes in these nicely designed blue-and-teal eight-ounce bullet bottles that are impossible to keep upright in your fridge. RESQWATER tastes like a slightly more earthy, bitter, and medicinal Vitamin Water but goes down easily. Best of all, it’s probably the product I’ve most found “works.” The one negative is, unlike every other product here, this one actually has calories. And though it’s only 70 per bottle, after a night of pouring pitchers of calories down your throat and throwing calorie-covered nachos into your face…I’m not sure I need another 70 calories in my life. Unless they’re wrapped in a breakfast burrito.
Aaron’s final effectiveness rankings
- Mercy Hangover Prevention Chewables
- KÜRE Hangover Prevention and Recovery
- Sprayology Party Relief
- Nurse Noni’s Hangover Sucks