Hammering out a whisky hangover

Hammering out a whisky hangover

Dewar’s Stephen Marshall instructs whisky-obsessed Indians on how his people, the Scots, have handled hangovers down the ages

Any whisky drinker will know that this golden, syrupy drink, with a backbone of 40-50 percent alcohol content, can inflict head-busting, red-eyed hangovers.

And Indians drink more whisky than any of their earthly neighbours -- 131 million cases in 2010 that we know of

So it is logical to assume that India also tops the list for consequent hangovers.

Here are some suggestions on how to beat the hangover before, during and after a whisky binge.

Scotsman Stephen Marshall confesses that, as a young boy, he once sneaked into his grandfather’s room, nicked a bottle and took a generous glug of what turned out to be a deadly whisky meant for cooking.

Since then he has become something of an expert.

As global brand ambassador for Scotch whisky major Dewar’s, Marshall was in Mumbai recently taking aficionados through a round of tastings in his kilt.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first

Whisky is far more likely to cause a hangover than say, vodka or white rum (double the chances with bourbon whiskey), and that’s because drinks that are darker contain a certain congener called methanol which thoroughly dehydrates and toxifies the body that absorbs it.

Stephen MarshallMarshall talks to Mumbai about hangovers and Highland Flings.It actually gets worse for Indian whiskey which is largely made from sugar cane molasses and tends to be sweeter which is also more likely to cause a hangover.

Cheaper whiskies of course make the outcome near inevitable.

“The simplest of ways to beat the hangover goes to the heart of what makes whisky so sought after: less is more. Don’t drink too much because after a point you’re not going to enjoy it and when you wake up the morning, it’ll only be downhill from then on," Marshall says.

"Also drink plenty of water in between drinks. And of course, even after the damage is done."

He adds, "Make sure it's chilled.”

That piece of advice has been drilled into Indian malt-heads and it hasn’t worked, so on to the next one.

“Leave the cigarette or cigar out of the session because that only makes things worse for the body. The combination of tobacco and any sort of booze just sends the toxic levels through the roof,” Marshall says. 

Hair of the dog and a jog

The easiest and most authentically Scottish way to deal with a whisky hangover is to simply get oneself Irn-Bruised first thing in the morning, Marshall says.

It’s a sure shot solution that entails drinking a heavily sugared Scottish soda called Irn-Bru.

Since one of the prime reasons for a whisky hangover apart from dehydration is a suddenly lowered blood sugar level, this drink works well and is the Scots’ preferred remedy.

Irn-Bru is not available in India so a Coke (not diet) will have to do.

The only natural remedy Marshall says worked for him, was to go for a long walk or a jog, even better with some rain spitting down.

But one last piece of advice tops the list and is bound to be popular because it actually validates a cure usually suggested in jest: when hung over, drink again.

The Scots invented a cocktail meant expressly to ease the pain and called it Hair of The Dog.

Hair of The Dog doffs its hat to an old Roman belief that the best way to cure someone bitten by a mad dog is to feed the victim, even by force, a potion containing that very dog’s burnt hair.

The similarity between both predicaments is perhaps lost on the alcoholic of today, but nevertheless here goes: A single pour of whisky, one spoon honey and double cream. Dog hair, strictly optional.

Another Scottish cocktail meant to soften the blow is ironically called Morning Glory, which is a large whisky, absinthe, sugar, lime, and an entire egg. The egg yolk has an amino acid which directly attacks the toxins resulting from whisky’s several cogeners.

And if swallowing a whole egg isn’t enough deterrence, here's another time-tested, non-alcoholic Scottish remedy called Highland Fling: a pint of heated buttermilk mixed with a spoonful of cornflower.

If it all comes undone, not to worry. Just go back to sleep and try again later.

Bhisham Mansukhani writes about food, travel and wine, so long as there's drinking, ahem, tasting involved.

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