Hangovers can be hell. The brain throbs. The hands quake. The mouth cracks like a splintered piece of plywood.
Happy New Year, buttercup. Thank the ethanol in that sixth artisanal Moscow mule you guzzled last night for your symptoms this morning. The diuretic compound in alcoholic drinks dehydrates your body and throws your electrolytes off-kilter.
When it comes to hangover cures, anecdotes and homespun remedies rule. “Everybody says something different,” says Cheryl Moran, general manager of the Green Turtle in Dover, and a longtime local bartender. “Some say they need something sweet, or something greasy, something salty, some like carbs.”
Science actually tells us the hair-of-the-dog theory is bunk—that treating a hangover with more alcohol only delays the inevitable. But dammit, sometimes that’s the best option on the table.
We talked to a few of Delaware’s best known and most sympathetic bartenders for their go-to hangover cure.
Pat Hurley, bartender at Blackwall Hitch in Rehoboth Beach, has the cure for what ails you after a rough night out.//photo by Deny Howeth
After 35 years of being a bartender—a tenure that ran concurrent to a successful career as a nationally touring standup comedian, Pat Hurley has seen his share of hangovers. In fact, he grew up with them.
His parents owned a honkey-tonk bar called Hurley’s Tavern in Twin Oaks, Pennsylvania, that served drinks to the workers who piled into the town’s many oil refineries each day. By 18, Pat was behind the bar.
“One morning I came in after having stayed out really late the night before,” he says. “I was quaking. And that smell of liquor and making drinks when you’re already hungover? Ughhh.”
Pat’s father Jack instructed his son to pour a glass of beer from the tap with no foamy head and made him glug it down. Then he said to do it again. And again. And again.
After the fourth beer he asked Pat how he felt. Pat’s eyes were watering.
“I said I was drunk again. He said, ‘Well, that’s better than being hungover. Now get your ass back to work.”
Today the younger Hurley is far more sympathetic to his patrons at Rehoboth Avenue’s Blackwall Hitch. Throughout the ’90s, however, he toured the country as a comedian, sharing the stage with A-listers like Kevin Hart and Ray Romano.
“Bartending is a lot like entertaining, and customers are the audience,” he says. “An orangutan can make you drinks, but you can’t teach personality. It’s hard to find bartenders anymore who say anything to you other than ‘Hi, how are you?'”
“But customers want that. If I can put a comical spin on their problems, a good story and a grin will make one cosmo feel like three.”
The Black Eye Hitch.// photo by Deny Howeth
1. Wake up and drink that water!
You need to start rehydrating yourself and get that box of kitty litter out of your mouth.
2. Oh no, I think I’m gonna…
You’re nauseous; it’s okay. Just let it happen and get it over with. The worst thing you can do is make this last longer than it need to. Trust me: This is a big step on the road to recovery.
3. Shower. Hot or cold, it’s up to you!
Think of yourself as SpongeBob SquarePants who’s been out in the sun too long. You are mega dehydrated, and water applied externally helps as well. Get in there and let it rain! We all feel better after a shower, especially when you’ve been out drinking all night and you stink.
4. Time to meet your maker
Booze got you into this mess, and booze can help you get out. This is a two phase attack. Phase One is Hair of The Dog. Phase Two is a good hearty meal. One is medical and one is physiological. For the first morning-after beverage, try a spin on an old classic: The Red Eye, composed of tomato juice, beer, lime juice and hot sauce. Or try something I make at Blackwall Hitch for my ailing customers, The Black Eye Hitch. This is the drink that will set you right when you wake up hungover and feel like you’ve been punched in the head.
Black Eye Hitch ingredients:
Pour beer over ice then top off with tomato juice. Add salt, pepper, tabasco and insert pickle spear. Shake well and let rest a second. Take a long look at that shot and slam it. Chase with The Black Eye Hitch. Help is on the way.
Cheryl Moran of The Green Turtle in Dover recommends their signature crab dip.// photo by Deny Howeth
“Bartending isn’t what it used to be,” laments Cheryl Moran, the general manager of Dover’s Green Turtle. She should know. Prior to her current post, Moran tended bar for 20 years around the state. Along the way, she learned that customers often want more than just a buzz to get over the blues or persist through rocky times.
“You never know if someone is just getting home from the hospital, or had a tragedy in their family or something,” she says, adding that genuine engagement and empathy toward customers is a dying art. “They’re looking to you to take their stress away so they don’t have to deal with those things. And they’ll remember that you treated them better than the guy down the street.”
That goes for treating hangovers too, naturally. Moran’s best advice: “Come to the Green Turtle for a Bloody Mary, a White Russian, and some of our crab dip. It’s everything that I need in a hangover cure.”
Moran says skip the raw eggs and homeopathic tonics and dive straight into the Green Turtle’s legendary dip. It’s the perfect balm because it hits the exact center of the hangover Venn diagram, the place where sweet, salty, greasy, and carb-y intersect. “It just kind of encompasses all of those,” Moran says.
With its cream cheese base, crackly melted cheddar on top, and gooey, Old Bay-spiked crabby goodness inside, it’s the Turtle’s biggest seller. And they put it on everything, including the tater tots, the fries, and the burgers. “It’s just so good,” Moran says. “If I’m not grabbing a sweet tea and cheese biscuits from McDonald’s, I’m coming to work and having this.”
[Note: This recipe will get you close, but for the real deal, head to the Green Turtle.]
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, onion, mayonnaise, crabmeat, mozzarella, garlic powder, Old Bay, salt and pepper. Spread mixture into a one-quart baking dish.
Sprinkle the cheddar over the top and bake for 20 minutes.
Serve hot with soft pretzel sticks.
Fred Bourdon of Wilmington’s Jackson Inn prescribes a simple recipe for the post-party blues: buttered toast.// Photo by Steve Legato
The proprietor of one of Wilmington’s most legendary watering holes hasn’t had a hangover in at least 34 years. That’s because he hasn’t had a drop to drink since 1984.
But Fred Bourdon’s historic tavern, whose roots date back to the late 1700s, has certainly seen its share of raging parties and heavy hitters. Andrew Jackson himself is fabled to have visited the spot during a campaign stop, and the current iteration has hosted the likes of modern political luminaries Joe Biden, Jack Markell, Tom Carper, and Governor John Carney.
Bourdon’s grandfather bought the corner of Lancaster Pike and Dupont Road in 1929, and it’s been under the family’s direction ever since. The dimly lit, wood-paneled inside has the feel of a worn-in rec room. It’s where pretension goes to die and where local bands and poetry readings can share the same elbow space with lawmakers and influencers.
When Bourdon’s father, also named Fred, needed revival after a night of drinking, he reached for an appropriately old-school cure.
“My father would make himself toast, butter, and warmed milk after a night of imbibing his favorite Calvert and Schlitz beer,” Bourdon says. “I think it was just his old awesome cure and he never complained about anything. It’s an old fashioned remedy—it settled his stomach and he was fine afterwards. He just went to the Jackson Inn the next day as if nothing bothered him.”