Old-days Hangover Cures


August 11, 1991|By Carleton Jones

You don't hear much about mixologists these days, even wit superhits like TV's "Cheers" grinding the neighborhood spa idea into the national mentality.

Today's bartenders are likely to be dressy young hunks whprobably know how to make sushi, play hardball, dance the lambada and do quite a few other things.

It was different a half-century ago and more. Bartenders were courtly and portly, fatherly types. They always "sirred" the male patrons and never got familiar or chatty unless approached. They hated bums and freeloaders and could spot a hustler at 60 feet. The Baltimore bartender types were famous.

Backtrack to the good old days before World War I.

Soon after the turn of the century you find an expert mixologist lecturing the public on drink in the august columns of the Sunday Sun. He remains superbly anonymous throughout his press report on the effects of drink and the best ways out of a hangover.

Our bartender delved deeply into the hangover problem and the chemistry of drinking. He was an ardent foe of the hangover, an illness, he said, that "focused the mind on depressing matter like bankruptcy, sciatica and theology." While he had his own ideas of adequate hangover remedies, he went along with the favorites suggested by his regulars.

"One old gentleman used to drink catsup" after a bender, he reported. "He would call for it at the bar and demand that it be served in a champagne glass. He would drink it slowly and with relish."

Anise-drenched kimmel, a German cordial, also caught the bartender's eye as an aid in emergency service at the bar. "Clinically, the effect of a good slug of kimmel is most striking. The patient's eyes grow brighter, his pallid skin regains its color and his expression of agony fades," he wrote.

Of regular, moderate boozing he seems to have been tolerant. "On a healthy man of 175 pounds weight one drink of whiskey produces scarcely any effect whatever," he stated. But nevertheless, a drink or two produced a "sensation of warmth and comfort" as the drink or drinks "deluged the pyloric and peptic glands."

Around 1908, our mixologist reported that the most popular hangover cure of Baltimore victims was the Manhattan cocktail. A night of heavy imbibing, he noted, made one's alimentary canal the next day "feel like the outer casing of an elderly blutwurst [sausage]." The Manhattan, he noted, contained wormwood-treated vermouth whose "strong flavor did the trick" of "knocking out the dark brown taste" of hangovers.

One customer, a wholesale shoe salesman who "had been known to drink an Eastern Shoreman under the table," had a private formula of his own for the morning after. For this visitor, the bartender would mix brandy, Holland gin and syrup. With this, the salesman invariably demanded two cherries as a chaser and he often left the bar "munching them contentedly."

An 81-year-old visitor to the mixologist's bar would chase hangovers with clam bouillon escorted by a chaser of sherry. Another local victim would drink 14 glasses of water in 14 minutes to ward off the meemies. "You could almost hear a hissing sound as the liquid slid down his incandescent esophagus," the bartender related.

"The man with a hangover," our bartender concluded, "is as much a human as you and I and his sufferings are often agonizing."

Did this medical mixologist drink? No, at least not much and then only for experimental purposes. His aversion was like that of a "surgeon who doesn't have the slightest desire to see his own appendix excised." *

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