Serious Eats: Drinks

Drinking the Bottom Shelf: NOHO Hangover Defense

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Bottom Shelf research director Emily and I have hit a couple of snags in our wedding planning. The first and relatively benign snag is that we have not yet pinned down just where and when this wedding will be, nor how we will pay for it. We know it will be in 2012 and in the right-hand half of the United States and will involve credit cards and wishful thinking, though, which is a good enough start to allow me to focus here on the second, rather more substantial snag: our differing opinions on the meaning of the phrase "no hard alcohol at the reception."

This was Emily's idea, and at first I thought it was a good one. Most of our friends and half of ourselves tend to drink with a bit too much enthusiasm when celebrating major events such as New Year's Day, the Super Bowl, or lunch, so there's plenty of telling what they might do at a wedding. Emily's not one to restrict anyone's fun, but she's also not one for loud noises or seeing ugly people naked, so she decided to come down heavy on the side of caution and oppression by limiting our guests to unlimited beer and wine.

Like I said, I was okay with this plan at first, because I'm a beer man at heart and I am also tired of seeing my pasty friends' pastier asses after the bad idea juice comes out (They've been on a Goldschlager kick lately; the bar basement now smells like cinnamon puke and cheese-flavored Sun Chips). Plus Emily doesn't ask for much, whereas I never stop asking for things, so it gives me a little kick to be able to humor her once a year.

But I should have read the fine print before I agreed to her hard liquor ban, because she's apparently gone so power-mad as to think it applies to the customary Old Crow toast that signals the beginning of any proper celebration. I'm not sure our marriage will even be legally binding without the Crow's blessing, but she's sticking to her guns for now. I haven't formally backed down yet but I probably will, because I want to make Emily happy and I also don't want to wake up hungover on my first day as a married man.

I fear my most glorious drinking days are behind me. I still love getting blotto in the evenings, but I find that I just don't have the time anymore. Oh, I can still spare the hours between dinner and breakfast; when I'm not out drinking, I'm just home reading magazines or window-shopping for cutting boards (I really like to cut things on boards) and socks (I really like to wear things on my feet). Might as well be getting wasted. But it's the post-breakfast hours that I can't spare, because that's when I need to toil for The Man so as to pay for all the booze and socks I like to compile in the apartment I like to not be evicted from. And I'm getting too old to answer the bell consistently after a long night out.

If someone could cure hangovers, I'd happily spend every night drinking myself into jail or at least ill-advised pizza and cutting-board binges, but these days it seems like Emily's alarm clock goes off approximately 30 seconds after I brush the Schlitz off my breath. If I'm not in bed sober by midnight, I'm not much use the next day.

I've tried all the home hangover remedies and preventatives, such as water and aspirin and Gatorade and bananas and abstinence, and none of them work. I even investigated an alleged over-the-counter hangover eraser called Mercy, but that didn't do anything, either. So when the makers of NOHO Hangover Defense—which they call a "functional lifestyle beverage"—sent me a batch, I was happy to have an excuse to professionally overindulge but not optimistic that it would actually help me feel like a human being the next morning.

They sent four 2-ounce bottles of liquid that tasted pleasantly reminiscent of powdered raspberry-lemonade, along with instructions to take one bottle before drinking and a second bottle after your fifth drink, should you come to that. Emily and I split the four bottles and tested them on separate nights.

Emily went first. She is a woman of science and restraint and was therefore very skeptical about NOHO's claims that they've somehow stumbled upon the right mix of "essential vitamins and nutrients your body needs to prevent that terrible hangover before it starts." But despite her doubts, she claimed to feel much better than she had any right to the morning after drinking a bottle of wine, a can of beer, and two bottles of NOHO.

Her positive report got me excited for my own trial, but I kept forgetting to take NOHO before my first sip of alcohol. When I finally got around to following the instructions, I found that this stuff just might work for me, too. It's so hard to say for sure, because we've only tried it once each and one brings so much psychological baggage to such an experiment, but I will say that the morning after having seven drinks with NOHO, I felt as if I'd had maybe two: I could tell that some poison had entered my body the night before, but I didn't feel much worse for wear, just very faintly hazy until my coffee kicked in.

If and when I see NOHO in a store I'll buy some for myself and try it again, in hopes that I've found the perfect chaser for the Old Crow shots to be served at our one-day anniversary party.

About the author: Will Gordon loves life and hates mayonnaise. You can eat and drink with him in Boston or follow him on twitter @WillGordonAgain.

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