We Tested and Ranked the 20 Best Hangover Cures
From water to coffee to an IV drip, we tested out 20 essential hangover cures.
If you're reading this, you’re probably hungover. Or, at the very least, you find yourself in a state of bottle-ache frequently enough to search for hangover cures. It's fine. You are among friends!
I’ve been updating this list for close to five years, through the flurries of tequila shots that defined my mid-to-late 20s, to the slightly less frequent flurries of tequila shots I consume, somewhat cautiously now, on the other side of 30. I’ll greet you with the bad news, right up front. There’s no magic bullet. No panacea pill. No mystery herb that can retroactively erase whatever you did last night. And the older you get, the worse it all becomes (with hangovers….at least). So essentially, you have two options: quit drinking, or put more of your mental and physical stock into hangover prevention and treatment.
Which brings me to the good news: There are some very tangible ways to help massage a headbanger of a hangover into a mere whisper of an ailment. And, in the longstanding and not entirely alcohol-free spirit of stunt journalism, I took each of these entries out for a test-drive, for your benefit.
Here’s what I found.
20. Drinking more
When making a list like this, most people only look at the last entry, something random in the middle, and then skip down to #1. So it's always good to make some kind of statement here (as long as it rings true, of course). “Hair of the Dog” is not a hangover treatment. It’s a hangover delayer. It prolongs the suffering by keeping you low-level inebriated, and quite naturally, this will historically make you feel better. (Remember how you got into this situation in the first place?) But if you have the time, power, money, and stomach lining to just keep drinking for the rest of your life so you never get hungover (a method colloquially known as “the Keith Richards”), while also avoiding any other serious mental/physical/legal/emotional/personal issues… well, let’s be friends!
19. Rubbing a slice of lemon under your armpit
My friend, who bears the distinction of being half Puerto Rican and half Dominican, sold this to me as a traditional Caribbean hangover preventative: Before drinking, rub a lemon in the armpit of your “drinking arm”(the arm you hold your drinks with). While this method obviously did not work, it did give my right pit a bright citrus musk, like Pledge as deodorant, that was not wholly unpleasant.
18. Activated charcoal
The science behind using activated charcoal to battle the morning weirds asserts that charcoal will “suck” the toxins out of your stomach, effectively absorbing the alcohol and giving your gut a clean slate. This did not happen. The only thing the charcoal “activated” was my debit card and a four-minute conversation with “Erik” at GNC, who’s sagacious hangover advice included pairing every other drink with a Red Bull. But it gets some credit for at least not making things worse, unlike “Erik.”
17. Coconut water
See the first line of the entry below, replace “pickle juice” with “carton of Satan’s urine cut with 40-year-old hamster milk.”
16. Pickle juice
If there’s one thing that tastes worse than pickle juice going down, it’s pickle juice coming back up. Which is why I cannot fully endorse the concept of pickle juice as a top-tier method, but will say that picklebacks (chasing a shot, commonly bourbon, with pickle juice) will help you drink more in the moment, while also putting you in danger of finding out what pickle juice coming back up does taste like. There are other ways to get electrolytes. We’ll get to them later.
If I don’t drink coffee in the morning—whether I’m hungover or not—I don’t really feel normal. So it, of course, made me feel better. In reality, the coffee I’m drinking when my body is drying out from a night of Negronis (both mezcal and standard) is probably just making me more dehydrated, which only pokes the slumbering hangover bear slaughtering my insides. Since coffee has its mental pros and physical cons, and a dubious status as a standalone cure, it cannot rise any higher.
Don Draper’s go-to and a cure that old-timers tout relentlessly, Alka-Seltzer apparently will neutralize the stomach acid churning in the depths of your stomach. And yeah, it kind of did. So right now we’re moving into the “cures” that actually do help. But the problem here is that Alka-Seltzer only neutralizes one aspect of your hangover. It doesn’t deal with the headaches, fatigue, or prickling sensation of ambient, nebulous guilt. But, the fizzing sound is nice.
13. OTC Pills and Powders
These over-the-counter hangover pills, powders and patches are often met with speculation and distrust, with a lean towards pseudoscience at best and drugstore chicanery at worst. Companies like Cheers, Liquid IV, and Blowfish aren't bona fide breakthroughs, but they are loaded with vitamins and electrolytes designed to get you hydrated faster than a Supersoaker. They’re like doses of supercharged Pedialyte, which in turn is like supercharged Gatorade. These might help with hydration issues like fatigue and headaches. But, their most pertinent and effective benefit is the placebo effect one of these will undoubtedly have in some people (about one in three people, statistically). In fact, if I just ranked one of those number one, instead of shooting it straight, I could have potentially given you a real hangover cure, despite me not being honest, even though it would technically be a hangover cure, it would just be right for the wrong reasons. Man, I hope that makes sense.
12. Pedialyte and/or Gatorade
For those without children or drinking issues, Pedialyte is like supercharged Gatorade for babies. It’s filled to the brim with electrolytes, and over the years has developed a reputation as a hangover cure, much to the delight of its marketing department. And, while it did give me a boost of energy—electrolytes tingling!—you do feel like an eight-year-old with a tummy ache. In terms of taste I prefer Gatorade, Pedialyte’s sporty older cousin, personally, but they are too similar in effect to warrant separate inclusions.
Like Gatorade, Advil is a pretty common move while hungover, but it cannot do the job on its own sugar-coated volition. It will help quell that whole “did I happen to get hit by an Amtrak train last night, by any chance?” feeling, but will not save you. Sorry.
Sweet, fizzy, and stomach-settling, the triple-fisting troika of Coke, water, and Gatorade has pulled me through many a rough morning, pending my body is accepting fluids at that time, which is never a given. Coca-Cola is, perhaps, the most valuable of the three.
Speaking of puking (a phrase you almost never want to hear), upchucking definitely will help assuage many of your symptoms—particularly nausea. Its ruthless effectiveness can’t be understated. However, having the contents of your stomach come out of your mouth is pretty damn unpleasant. So if you’re the kind of person that just wants to bite the bullet and/or rip off the Band-Aid, this might be your method of choice. If you prefer to keep your bile internal, as designed, look elsewhere.
8. Pho/ramen/chicken noodle/other various soups
I don’t necessarily believe food is the best medicine (a friend of a friend tried to treat appendicitis with Pop-Tarts), but a hot bowl of soup after a rough night out can certainly soften the sting. “Soup” is obviously a broad term, but if you want me to get (very, very) specific: the Kimchi Soba Noodles from Cocoron, in lower Manhattan (located deliciously close to the Thrillist offices) has never been topped in this context, and is generally one of my favorite things to eat. But therein lies the problem: You have to eat it. Some people simply cannot eat when they are hungover. Soups tend to be pungent, and the best ones tend to have ingredients that work together to create a crowded room of flavors. This isn’t always what you need when your stomach lining is rippling like a Maritime flag.
7. Smoking weed
Sense of euphoria
Makes you high (also a pro, but not if you have stuff to do)
Potentially illegal, depending on quantity and location
Makes some people freak the fuck out
6. Bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich
Note: this is essentially my catchall for “greasy food,” which, aside from the life giving properties of the entry below, is probably the most common of all hangover cures. Is my brain just pre-wired to respond to the grease-laden combination of the eggs and bacon, from more than a decade of bodega runs and (stomach) muscle memory? Does the bread soak up the booze swirling in my stomach? Does the layer of cheddar awaken endorphins in my spinal cord that fill my body with an uppers-esque sense of affirmation and goodwill? I’m not sure. But if you are well enough to scarf one of these suckers down, it can’t hurt. SPK, of course.
5. A shit-ton of water
While this may seem like the most obvious solution to dehydration, it does require a delicate balancing act: Too much water can end up causing you more problems. I have been personally burned (and by that, I mean evacuated) on more than one occasion by drinking too much water as soon as I wake up. So, if you have the willpower to go slow and steady (perhaps not a given, considering that you are reading this article), go for it. A much, much, much better option is making sure to drink a generous amount of water the night before, while drinking.
4. McVities digestive biscuits
In many ways, I consider this to be my hangover secret weapon. McVities are a British digestive biscuit: wholly unoffensive, go down easy, and—when you crush an entire sleeve before bedtime—they’ll make sure you wake up without the flippy-floppy hellscape of alcohol-induced nausea. For those averse to eating while hungover, these are plainer than saltines. For anglophiles, they pair swimmingly with tea. For degenerates who just want me to tell them what this thing is, they are gently flavored crackers that help with digestion. Plus, they made this commercial. Which is reason enough to buy a pack.
3. IV drip
I have it on good authority that over-partying doctors and surgeons have been stringing themselves up to IVs the morning-after for decades, and for good reason: This shit definitely gives you a boost. If you don’t have a medical degree, outfits like New York’s IV Doc will come to your home or office—nurse in tow—and deliver a calculated cocktail of vitamins, saline, nausea medication, and more straight into your veins. It’s an… odd experience. It literally feels like ice water running through your veins (not in a clutch, Ray Allen type of way, but like you’re mainlining a Slurpee) and it’s admittedly pricey and elaborate. But if you need to quell a hangover MF’ing ASAP because you have a big presentation or are about to be sworn in as a United States senator, this is probably the best way to do it. Unless you are afraid of needles, obviously. Or nurses. Or IV poles. This is truly the rich person’s hangover cure, but if you can afford it, you might as well splurge.
2. Physical exercise
I know. I was surprised, too. With much reluctance, I tried working out immediately after waking up with a hangover.
I actually tried it three times, just to make sure. I ran. I did a bunch of push-ups. I did a shit-ton of sit-ups. And I ran some more. At first, it was a glimpse of hell through rapidly deteriorating beer goggles. Then I turned the corner (as I was turning a corner, actually) and I felt the booze gushing out of my pores on a superhighway of sweat. All this exertion led to a lot of water drinking, and I found myself hydrating properly without getting too nauseated. The fresh air helped clear my head. The releasing endorphins whispered to my brain, “Hey, don't feel too bad about what happened last night—but also remember to ask your doctor about the next available STI screening, OK?”
I guess treating your body like a temple actually does counteract the aftershocks of treating your body like an amusement park. Who’d have thunk it? Oh right, every single medical professional, scientist, and nervous parent since the beginning of time. I guess we should have been listening all along.
1. H.E.A.L.™ Hangover Cure System
If there’s anything I learned from trying all of these cures, it’s that one singular cure or remedy won’t do the trick. You need a multitude of solutions that combine both heavy preparation the night (or day, if you're degenerate!) you are drinking, and a lot of willpower the following day. I believe there is a simple, four-step way to combat a hangover like a goddamn professional drinker, that combines several of the aforementioned methods detailed above. Just remember: H.E.A.L.
Hydrate profusely the night before—whether that means alternating water with alcohol when you’re out, or chugging a bottle of water before going to bed. This is the first, and perhaps most important, part of the system.
Eat something before you go to bed. Like I said way back at No. 4, McVities Digestive Biscuits are my personal go-to, but the choice is yours. Just make sure there is something in your stomach that doesn’t rhyme with schmalcohol.
Aerobics, as soon as you wake up! Ok, this part sucks, but getting up, moving, and getting a sweat going is the only way to suffocate the general malaise of a hangover—both physical, and metaphysical. Combine with a shower afterwards, and you should start to feel the pangs of the hangover ooze out of your pores. [Note: If you can afford and/or arrange an IV Doc visit, it’s a viable substitute.]
Live your life like you aren't hungover. Mind over matter. Fake it until you make it. If you stay sedentary, and let the hangover define your day, you will not overcome. As someone who has personally been to work hungover hundreds of times (if any of my superiors are reading this... it was a long time ago), I firmly believe this is the only thing that can truly stop a hangover dead in its tracks. Time heals all wounds—including the hangover. Go out there and do your best, kids.