A Bloody Mary is a cocktail frequently referred to as a "restorative" and consumed as a hangover cure. But does it work? Only one way to find out...

Just The Facts

  1. For a drink that's about 75 percent tomato juice and 20 percent alcohol, people have surprisingly strong opinions about what goes in that last 5%.
  2. This should actually be considered par for the course for an alcoholic beverage intended to be consumed first thing in the morning.
  3. Or first thing when you wake up, mid-afternoon, as the case may be.

History Of The "Hangover Drink"

The idea of a "hangover drink" actually extends all the way back to back to medieval inns, believe it or not. However, the edible qualities of the tomato are actually only a fairly recent part of Western culture; they were believed to be poisonous up until the 18th century. The original hangover drink was a raw egg, mixed into beer with lots of black pepper, and consumed in one gulp. The medieval recipe survives now as the "Prairie Oyster" (with whiskey or brandy substituted for beer).

The original Bloody Mary is traditionally assumed to have been invented by George Jessel, and then perfected by Fernand Petiot, who first added spices to what was originally just vodka and tomato juice. There was a brief period during the 1940s and early 1950s where the drink was called a "Red Snapper" (now used as the moniker of a delicious drink involving whiskey, amaretto and cranberry juice) because "Bloody Mary" was considered too racy a title even for an alcoholic beverage. The drink as we know it now was forged at the St. Regis hotel in New York after they imported Petiot from France, and it's very likely that Hemmingway, Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe and Dali (who lived at the St. Regis during that time period) all drank what is now known as a Bloody Mary but ordered them as Red Snappers, ordering them from Petiot himself.

Tabasco became a traditional part of the recipe in the late 50s (it was originally just a garnish that could be requested), and has an interesting history in and of itself. Tobasco sauce was invented during the dust-bowl era when a harsh drought wiped out most of the crops on the McIlhenny farm. The only crops that survived were the peppers. In desperation, they mixed those peppers in vinegar and sold a sauce that is now included in army rations and on trips to space.

But Does It Actually Cure Hangovers?

"If this dog do you bite, soon as out of your bed, take a hair of the tail in the morning."- Scottish Proverb

To be honest, "hair of the dog" actually works. Kinda. At least in the same sense that most cold "remedies" work; using alcohol to cover up the symptoms at the expense of your liver.

One of the causes of hangovers is methanol, specifically how your body metabolizes it into formaldehyde while you sleep. Drink some formaldehyde sometime and see how you feel. Actually, please don't. You'll die and your family will sue us. Formaldehyde fucks you right up, and not in any sort of fun way. But re-introducing ethanol (possibly via some sort of delicious spicy tomato juice cocktail that we vaguely remember someone talking about recently...) into your system will convert the remaining formaldehyde back to methanol, which is much less damaging.

The problem, however, is that it does not counter-effect dehydration, the other major cause/damaging effect of hangovers. The only true prevention/cure of hangovers is to drink twice as much water as alcohol you drink, to counter the diuretic effects...

Or not drink at all.

But hey, we're not your mom. We're more like your glue-sniffing cousin, and if you're actually taking medical advice from us, you've got worse problems than a hangover.