I figure I’ve probably spent more than a fourth of my adult life in bars. For good or ill, you’re bound to pick up some things—not all of them terribly useful (anyone who has ever sat through my “Captain’s Shirt” joke knows that’s a fact). That said, you do occasionally learn some things, especially from the old-timers, that can help get you through the day.
One of the most important things to remember is that a hundred years ago, everything in a bar was considered “medicine”. Coke had cocaine, 7-Up had laudanum, and liquor has varying degrees of alcohol. Before the rise of the massive pharmaceutical industry we know today, these were the simple remedies of every day working men and women. Two important notes: 1) I AM NOT A MEDICAL DOCTOR so these “curatives” are based on my experiences only and 2) DO NOT COMBINE ANY ALCOHOL WITH MEDICATION! These are “natural” remedies that NEVER combine well with prescription meds, especially anti-psychotics or sleeping aids. I’m sure there are many more, but these are some of my favorite—and most effective--all-time barroom remedies:
If you get to the bar with a headache, you need to be careful about what you drink! Some kinds of alcohol cause your veins to compress and will actually make your headache worse. AVOID: Vodka, white wine, champagne, and beer at all costs. To cure your headache almost immediately, take a shot of tequila. This will open up your blood vessels almost instantly relieving the pressure you’re feeling in your head. Wait about 15 minutes, if you still have a headache, have ONE more shot of tequila. That will do the trick, guaranteed, and you’re ready to enjoy the rest of the evening out! DRINK: tequila, whiskey, mescal, or dark rum (especially Sailor Jerry owing to the higher alcohol content) for the rest of the night and your headache will stay away. REMEMBER: You just had a couple shots of tequila in 15 minutes! Drink some water and pace yourself! You don’t want that headache back in the morning!
Nearly every barroom warrior gets them now and again. There are a zillion “remedies” people will advise you to try from holding your breath to drinking a glass of water upside-down (what does that even mean?!!). Ignore that crap and order a shot of sugar. Yes, regular old cane sugar. The bartender will probably look at you weird but they’re also likely too young to have learned this trick so ignore that, too. Take as much of the shot as you can fit in your mouth but DON’T SWALLOW IT, not yet at least. Suck on it like you would a lozenge for a couple minutes. It will gradually liquify in your mouth and you can swallow it as it does. By the time you have swallowed all of the sugar, your hiccups will be gone 90% of the time. If you still have them just repeat the process and that will be that!
This is another job for tequila and/or corn whiskey. Literally any tequila will do the trick but, unfortunately, you will need to switch from Irish whiskey to American whisky or bourbon. The reason is Irish whiskey is generally 51% rye and something about that chemistry doesn’t clear sinuses as well. Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, and Wild Turkey are some common labels that most bars will have on hand. If, however, you can get someone to serve you Blanton’s, Mellow Corn, or Tin Cup, you’ll be glad they did AND you’ll be breathing easier in no time! Continue to keep your blood alcohol level up for a couple of days and you will kill your cold. They sterilize surgical instruments in alcohol for a reason!
Don’t go to the bar, you have the flu. At home, however, it’s vodka time. I think of vodka as Vitamin V. If you are able to catch your coming illness at the very first sign of nausea, start knocking back the shots (martinis are fine but skip the vermouth or any sweet ingredient you don’t want to see on the floor later; save your olives for the same reason). If you need some kind of mixer, use Bitters and tonic water. Have a few shots (5-6) in quick succession and go to bed. You’ll likely sleep like a baby and wake up having missed at least some of the worst of it. If you’re too late you’re going to throw it all up but, hey, that was going to happen anyway and Vitamin V will ease your discomfort at a minimum. If you DO succeed in getting out in front of it, stay home and stay drunk for 2-3 days. Seriously. And don’t feel guilty. You would’ve been calling in sick anyway!
Order a White Russian. Still hurting? Order another one. This will not solve the problem but it will get you through the evening until you can get some Tums or whatever.
Bailey’s. It has a kind of “menthol-like” property that helps clear up the mucus membranes. It will probably take 3-4 shots but it WILL work. As with a normal headache, avoid the vaso-compressors listed above. Red wine can really help as well. It tends to elevate your body temp a bit and is extremely soothing for your nerves. By the second glass you should be breathing easier.
Bitters and soda on the rocks. Be sure to stir everything a bit before drinking. Repeat until you feel better. Bitters were originally brewed by pharmacists as a digestif, after all! If you’re in a place that doesn’t have Bitters, you are not in a bar. Find a real bar with a real barman or woman immediately.
Those are the basics and will get you through almost everything you might routinely face during an evening out on the town—at least internally. Nothing at the bar will find your lost cell phone. The most important thing to remember is this: If you can’t cure it at the bar, it’s probably fatal. In which case, you might as well have a few anyway. Cheers!