“Every hangover,” the late David Carr once wrote, “begins with an inventory.” Those first few moments of waking with a nasty headache feels like a slow reboot as you strain to think of the decisions you made the night before. If you can’t remember how you arrived in your bed, you know you’re in for a good one. But whether or not you let it hijack your day depends on how much you’re willing to spend to get rid of it. For a couple hundred dollars, you could call the Hangover Club, an on-call service that delivers a registered nurse to your door who administers an IV infusion that can, in theory, cure your bender.
Though relatively new to New York City, treating hangovers at home or in spas, using an IV cocktail of electrolytes, vitamins, and antioxidants, is a service that exists in many cities, particularly ones like Las Vegas and Miami, where people have an incentive to undo the damage from the night before so they can continue to drink heavily. It was in Miami, in fact, that Hangover Club founder Asa Kitfield first happened upon the idea, while on a bachelor party weekend with friends. Aware that IV therapies had the potential to cure hangovers, he arranged for a friend, who was a nurse, to perk everyone up with an IV solution while in their hotel room. Within two hours his hangover had disappeared, and he brought a business plan back to New York, where he found a partner in Dr. Maurice Beer (yes, that’s his real name) last year. Beer uses IV remedies to treat a variety of ailments in his own Midtown practice, and already, 30% of the Hangover Club’s customer base uses their Megadose Vitamin C Nutridrip purely to boost their energy and immunity.
But can it cure a hangover? Because I hate needles, I declined to test it myself, but instead asked Talitha Whidbee, owner of Vine Wine in Williamsburg, to try it out for me. Whidbee enlisted a friend as well, who would be in attendance at the same dinner party of seven the night before their Hangover Club treatment, where 13 bottles of natural, biodynamic and organic wines, beer and sake would be drunk. Apart from perhaps the sake, none of these contained sulfites, often considered the root of a wine hangover. Both Whidbee and her friend awoke the next morning feeling shitty—proof that sulfites can’t be blamed for all the pain of the morning after–ready for the registered nurse to arrive with the Mega drip, filled with B vitamins, high-dose vitamin C, a pain killer stronger than Aleve, and Glutathione, a “master antioxidant” said Kitfield.
At 11:43am that morning Whidbee texted me her report. “Totally doesn’t work. Still terribly hungover.” She and her friend then moved on to Bloody Marys, more coffee, and aspirin to improve their situation. After a nap, Whidbee said she awoke feeling better, perhaps even better than she would have had she not taken the cure. “But I didn’t have any startling results where I was like, ‘All right, I’m ready to go!’” Which is what you would want if you had paid $250 to feel better.
Could it be that the wine had something to do with it? As any drinker will tell you, there are differences between hangovers, some of which could be blamed on congeners, compounds that occur as a result of the distillation or fermenting process. Dark drinks like red wine and whiskey contain more of them than light spirits, and in one study pitting the hangovers of vodka versus whiskey drinkers, the whiskey drinkers fared worse. This is one small study in a very small body of research, however, as the author of Proof: The Science of Booze, Adam Rogers, makes clear. In the last 50 years, there have been nearly 800,000 studies on the subject of alcohol published to Pubmed, and a little over 500 on hangovers. Everyone knows a bonafide hangover cure would be a goldmine—we already spend roughly $700 million a year to get rid of them–but no one seems to want to sponsor such research, either because of the risks involved, or our puritanical roots, or both. We drink, therefore we must suffer.
Except for the people for whom the Hangover Club does work. Lauren Kolenda, a 31-year-old family assistant and personal chef in Williamsburg, recounted for me the first time she used the service. Her out-of-town friends were visiting for the weekend, and because she had to work late on Friday, she missed out on the dinner they shared together before the bar hopping began. She quickly caught up to them on her empty stomach, and went beyond her typical number of vodka sodas because they kept buying the drinks. Then the morning came, and all of her go-to cures–Gatorade, carrot ginger juice, chicken soup—sat untouched for hours because she was too nauseous to sip them. She had one more night with her friends ahead of her, and decided that the only way she could rally was by ordering a home visit from a Hangover Club nurse, a service she’d read about on Facebook.
“I’m telling you within 20 minutes, I didn’t feel nausea anymore,” said Kolenda, who was able to go out and enjoy herself that night (though she refrained from drinking). She has since ordered the service for a bachelorette party, to help revive herself and those tasked with cleaning the bride-to-be’s apartment the day after, and recently got the Megadose Vitamin C therapy–not when she was hungover, but when she was embarking on a month-long cleanse.
As Kolenda put it, when you use the service to feel better after a hangover, you’re just restoring yourself to normal. But when she started from her baseline state of health, and used the drip to “detox my body to get ready to workout—for that I actually did feel great. It almost feels like my body is finally working exactly how it’s supposed to.” Considering it costs just much as the mega hangover package, perhaps the shot of wellness is the better deal.