JOURNAL: Bathtub Gin and My First Hangover

I’m, not the hard-drinking type; I drank little before I came of age; and even though I celebrated my 21st birthday with three trips to Oktoberfest in Munich in the span of a week, and can recall a number of other over-indulgent days in the seven years since, I’ve never had a hangover… until today.

I think perhaps it’s genetic, as my maternal grandfather, Bill Ledoux, claimed to have never had a hangover one single day in his life and he attributed this blessing to the purity of single malt scotch. He was known as something of a drinker however and a master storyteller, so nobody believed his claim.

Last night I went to a party at a new club in the SoMa district and the event was sponsored by a distillery. The gin was flowing free and freely, so I ordered G+T by the pair like I had someone to pass the second drink to and mingled with a glass in each hand. Here’s the problem: It was gin from a local distillery that I had never heard of, and despite the pretty label it drank like the batch had just been bottled in someone’s back yard. I knew right away that it was not a quality libation, but it was gratis gin so I kept drinking. I’m a connoisseur, but not a snob. I like good gin more than cheap gin, but I also like drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and am not averse to ordering cocktails with well liquor instead of call.

I knew that this stuff was simply wicked beyond the flavor and the bite, but I just couldn’t place my concern, so I kept drinking. It wasn’t the clean drunkenness that I appreciate from a gin binge, and I felt less clear-headed than I would expect from comparable consumption, but it was not until 6:30 this morning that I knew for sure that something was not right. I woke up with a headache, upset stomach and a sensitivity to light that I have never experienced after a night of drinking. Sometimes I wake up with a very dry mouth and strong thirst and I call that ‘my hangover’ because that is as bad as it gets. So I got up well before my alarm went off, took a leak and drank two glasses of water before I went back to bed for another half hour. I woke up again at 7:30 feeling altogether better, but those thirty minutes of conscious hangover were not pleasant.

I’m far from an alcoholic, but I have always appreciated the way that a drink can lighten my mood, loosen my inhibitions and compliment a meal. Beer, wine and cocktails all have a special place in my culinary canon, both for the memories that I have of foods paired with drinks and for the influence they have on my cooking, whether that be making a dish with alcohol in the recipe, barbecuing a chicken with a PBR crammed in its cavity, or borrowing flavor combinations back and forth between food and cocktail recipes.

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