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LIZ SAGUES: Hangovers? The simple truth is, there's no alternative to moderation

PUBLISHED: 11:50 04 January 2007 | UPDATED: 10:30 07 September 2010

Hangover cures, hangover cures, came the chorus of suggestions for this post-Christmas column. The only trouble is that, in truth, there aren t any. Try prevention instead. Moderation is best and it helps to drink a lot of water alongside the alcohol. A

Hangover cures, hangover cures, came the chorus of suggestions for this post-Christmas column.

The only trouble is that, in truth, there aren't any. Try prevention instead. Moderation is best and it helps to drink a lot of water alongside the alcohol. And if you heard that deeply depressing Radio 4 programme before Christmas you won't have been drinking much at all.

This isn't the moment to discuss the health issues of alcohol - though watch this space early in the new year. So let's, instead, have some fun with vinous trivia.

The Oxford Wine Company's magazine is always a good start. "During the reign of William III, a garden fountain was once used as a giant punch bowl. The recipe included 560 gallons of brandy, 1,200 pounds of sugar, 25,000 lemons, 20 gallons of lime juice and five pounds of nutmeg. The barman rowed around in a small boat filling up guests' cups."

Repeating that is just a little excessive but you could try the following at midnight on Sunday. "A raisin dropped into a glass of champagne will repeatedly bounce up and down between the top and bottom of the glass." Log on to www.oxfordwine.co.uk for 67 suggestions of suitable fizz for the experiment.

Pamela Vandyke Price, the grande dame of wine writing, is another source of challenging information (Wine: Lore, Legends And Traditions, Hamlyn, 1985). "The record spit stands at 11 feet three inches," she asserts, after repeating the instruction she was given on how to learn to expel effectively. "Lie in the bath and try to hit your feet."

And in an anecdote with eerily modern parallels, she reveals the late 19th century work wear insisted on by the Victoria Wine company for its manageresses ("selected with discretion for business capabilities and ladylike manners"). "They had to wear black dresses and aprons, being forbidden to sport ribbons or jewellery, and were obliged to part their hair in the middle, with a bun at the back." Try that, Majestic staff.

Discretion hardly held sway almost two millennia earlier, among certain Grecian beauties. One poet wrote of his mistress: "Callistion, who can drink men under the table, tossed down fasting six quarts of wine - a miracle, but a true one." Wow. And as for the lovely Cleo, "not a man in the world, drinking level, had matched her".

Move on, in time and place, still with H Warner Allen and his enjoyable A History Of Wine (Faber, 1961) to Roman Italy. One nobleman, sent a large wild boar by a friend, initially salivated at the prospect.

"Then it occurred to him that his cook would insist on serving it with his own special secret sauce. That meant mountains of pepper, an expensive luxury, and quantities of Falerian (the poshest of the Romans' wines). It would be absolute ruin. So he returned the boar with his best thanks, saying he simply could not afford it."

Ah, and here finally is, if not a hangover cure, a remedy which will avoid the need for one. It dates from the 16th century but was still in favour 200 years later. "To cure those who are too much addicted to drink wine. Put, in a sufficient quantity of wine, three or four large eels, which leave there till quite dead. Give that wine to drink to the person that you want to reform, and he or she will be so much disgusted of wine, that though they formerly made much use of it, they will now have an aversion to it."

Thank you, Christopher Fielden (Is This the Wine You Ordered, Sir?, Christopher Helm, 1989).

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