Fear not, those of you paying your debt to last night’s fun. As a public service to the hungover, every week we track down the best bartenders in America and ask them to share their favorite hair of the dog remedies. This week, we’ve got a low-alcohol swill that includes everyone’s favorite German digestif: Underberg.
THE SPECIALIST: Matt Ragan, general manager of Victor Tangos bar in Dallas, Texas
HIS ELIXIR: Proper PanaceaITS ORIGINS: Underberg is a German digestif made of dozens of bitter, aromatic herbs including cinnamon, cloves and anise. The botanicals are distilled and then aged for months in Slovenian oak barrels. Referred to as “a portion of well being,” the 44-percent-ABV tonic has been easing upset stomachs since the 1840s. Today, Underberg is only sold in single-serving glass bottles. The 20-milliliter shot is wrapped in a distinctive brown paper to prevent sunlight from fading its effects.
ITS HEALING POWERS: Matt Ragan, general manager of Victor Tangos bar in Dallas, Texas, says he buys more Underberg than anyone else in North Texas. But he sells the least. “I like to just give the stuff away for fun,” he says. The distinctive bottles are stacked high behind his bar. “Europeans are so far ahead of us on how to eat, drink, live and celebrate. Over the centuries they’ve come up with aperitifs and digestifs to calm your stomach and speed your metabolism, revitalizing you after heavy eating and drinking.”
Ragan suffers from a headache when he’s hungover, but cures it easily with another shot of alcohol. “A headache is just a side effect of your body going through alcohol withdrawal,” he says. “The next morning you only need to drink enough to stop the withdrawal symptoms.” He came up a low-alcohol cocktail that does just the trick and also helps calm an upset stomach: the Proper Panacea.
His drink contains one aperitif (Campari) and two digestifs (Underberg and Gran Classico). It also includes fresh lime juice, which replenishes nutrients with a big dose of vitamin C, and lots of mint and ginger, which Ragan refers to as a “calming bomb.” The whole thing tastes refreshingly bitter, like a grapefruit. “I could sip this one all day even if I wasn’t hungover,” he says. “It’s rare you can find a cocktail that serves a purpose and tastes great.”
BUT REALLY, YOU SHOULD BE DRINKING UNDERBERG: “Underberg is a son of a bitch,” Ragan says. “How it tastes is irrelevant to how it works. It’s German…utilitarian.”
2 oz. Gran Classico bitters by Tempus Fugit Spirits
½ oz. Campari
2 good dashes Underberg bitters
1 oz. lime juice
½ oz. simple syrup
½ oz. ginger tisane (recipe below)
pinch fresh mint
THE METHOD: Make the ginger tisane: Combine 3 parts water with 1 part sugar in a pot. Add lots of grated ginger and heat just until sugar dissolves. Strain and chill. Make the drink: Add all ingredients plus ice to a cocktail tin. Shake well. Double strain the drink into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with crushed ice, a splash of club soda, a dash of Campari and a sprig of mint.