Do you know what a hangover is? Not just what it feels like, but what is actually happening inside your body?
“It’s a depreciation of nutrients in the body,” alchemist and mixologist Alex Ott explains. “You need to boost liver activity, get antioxidants, get some vitamin B1. This is where the science comes in.” According to Ott, your body needs a full 24 hours to recover from a drinking bout. “People are getting annihilated after the second martini, thinking they need to numb themselves with 10 ounces of alcohol,” Ott said. “That leaves no room for science. The only thing that will help you is an IV bag.”
Ott wants to perpetuate drinking culture, but with a new caveat: lose the hangover and keep the liquor pour lighter. Make it an experience that uses homeopathy to moderate the drinker’s physical and mental being.
Nature meets nurture in his cocktails, which have been sampled by everyone from celebrities to NASA astronauts. For his new book, Dr. Cocktail: 50 Spirited Infusions to Stimulate the Mind and Body (Running Press), he has created drinks that are meant to seduce, awaken, prolong life and prevent hangovers.
When he started bartending, only three people called themselves mixologists. “Ten years ago, a mixologist was more than someone who made cocktails,” Ott says. Now he feels like the term is used too loosely in the bartending industry. “Bartenders are the last legal drug dealers on the planet,” Ott said. “They’ve got 500 different kinds of poison behind the bar and not enough training on each one’s individual effects.”
Ott, who has an organic chemistry degree from Braunschweig University of Technology in Germany, believes bartenders should know the properties of each one of those spirits, and understand how they’ll impact the customer when consumed. For example, schnapps and cordials induce headaches, insomnia and inflammation, all symptoms of a classic hangover. “That’s when I came in and pissed everyone off,” Ott says. “I told them you’ve got to stop doing this, you don’t know what you are doing. This is dangerous.”
First and foremost, he favors quality products. “Hennessy, family-owned for years in France, knows something about cognac,” Ott said. “Not some dude who graduated from finance school and wants to make his own vodka. Too many people blindly trust this industry.”
Ott’s own drink recipes can be found on menus around the world — most notably his exotic cocktail menu at Buddha Bar in Paris. But even though he says his drinks can reduce anxiety, heighten senses, or help with insomnia, the FDA does not allow him to state it plainly.
“The FDA gives herbalists such a hard time,” Ott says. “Ginger, damiana, chamomile, these are all beneficial to your health, but you can’t say that.”
Meanwhile, Ott notes that other products are allowed to make health claims that he says are less than truthful. “Vitamin Water has no vitamins in it,” Ott says. “It did have 20 percent vitamins, but then they pasteurize it, put in a clear bottle, and destroy most of the vitamins left inside.”
Ott grew up in Germany, where his father instilled in him the importance of nature. “My dad had a super green thumb,” Ott said. “He taught me about herbs, fruits, and flowers.”
For Ott, who now lives in New York City, it’s all about getting the culture in balance with nature. He’s got recipes with sage to enhance the appetite, chamomile to reduce stress, and cucumber for youthfulness. “I’m forcing everyone in a very polite way to take care of their bodies,” Ott says. “If you don’t take time for health now, you’ll have to take time for sickness later.”
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