Germany doesn't do things by halves, and those things include hangovers. While living in Berlin I felt compelled to try to find the most authentically German hangover – it didn't take very long really. I did it by picking up some minatures of krauterlikor (krauter means “herb”) and downing them every now and again, often before, during or after a few jars of Berliner Pilsner or Schöfferhofer Kristal.
In supermarkets and grocery stores, little bottles of krauter are often stocked right next to the till, adjacent to the chewing gums and mints, giving the impression they are for everyday, pick-one-up, down-it-and carry-on use. Pretty hardcore and carpe diem, yeah? I’m not so sure.
There is some interesting lore and myth attached to krauterlikors around their supposed digestive or medicinal properties. Well, I was walking down Kollwitzstrasse nursing a mild cold one boring afternoon, and decided to test the theory. I bought and furtively sank a 20ml minature of 35% Kuemmerling and immediately felt the need to sit down, feeling rough as ten bears. Suffice to say I don’t think there’s much evidence that they’re good for the health.
Still, I carried on questing through Berlin for the ur-hangover, and have tried quite a few different ones, in various states of sobriety. There are a number of different kinds and brands available in miniatures next to the tills: weizenkorns which are translucent, vodka-like distillations made from wheat; weinbrands (brandy, basically); and lots of different authentic krauters, the most conspicuous of which is Jägermeister. These are unctuous, opaque, mediaeval-looking concotions that resemble cough medicine in taste and hue. Most of them have wicked, Motörhead-ish old German typography on their labels, and though the alcohol content is on the whole lower than, say whisky or vodka, the other thing they have in common is that they tend to produce absolutely clanging hangovers, even without going mad on them.
Drink with caution, they say. Stimmt…*
Wurzelpeter Urwüziger Krauterlikor, “Das Original”, 30%
Description: the label shows a dwarf/elf in woods stirring a huge cauldron over a fire, so we’re in Brothers Grimm territory here. A drink as dark as midnight in the Schwarzwald.Hangover: Grimm. I gave up half way through the bottle (it was like drinking witches’ wee), and even then ended up feeling terrible: sick, pained and confused.
Orginal Radeberger Bitter 35%
Description: sophistciated design and plenty of embossed stamps and awards. Pleasant bitter taste, erring away from cough medicine territory
Hangover: difficult to tell, because this one went down with a skinfull of beer, resulting in a compound hangover. One to reevaulate.
Dirty Harry Lakritz-Likor, 21.5%
Description: intriguing label design of a Chicago wiseguy with a trilby (no idea why); sweet and liquoricey but rather too much like Benolyn
Hangover: Dirty by name, dirty by nature. Throbbing head and the “never-again” feeling.
Oldersloer Weizenkorn 32%
Description: clear and vodka-y, though it had that rough, dangerous edge you get from non-premium corner-shop vodkas. Surprisingly easy to knock back, although not strictly a proper krauter
Hangover: not too bad, pretty much a straight vodka hangover; mild sickness and aches, but the head’s okay.
Description: the Led Zep of krauters: attractive orange and black colours with that wicked stag’s head motif (“jäger” means “”hunter”). Extremely moreish, consequently I drank far too much
Hangover: murderous and existential. A truly European hangover. The Sorrows of young Werther in a bottle. A headache from 1942.
Description: fun little shades-wearing avatars on the label suggest an apparent marketing drive towards children and/or the young-at-heart.
Hangover: don’t know, the packaging was offputting enough in itself.
Description: rather chichi little bottles with a green and orange livery; distinct citrus overtones to the taste. Quaffable.
Hangover: immediate (see above). I took me a good hour or so to feel normal again. Have not drunk since.
* German phrase sort of means “yeah, definitely”