SPICY BLOODY MARY TAKEAWAYS
We’ve come to the point in this episode, where it’s time to start synthesizing some of the things we’ve learned about chemesthesis, spice perception, horseradish chemistry, and benign masochism to see if we can understand – in a big picture way – the role that spice plays in the Bloody Mary.
Because if I had to guess, when bartender Pete Petiot included his first few dashes of black pepper and Cayenne pepper in his Bloody Mary, he did so based solely on instinct. He didn’t know what we know about the chemical and biological structures responsible for the flavors that we love, so I think we have a genuine opportunity here to veer off from the trail breadcrumbs our mixological ancestors left for us and strike out for new and exciting places.
Spice and Hangover Symptoms
Here’s Dr. Alissa Nolden’s thoughts on what subjects we might study (in a perfect world) to better understand the specific mechanisms that govern the relationship between the Bloody Mary and the hangover symptoms that it’s often deployed to combat.
“I love thinking about hypothetical research questions, and I when I was thinking about this question, I had two things that I was curious about.
One, I think would be great to see how many people actually find [a Bloody Mary] to be beneficial or helpful. So can can you create a hangover or kind of recreate a hangover for a different for all these participants and give them maybe everything but capsaicin or anything but ethanol and then test out to see if it’s the capsaicin, see if it’s ethanol, or is it just the high concentration of vegetables?
I also wondered about the heat level. Is something like a higher heat level helping you to perspirate more? Maybe we could give subjects a couple of different hangovers and test different concentrations of capsaicin to see if it’s really just the capsaicin alone that can kind of revive you. “
We also asked Sarah Kolk about what she thinks about the Bloody Mary’s role as a hangover cure. Here’s what she had to say:
“I think an important thing to address about a hangover is part of it’s dehydration, and electrolytes are crucial to hydration. So even though it’s maybe not the best idea to overload yourself with sodium, your body isn’t very good at distinguishing: “I should really have more calcium and magnesium and potassium right now.” Also, tomatoes do have a fair amount of potassium.
As far as the hair of the dog aspect that people consume Bloody Marys for, I think that’s always been a really effective strategy when you’re trying to dull one sense – the dull pains, maybe a headache or body ache – that you would be experiencing during a hangover. Maybe I’d even liken it to biting a rag while you’re having a bullet removed in a movie – like activating that trigeminal system could maybe distract from some of the discomfort. “
Also according to Dr. Nolden, it’s possible to experience nausea from ingesting spicy foods, and that certainly isn’t something you necessarily want when you’re hungover.
If you think back to our work with Benign Masochism, you might recall Paul Rozin’s finding that people tend to enjoy levels of spice that are just below what they can comfortably tolerate. And if you assume that your spice tolerance when you’re hungover is probably a bit lower than it might be otherwise, then my guess is – without having run any experiments – that a moderate level of spice in a Bloody Mary probably yields optimum benefits without pushing you over the edge into nausea.