Greetings sake lovers!
The hangover — not just a binge drinker’s bad nightmare. You wake up one morning with a vague recollection of merriment the night before. You got carried away, you inevitably overdrunk and now you are regretting it. This is probably not the first nor the second time you have been here.
No matter how traumatic the experience it never puts you off going there again — alas, this is human nature.
So, does sake give you a hangover and how bad is it? The short answer, yes. Make no mistake, sake does have the potential — although not as much as other types of alcohol — to cause a hangover. That is if you overdo it. And so we have decided to put together a little compendium of tips on how to enjoy delicious sake while avoiding the sake hangover from hell.
Why Do Hangovers Happen in the First Place?
Various symptoms assault you: from searing headaches to nausiea and everything in between. Each symptom has its own cause and although every hangover is a different case in question, the main causes are dehydration and Acetal Dehyde.
Incidentally, a certain amount of alcohol is metabolised by an enzyme called Aldehyde Dehydrogenase. Some people have more or less of this enzyme. Some people are even deficient. Gender, race and age are all factors that influence the levels of this enzyme in the body. For example, old people are known to be less able to tolerate their alcohol than middle aged people, whereas young people will probably reach their limit a long time before an old person would. As far as race is concerned, Asian ethnic groups, in particular Japanese people, are well known for their low alcohol tolerance.
What Happens When you Become Dehydrated?
In many ways a hangover is just another form of dehydration. Dehydration also causes headaches, lethargy, nauseia and loss of apetite. Alcohol is a diuretic which means that when you drink it you lose more water than you take in. For every 50g of alcohol you consume, you lose 600ml-1000ml of water. Based on this calculation, if you were to drink 2 500ml bottles of beer, you would lose 1L of water in the process. If the alcohol content is higher than beer, you lose as much water as you drink alcohol, resulting in a dehydration, and ultimately a hangover.
What is Acetal Dehyde?
Another common cause of hangovers is Acetal Dehyde. It is created as a bi-product of alcohol metabolisation by the liver. As explained earlier in this article, some people suffer from a deficiency, or possess less of the alcohol metabolising enzyme, Alcohol Dehydronase. This means that Acetal Dehyde remains in the body long after the alcohol has been processed, thus causing a hangover. Acetal Dehyde is a form of poison that causes all the aforementioned symptoms. I may knowingly use the word poison here — after all that is a fact. Let that fact turn us not into newly born tea-totals but more responsibile drinkers.
How to Drink Sake and Avoid Those Nasty Hangovers
So now we have an understanding of how alcohol affects the body, let’s look at some concrete ways that we can help prevent those terrible hangovers from happening in the first place — Prevention is after all better than cure, as they say.
Stick to Junmai Type Sakes as Much as Possible
My advice for the unseasoned drinker is to stick to the Junmai types. Allow me to elaborate, sake can be divided into 2 main categories: a type where all the alcohol is produced naturally via the fermentation, and a type where a little alcohol is added to enhance aromas and flavours (not to increase alcohol levels) a bit like fortified wines, i.e port etc. The former is called the “Junmai” type, the latter, “alcohol-added”.
The alcohol-added type tends to be lighter and dangerously easier to drink: of course, this is precisely the reason why we suggest the less seasoned drinker to stick to the less easy-to-drink Junmai type.
Drink Sake Warm
This tip is linked to the way temperature affects the way that alcohol is absorbed by the body. Generally speaking, the body is better at absorbing alcohol when it is closer to body temperature. Therefore, warm sake is absorbed pretty much as soon as you have consumed it.
The opposite can be said for chilled sake which comes with a time delay before the body starts to absorb the alcocol, and a high possibility that you will overdrink before the alcohol has started to go to your head.
Although you can of course avoid this problem to some extent if you pace yourself, we recommend warm sake for the unseasoned drinker.
Knowing Your Limit
This tip really has more to do with how you prepare beforehand than the method of drinking itself. Everyone has a limit to how much they can safely drink. The best prevention for a hangover / overdrinking is knowing that limit. Luckily there is a magic formula to help you calculate your own limit. The below formula was devised by Mr.Nobuhiro Sato of the NRIB (National Research Institute of Brewing).
Carry On and Drink More Water
All the above tips work. But there is only one sure fire way to prevent a hangover — Water.
Drinking water in between takes is not only healthy but it will keep you hydrated. The sake industry’s official recommendation is to consume 1.5 times more water than sake. They call it Yawaragi Mizu (LIT: alleviation water) or chaser. In other words, after a 55ml glass of sake you should be aiming to consume 150ml of water.
Develop rules that work for you and stick to them.
Know your limit, plan your drinking and pace yourself.
This article is in no ways full proof. Please use it is a guide.
Follow the tips in this article and you will decrease the chances of waking up the next morning to find that, shock! horror! you accidentally went home with sake last night.
Enjoy good times with sake at KURAND SAKE MARKET.