Kelly Mlady makes a bloody mary at Ye Rustic Inn. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los…)
When the Enabler found herself singing along with a Bob Marley song at Ye Rustic Inn in Los Feliz at 10:30 in the morning on a Wednesday, she knew something had gone terribly wrong. The tiny dive was dark, sparsely populated and still smelled of morning-cleaning bleach. It was too early to be tipsy again, and definitely too early to get teary over "No Woman, No Cry."
Wiping her eyes and dutifully sipping her cocktail, the Enabler reminded herself that her day's mission was an altruistic one. She was searching the city for the perfect hangover cure — that mythical tonic that would ease the pain she felt in her temples, settle her protesting stomach and make the glaring sunlight outside less menacing.
She was not alone with these symptoms on this December day — according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the $58-billion distilled-spirits industry turns nearly 25% of its profit between Thanksgiving and the New Year. In other words, the holidays really are a headache.
Having been informed of the Enabler's ailment, chipper Rustic bartender Karen Fox gamely suggested a bloody mary. The Rustic is famous for them and its addictive hot wings.
"The magic of the bloody mary? It's partly the vodka, obviously," said Fox, adding that she has treated plenty of hangovers this way. This hair-of-the-dog remedy would become a pattern as the day progressed and the Enabler trolled more bars for an answer: Treat the agony of alcohol withdrawal (a hangover bites the most viciously when your blood-alcohol level sinks to zero) by consuming more alcohol.
"I'm officially not hung-over anymore, I'm officially drunk again," said the Enabler's partner in crime from the night before — we'll call her Martha.
They were only halfway through their spicy bloody marys and Martha was partly joking. But she did look better than she had earlier that morning when the two awoke after a night of party-hopping that ended with a wine-soaked after-party at the Enabler's apartment during which the Enabler told a few too many people how much she loved them.
An hour later they were sitting at the little hunting-den of a bar inside downtown's Pacific Dining Car across from bartender Lou Poblano. In a smart white suit jacket and black pants Poblano, who has worked at the Dining Car for 21 years, blinked kindly at them when they told him of their malady.
Forget the bloody mary, Poblano said. "If you have a very heavy hangover, drink an ounce of Fernet-Branca in one shot and then take a couple of sips of mineral water, and you will feel much, much better."
They tried this and the world went soft and warm as they listened to the two whiskey-drinking men beside them discuss an alcohol-induced Facebook faux pas. "She never responded to my comment about the martini and the wine. Why is that? Was it inappropriate?"
By late afternoon the Enabler was feeling jaunty, so she and Martha decided to go to the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where bartender Jimmy Rodriguez recommended a controversial remedy called a Bull Shot.
A Bull Shot consists of beef broth, vodka and lime on the rocks. One sip of this meaty concoction and the Enabler felt ill again — putting the fragile balance of curing a hangover into stark relief. Fortunately, the multicolored chips and dainty plates of dip that Rodriguez placed before her soothed her once more.
Meanwhile, the silver-haired man on the stool next to her was engaging in some spirited holiday drinking of his own.
"Jimmy, this was empty when you served it to me. I don't want to make a big deal out of it, but …," he said, sliding his highball glass across the bar for a third refill. And another hangover was born.