The Third Rail: An Ancient Chinese Hangover Secret


When told about a new hangover cure, it’s probably inviting disaster to immediately wonder “what type of cocktail can I make out of that?” But that was my reaction when I hear about Kombucha. Another person might have asked, “Did you say it’s made with a fungus?” or “why would you ferment black tea?” But not me. “Exactly how much alcohol does it contain?” is all I need to know.

The answer, alas, is not much. Brooklyn’s resident expert Kombuchman tells me that kombucha can’t exceed about 1% APV. Traditionally — and there is plenty of tradition behind this 2,000+ year-old beverage — kombucha is not used for inebriation. Instead it’s valued for its health benefits — and its combo of hangover-fighters such as lactic acid and vitamin B.

Kombuchman, however, has grander plans for the ancient, fungus-based drink. Unlike the Chinese monks who first passed around this fermented tea, Kombuchman brings to the business a background in wine. His Brewed in Brooklyn Kombucha can be enjoyed on its own as a restorative tonic but he also plans to promote his bottles to bars as a mixer. So with the opportunity to enjoy a really classic cocktail, The Third Rail and his selection of sozzled guinea pigs decided to test a few variations on well-known drink recipes.

Since it’s purportedly a hangover cure, we started with a brunch-worthy, mimosa-like mix of kombucha and champagne called a Komosa. It’s tough to hate this drink, though the sweeter Brewed in Brooklyn kombucha works much better than the relatively bitter GT’s Kombucha found in some health food stores.

Kombuchman — yes, he really does go by this superhero moniker — also recommended a BuchSour. Like your usual Whiskey Sour but with kombucha covering for the lemon. To make it, dissolve 1 tsp sugar in the juice of ¼ of a lime and 2 tbsp kombucha, add 2 oz bourbon, ice cubes and stir. It’s a good variation, but close enough to the original to not surprise drinkers unprepared for Eastern awakenings.

At some point, when almost every ingredient has been swapped out for another, I should stop calling a new mix a “variation” and just accept that it needs a new name. For now though, I recommend this new twist on the Bee’s Knees cocktail that bears as much resemblance to the original as the Buffy movie did to the TV series (you didn’t see that comparison coming, did you?). Squeeze in as much honey as you can handle to the cocktail shaker, add the juice of a quarter lime, 2 tbsp kombucha, and 2 oz vodka, then shake. While you’re tasting, try and come up with a good, non-pun name for it.

While we’re on the subject of bad names, might I suggest a Kombucha Banger? It’s as thuggish as it sounds and a variation on that spruced-up Screwdriver known by the sleazy signature of Harvey Wallbanger. Just pour over ice 2 oz vodka and equal or more kombucha. Then float Galliano liqueur over the top. Much better than your old Harvey Wallbanger, it’s a refreshing, deceptively healthy drink that leaves you pondering the most important question: Can kombucha cure a kombucha hangover?