Put down the Berocca and hold the extra bacon – a small bar in Newtown is spruiking spirits that could reduce hangover symptoms by more than 300 per cent.
Colin Dahl is the founder and chief product scientist behind OPPIL, a drinks brand formed in 2019 with the goal of reinventing alcoholic beverages by infusing them with grapes high in antioxidants.
"The aim was to make wine that could be healthier in general," says Dahl, who comes from a research background and studied electrical engineering at the University of Technology Sydney.
"There was a great study in France a few years ago that found a correlation between drinking red wine with high levels of natural antioxidants and better heart health and life expectancy.
"I started looking at the chemical makeup of Australian red wines compared to French and found many of our domestic wines were not as high in antioxidants, perhaps due to fining and filtering processes.
"This led my team and I to start looking at ways we could infuse Australian wine with more of the natural antioxidants found in red grapes."
Last year, OPPIL released a Hunter shiraz boosted with extra grape antioxidants. It's spicy, bright and grippy, and this writer can confirm hangover symptoms were minimal after consuming most of a bottle.
Creating a wine that could reduce nausea and headaches after a night on the sauce was never Dahl's intention, but a happy discovery nonetheless.
"The team was tasting the wine during production, and we noticed our hangover symptoms were minimal or non-existent," he says.
"So we did a blind study and found that people reported hangover symptoms three times less intense when drinking our shiraz compared to standard red wine with the same amount of alcohol."
Research has shown that as ethanol breaks down in the body after too many drinks, toxic byproducts are formed that cause hangovers.
Dahl believes the high amount of antioxidants in his wine helps to balance these undesirable byproducts, thus reducing the presentation of hangover symptoms.
The scientist is tight-lipped on exactly how the antioxidants are infused into wine, but says it's a lot more involved than spiking booze with a few cups of condensed grapes.
"If it was that easy, it would have been done before. We're now using the same process to infuse spirits with red grapes for similar benefits. From our trials to date, the spirits are even better at minimising hangovers than the wine."
Dahl launched OPPIL's flagship bar at the north end of Newtown's King Street last week. The drinks list sports grape-infused margaritas and mojitos, plus a few shiraz-based sangrias.
The bar's infused whisky has no discernable grape taste, only a darker colour a drier texture than usual for the spirit. It may not be a whisky to sip on straight-up, but it's totally fine in a cocktail.
OPPIL's antioxidant charged booze isn't sold in bottle shops yet, but its cocktails and wine will be available to takeaway from the bar in the next few weeks.
"We're also looking at how to do this with beer, and maybe collaborate with existing drink brands," says Dahl. However, marketing the products as a "healthy choice" will be a challenge.
Under Australia's Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code, communications and advertising for an alcoholic beverage must not encourage excessive or rapid consumption, or suggest the drink offers any therapeutic benefits such as improved cardiovascular health due to extra antioxidants.
"We're not saying grape-infused alcohol is healthy for you, because it can still cause acute ethanol toxicity," says Dahl. "We only want to provide people with an alcoholic drink choice that's potentially better for them."