The elixir of long life is a bitter, alcohol-heavy concoction — if you trust a 150-year-old bottle unearthed at a hotel construction site in New York’s Lower East Side.
The site, once a German beer garden and music hall called the Atlantic Garden, contained hundreds of liquor bottles dating from as far back as the 1850s.
Among them was a greenish glass vial that was believed to help people cheat death.
Intrigued, the team behind the find at Chrysalis Archaeology tracked down the historic recipe in Germany. They found it in a 19th-century medical guide.
The ingredients included aloe, gentian, rhubarb, Spanish saffron, Zedoary (white turmeric), and one part water to three parts alcohol.
“Many of the ingredients are still used in herbal medicine or as natural remedies,” Alyssa Loorya, the president of Chrysalis, told Discovery News.
Aloe has an anti-inflammatory effect, gentian root and powdered rhubarb help digestion, the Zedoary (white turmeric) spice is said to purify the blood and help cell regeneration, while Spanish saffron is used to treat a number of health conditions, including depression.
With the tiny Elixir of Life bottle held less than an ounce, it’s likely that the bitter potion was taken one drop at a time.
Loorya’s team also unearthed another bottle that contained a popular 19th-century medicinal drink.
It was labeled Dr. Hostetter’s Stomach Bitters and it was indeed bitter.
The drink turned out to contain gentian root, orange peel, cinnamon, anise, coriander seed, cardamom seed, peruvian bark, gum kino, grain alcohol, water and sugar.
“We read Dr. Hostetter’s was so popular that it was served by the glass in bars throughout the U.S., including Alaska,” Loorya said.
Since both the Elixir of Life and Dr. Hostetter’s formulas required copious amounts of alcohol as a medium, “it may have been difficult for consumers to determine whether the active ingredients were actually effective,” Loorya added.
To discover the drinks’ actual taste and effects, Chrysalis is planning to brew them by the end of the month.
“We’re hoping to have a tasting party,” Loorya said.
Meanwhile, it is possible to find the “miracolous” recipes on DNAinfo.
Image: The vial containing the Elixir of Long life (left) and the bottle containing Dr Hostetter’s Stomach Bitters (right). Credit: Chrysalis Archaeology.