Archeologists Recreate “Elixir Of Life” Found In Bowery Dig

June 16, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

A dig site at 50 Bowery has yielded some unexpected artifacts, including an 19th century “elixir of long life,” DNA Info reports. The site was once a German beer garden, and the elixir was found among other old alcohol bottles and remedies like “Dr. Hostetters Stomach Bitters.” Now, the archeologists are trying to recreate these allegedly life-extending drinks. Alyssa Loorya, the president of Chrysalis Archeology behind the dig told DNA Info, “We decided to engage in our own brand of experimental archaeology. We wanted to know what this stuff actually tasted like.”

It turns out the stuff is mostly booze, but it was also infused with substances still used by alternative medicine and in cocktail bitters today. Loorya explained:

These types of cure-alls were pretty ubiquitous in the 19th century, and always available at bars. Similar bitters and ingredients are still used today, in cocktails, and in health stores, but I guess we don’t know if it was the copious amounts of alcohol or the herbs that perhaps made people feel better.

Trendy cocktail bars have been incorporating old time ingredients like those found in these elixirs recently, and herbalists still swear by them. Lata Kennedy described the uses of these antique remedies:

All those ingredients are about your digestive health, and that’s really a key to good health in general. Those ingredients make a liver tonic, one that soothes your stomach, and also helps you poop — get out the toxins. Long life has a lot to do with how healthy our guts are, so it makes sense to see these used back then. We should all be eating more bitters.

So there’s your health advice for the week: Go out and order an old fashioned, heavy on the bitters. (Photo via DNAinfo/Irene Plagianos, Chrysalis)