Get Your Taste of the 'Elixir of Long Life' at This Pub Crawl

By Irene Plagianos on July 9, 2014 7:08am 

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 Taste an 1800s recipe for fending off death on July 19, as part of a historic pub crawl.
Get a Taste of the Elixir of Long Life
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EAST VILLAGE — Drink up some history — and maybe even prolong your life — on an East Village pub crawl.

Local archaeologists who recently uncovered a boozy 19th-century recipe for the Elixir of Long Life have recreated the brew and are now offering the public a chance to taste it.

The team from Chrysalis Archaeology will share a few drops of the neon orange concoction — made from steeping ingredients like aloe, rhubarb, saffron and bitter gentian root in grain alcohol — during a history-themed pub crawl on July 19.

They’ll also pour lager glasses of another 1800s “medicinal” recipe they unearthed, called Dr. Hostetters Stomach Bitters, which, while also alcohol-heavy, has slightly more palatable ingredients, including sugar, cinnamon and cardamom.

"Doesn't seem like the elixir will taste great, but the Stomach Bitters smells nice at least," said Alyssa Loorya, president of Chyrsalis, who hasn't tried the drinks yet. "We're expecting this will be a fun tour."

The archaeologists found the tiny glass vial that once contained the elixir, as well as bottles of Dr. Hostetters, amid hundreds of 1800s liquor bottles they dug up while excavating beneath a hotel construction site at 50 Bowery.

The discovery of the 150-year-old bottles, once used in a German beer garden on the Bowery, sparked a search for the recipes — and Loorya said she and her team soon decided to try brewing the alcohol-heavy mixtures.

“These types of cure-alls were definitely widely available in bars during the 19th century,” Loorya said. “It’s part of the history of New York — and many of these herbs and bitters are still popular in cocktails, or just as health food today.”

The bar crawl Loorya planned with the Historic Districts Council will start at cocktail bar Amor y Amargo on East 6th Street, which specializes in making bitters.

After a little apothecary history, the walking and drinking will continue through the East Village to some of the city’s oldest bars, including McSorley’s and Pete’s Tavern, Loorya said.

Tickets for the 2 1/2-hour tour are $10 and include the historic drinks made by Chrysalis, but not other drinks purchased at the bars. The crawl will end at the Old Town Bar, with snacks and conversation with Loorya and the historians.

Visit the Historic District Council website to purchase tickets for the crawl, which starts at 1 p.m. on July 19. The tour will likely be capped at 20 people.

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