“It’s the age of integration,” explained Ingrid, the in-house herbalist on duty at The Alchemist’s Kitchen.
I would have nodded agreeably if there wasn’t a large needle jammed into my arm, delivering a pinkish-orange liquid straight into my veins by way of a plastic tube. It’s safe to say that I was probably one of the first people to shoot up on the corner of First and First since Mars Bar was torn down there years ago. But I wasn’t mainlining China White– I was undergoing the Drip Alchemy Experience, a “nutrient-rich journey” currently on offer at The Alchemist’s Kitchen, which opened in February on the ground floor of the sleek condo building that replaced Mars Bar.
The shop offers “high quality botanical medicines, herbal remedies, and whole plant beauty products.” Items like “Infinite Love Mist” should tell you something about the level of hippie sophistication we’re dealing with here.
Alchemist’s Kitchen is hoping its new drip service, available as part of a limited-time pop-up now through November 19, will be not just a vitamin and fluid refresher for when people are feeling hopelessly crappy, but something they’ll do to maintain a sort of blissful, enlightened homeostasis. I mean, can you imagine if some of those dazzling benefits promised by the Drip Alchemy Bar– “naturally enhance mood” and “boost brain power” – actually became routine? What kind of person would you be then? Probably a really good one.
That’s where “the age of integration,” as my herbalist described it, comes in. “We went through the age of discovery and unearthing stuff from the ancient times,” Ingrid explained. “All the existing modalities and secret knowledge suddenly became revealed to us through the internet and travel– Russia, Europe, South America, China– all these systems we have discovered and are putting them together. Never before was that even possible.”
Despite all this talk about alternative medicine, Drip Alchemy is actually based on a tried-and-true therapy that’s commonly used to treat a variety of illnesses and has been commonplace in U.S. hospitals and clinics since the 1950s.
To administer the experience, the Alchemist’s Kitchen has teamed up with Nutridrip, an IV therapy startup that claims to be at the forefront of an “injectable wellness revolution.” Well, it’s at least reached trend status, and everyone from beauty bloggers to athletes swear by it (tentatively, in some cases). The company is behind a venture called the Hangover Club– basically the Seamless of personal saline drip services– which I test drove by getting rip-roaring drunk and then summoning Nutridrip’s chipper man nurse to my home the next day. Like magic, he showed up at my door, IV pole in tow, with a smile on his face and plenty of reassurances. He pumped me with a cocktail of saline, vitamins B and C, and magnesium, and, sure enough, it lifted me out of my hangover and launched me into a sort of high-flying productivity heaven.
As with The Hangover Club, the drips are expensive at the Alchemy Bar, with two separate IV-bag vitamin cocktails to choose from: either the “Energizing Journey” ($199) or “Detoxifying Journey” ($249). But unlike Hangover Club, this particular experience isn’t marketed to finance bros. Instead it’s aimed at the kind of ladies that New York magazine, upon attending a recent “sacred cacao ceremony” at the Alchemist’s Kitchen, described as “professionally good-looking.” As the shop’s owner Stephanie Wang told me, this collaboration is all about transforming the experience of getting stabbed with a needle into something else entirely by making an IV drip seem “fun” and “delicious.”
Thankfully, my recent treatment was free of charge. I tried the detox IV option because, let’s face it, I could use it, so my bag included a hefty dose of Vitamin C, B, and Glutathione, an antioxidant that’s naturally occurring in the human body.
With my arm rested on one of the dainty blue pillows lining the bar and vitamin-loaded juices flowing through my veins, Ingrid helped me address that gnarly metallic taste that people commonly experience after the nurse carefully pricks, tubes, and bags them up. She presented me with a “state-changing” sipper called the Spirit Elixir made with blue lotus, skullcap, lemon balm tea. It was pretty tasty, with a refreshing, bright tea flavor and buttery mouthfeel. I wouldn’t say it was exactly state-changing (I associate that more with a heavy dose of DMT), but it did banish that metallic taste.
This all happened at an actual bar– a really pretty one at that, with wooden stools, plants all around, and four adjustable IV poles to hold your bag while you scroll through Instagram and plot how you’re going to subtly let people knowing that you’re #baggingit right now. There’s no actual alcohol at the bar, but that apparently doesn’t stop people from talking to each other every Friday during the “Hour of Happiness”: “People come here, have a state-changing elixir, and it still shifts them, but in a different way,” said Wang. “It relaxes them so that you connect to your senses, which makes us connect to our bodies more.”
During my drip, which took about 30 minutes, I had plenty of time to scan the store. The decor, for one, looks like a cross between an upscale Urban Outfitters, the Denver International Airport, and the most expensive vegetarian restaurant you’ve ever been to. Think: single-origin small batch chocolate bars and indefinable raw meals the size of a baby’s hand– too fancy for Whole Foods, it’s more suitable for Gwyneth Paltrow on a diet.
“The customer base definitely skews more female– I would say 70 percent female,” Wang told me when I asked about her constituency. “[They’re] very educated, interested in wellness and youth culture, and there’s a real convergence between the Burning Man crowd and the yoga moms. The tech crowd, because they’re interested in innovation, the fashion crowd, and people who are into shamanic journeying, plant ceremonies, they love this kind of stuff.”
The Alchemist’s Kitchen probably attracts all these groups because it’s got a little bit of everything. But it can also seem like a jumble of crisscrossing prescriptions, affiliations, and belief systems. This diversity is expressed through the products– traditional herbal supplements, tinctures, rubs, and whatnot– some of which the shop claims are derived directly from indigenous health practices. Only they’re much pricier, and seem somewhat watered down when they’re lined up for sale right next to expensive cannabidiol supplements, love potions, and fancy plant-based skincare.
If the Alchemist’s Kitchen feels like the height of globalization, there’s a reason: it’s actually the first IRL invocation of Evolver.net, a blog and supplement supplier of sorts that also serves as a home for what Wang calls a “community” of likeminded people interested in “self-directed transformation” and wellness in its various forms.
“Why it was founded in the first place was to hold that space for grounded discussion of these topics and modalities, be it shamanism, plant medicine, sound meditation, sacred geometry,” she explained.
The Alchemist’s Kitchen is big on education– there are regular lectures held here with names like “A Survey of Mind-Altering Natural Substances.” There’s also a course on “Western Alchemy,” which last time I checked was pretty much debunked. But that’s just the way things go at this place. The fancy digs lend legitimacy to what might seem like crazy talk anywhere else. Even the rock salt lamp seemed to glow brighter than any other I’ve ever seen.
Wang proudly proclaimed that the IV drips are “a little disruptive”– that’s tech parlance for “revolutionary”– and welcomed the implications of shaking things up a bit. That probably means there will be a bit of confusion for her patrons, many of whom are recent converts to ideas about holistic “wellness” and have just started believing that Western medicine is bankrupt BS.
“It’s combining scientific craft with indigenous wisdom traditions and expressing, for example, the traditions of Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, shamanic plant medicine, traditional European folkloric herbalism in a really contemporary, fun, delicious manner,” Wang said.
At the very least, the whole multicultural and alternative medicine thing seems well intentioned, and makes The Alchemist’s Kitchen seem like part of a backlash against devotees of a product like Soylent, which envisions a future dominated by tasteless, flavorless food, governed by a flattened, beige oneness. Here, cultural diversity is sort of maintained, at least in theory, and difference is not only desirable but it can be accessed by anyone regardless of their own cultural background– that is, if they can afford to get through the door.
Wang said that she hopes all of this adds up to promoting “the whole idea of really being more human.” I’m not sure I felt more “human” after the Drip Alchemy Experience– if anything, I felt a bit subhuman when I woke up on Saturday morning earlier and with slightly more energy than usual. My hair looks the same, unfortunately, and so do my nails and teeth. That said, it wasn’t such an intense experience as the one I had with the Hangover Club, when I went from feeling like a piece of human garbage to Supergirl in a matter of a few hours.
If nothing else, the place does have a really good tasting kava drink, I’m ashamed to say. Lesson learned: stick with the old-fashioned “state-changing” substances– they’re cheaper, more effective, and for the regular old human humans. I’ll leave the super-human stunts for the Botox set on the hunt for a new brightening cream.