For the seasoned toper a hangover is an occupational hazard. Some regard it as nature’s way of saying that you overdid it a bit last night, old boy. A real humdinger may provoke the resolution never to let a drop pass your lips ever again but, in my experience, these thoughts are even more short-lived than the resolutions we make at New Year. Many of us have our tried and tested methods of dealing with the problem – mine is to have a hair of the dog as quickly as I can – but wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could pop a pill that inured from the effects of a hangover?
Well, this is what Quaff-Aid purported to do. It was manufactured by Amber Laboratories in Milwaukee , a subsidiary of yeast processor, Milbew Inc, who were looking around for new uses for the by-products from the brewing process. The pills, made from concentrated brewer’s yeast, were launched in the state of Wisconsin in the Spring of 1955. The adverts, as you might expect, were fulsome in their praise of the efficacy of the tablets. “No regrets tomorrow for feeling good today”, they screamed. They went on to promise “a wonderful time…every time. You’ll be poised, assured, relaxed; have a wonderful sense of light-hearted freedom from worry because you know your fun won’t be spoiled”. “Goodbye to hangovers!” Indeed.
Not unsurprisingly, packets of Quaff-aid flew off the shelves of local pharmacists and bars. Why wouldn’t you? For just 98 cents you could get your hands on a Carry Home Party Pak, which consisted of five two-tablet packs. What’s more the Party Pak came with some paper napkins and the helpful advice that a party hostess could hand the tablets out to her guests before the evening’s festivities got into full swing. I’ve been to a few parties where dubious looking tablets have been handed out, but never Quaff-aid. And I’m not sure why you need a napkin to help you ingest a tablet/ Perhaps they were envisaging a crowd of Sir Les Pattersons.
So encouraging were sales that Amber Laboratories were girding their loins to launch their miracle potion nationwide when disaster struck. In October 1956 the Amber Laboratories in Buffum Street were visited by officials from the US Food and Drug Administration. They seized around a quarter of a million tablets, claiming that the product was no damn use. Perhaps one of the officers had had a skin full and was rather disappointed, despite having summoned the assistance of Quaff-aid, to have a thumping head. Who knows?
This prompted a furious response from the Director of Research at Amber, Sheldon Bernstein, who was reported by the Milwaukee Journal as saying that the vitamin Bs in Quaff-aid were essential for a speedy recovery from a bout of over-indulgence. But the FDA would not be budged and the product disappeared as quickly as it arrived and, doubtless, more speedily than a hangover.
Amber Laboratories, despite this setback, prospered, generating by the mid 1980s sales in excess of $10 million from manufacturing yeast extracts and animal feed supplements and distilling alcohol for industrial and domestic use. It was acquired by Universal Foods in 1983.