Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Faux Bitters Bottles...

In the absence of other--much damper--subjects outside, and the unpleasant chill, I went back to my love of glass and stayed close to the fire, here, JOTOLR.  These little bottles are not worth anything, monetarily.  I checked.  Went to a site for identifying old bottles:

The site, itself, is worth a look if you're even remotely interested in glass containers of one kind or another.  It turns out that I am probably classed as being part of the "uninitiated" and may have overspent on these.  They are "bitters bottles" but not the genuine article. So, just what ARE bitters? 

From Bottle Books (above) here's a short excerpt from their history of "bitters:"

Bitters were alcohol disguised as medicine. The practice of adding a small amount of herbal bitters to gin in order that it might be sold without taxation under the guise of medicinal liquor .appears to have originated in England. Bottled bitters became popular in this country in the period from 1850-1870, when a bitters binge was spurred on by laws which taxed liquor, the popularity of various temperance movements, and local restrictions on the liquor trade. The civilized man of the 1870’s could sate his desire for strong drink without bringing condemnation down upon himself from the temperance union or from his neighbor for squandering his family’s money by taking his libations in the form of bitters. Everyone knew that a dose a day of Hosttetter’s Stomach Bitters was not only respectable but would keep one in good health as well.

The bitters trade reached its zenith in the 1860 to 1880 era. Competition was tremendous. Thousands of brands were introduced creating a climate in which proprietors needed to go to great lengths to capture the public’s attention. Bottles of every description and for every malady appeared on the market as entrepreneurs vied for a share of the multimillion dollar industry.

But, as I said, these are not the "real thing."  Instead, they are replicas of originals, manufactured in Taiwan specifically for purposes of tricking people like me into thinking I had (for 25 cents) found a real treasure.  (Rather like a remarkable Antiques Roadshow "find.")  But, in reality.... I tricked the  manufacturer, never having known that either the originals or the copies even existed.  I simply thought they would look lovely in my window. 

And...they do!


  1. Love the colours in the bottom photo. I guess what really matters is that you love them and therfore there value etc is not important. I got caught out too with miniature bottles years ago, but hey I love them and didn't pay too much so no biggie.
    I'm rather partial to a lemon, lime and bitters so interesting to read about the history.
    Hope all is rosy with you both and spring is starting to peek through in your corner of the world.
    Love Julia x

  2. Elora -- nice to have light come through colored bottles especially on a rainy day but of course better yet on a sunny day. Nice photos -- barbara

  3. Julia and Barbara,

    Thanks much for your comments! Colored glass in a window does seem to give a special radiance to a cloudy day! And I, like you, Julia, was interested in the history of bitters. I was still curious as to what bitters are made from, so went back to Wikipedia for the answer. If you'd like to satisfy your own curiosity on this subject, Wiki is a great place to go! I especially like the photo of the "over-sized" label on the bitters.