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With the unique ingredient packs from Wild West Bitters,
it is now possible to reproduce, in one's own kitchen, many
of the patent bitters that were produced in the late 1800s
"History you can recreate, experience and share"
The recipes for the bitters were reconstructed from distiller's
formularies, pharmaceutical dispensatories, contemporary
advertisements, chemical analysis of surviving bitters,
medical and judicial writings, and subjective assumptions
EASY PREPARATION DIRECTIONS
Add packet of herbs and spices to 2 cups vodka
(some call for vodka plus whiskey, rum or sherry)
Add 1/4 cup sugar
Let steep 2 weeks, agitating daily
Filter using the included filter paper
Each pack, which includes a rustic, period-style bottle label,
makes approximately 14 fl oz bitters, alcohol 37% vol.
F R E E S H I P P I N G
This listing offers individual $12.95 ingredient packs for the following bitters:
Baxters Mandrake Bitters 1885
Dr Henry Baxter’s Anti-Bilious and Jaundice Mandrake Bitters was produced
in Burlington, Vermont in the 1880s. It was advertised as "a strengthening bitters,
alterative and blood purifier for loss of appetite, dyspepsia, jaundice, liver complaints,
costiveness and sick headache". The main medicinal ingredient of the bitters was the
root of the American Mandrake, a powerful herb which was well known by the native
Indians. Pharmaceuticaldispensatories of the late 1800s described the medicinal
action of American Mandrake as follows: "It exercises an influence on every part of the
system, stimulating the glands to healthy action; being highly valuable in dropsy,
biliousness, dyspepsia, congested states of the liver, and other disorders; in large
doses it is emetic and cathartic." Baxter's Mandrake Bitters existed until around 1916.
Beggs Dandelion Bitters 1886
Charles W. Beggs trademarked his "Begg's Dandelion Bitters" in 1889. The bitters were
based on the root of the dandelion plant, long time in use as a bitter tonic for atonic
dyspepsia, and as a mild laxative for habitual constipation. Being a stimulant to the
urinary organs, it was also employed for kidney, gallbladder and liver disorders.
Begg's Dandelion Bitters existed until the Prohibition era.
Bishops Wahoo Bitters 1865
The wahoo shrub is found in woods and thickets from Ontario and the eastern
U.S. west to Montana. Theroot and bark were used by native tribes as a tonic
during convalescence from fevers and inflammations, and to increase the appetite.
There were a number of Wahoo Bitters marketed during the patent medicine era.
Dr Corbetts Renovating Shaker Bitters 1850
During the first half of the nineteenth century, the Shakers defined
the highest level of American herbalism and were the most reliable and
meticulous herb growers and purveyors. Their medicinal plants were sold
directly to physicians and pharmacists, but they also compounded and bottled
medicines of their own. These were produced with the usual high standards, and
closely resembled many popular products in the marketplace. At the Shaker
village at Canturbury, New Hampshire, herbalist Thomas J Corbett supervised
the compounding of such preparations as Corbett's Renovating Shaker
Bitters, Corbett's Curative Syrup, Corbetts Dyspepsia Cure, Corbett's
Medicated Lozenge, and Corbett's Vegetable Family Pills.
S T Drakes Plantation Bitters 1860
Drake’s Plantation Bitters was one of the more successful brands during the
patent medicine era. Developed in 1860 by Patrick Henry Drake, it was
"a wonderful vegetable restorative containing a mixture of herbs laced with St. Croix
rum". Its distinctive bottle, featuring log cabin sides with a tiered roof, was patented
in 1862. Drakes was the one of the best advertised proprietary articles, with sales
at one time reaching nearly a million dollars a year wholesale. It claimed to cure nearly
every disease known to mankind: "It promotes digestion, purifies the blood, puts new
life into a lazy liver, corrects all defects of the gastric functions including nervous
constipation" was announced in the popular Drake's yearly almanac. A conspicuous
feature of the Plantation Bitters advertising was the enigmatic combination of letters and
figures which read "ST-1860-X." It appeared in every newspaper and on every available
fence, rock, tree, bill-board, or barn throughout the country, on wagons, railroad cars,
ships, and steamers. And what did the words mean? Drake himself always assertedthere was really no meaning attached to the combination; it was said to be simply an
advertising scheme to make people ask questions. Not until the proprietor
had retired with a fortune did he reveal the secret: ST-1860-X meant:
Started trade in 1860 with $10."
Dr Flints Quaker Bitters 1882
"Old Dr. Warren's Quaker Bitters" was first sold in 1869 and patented in 1872.
It was the result of a lifelong study of an eminent Quaker physician of the
old shool, who had cured thousands of the most distressing complaints.
In 1876 Dr. H. S. Flint of Providence, Rhode Island acquired the rights to
the "medicine" and began marketing it as "Dr. Flint's Quaker Bitters".
It was a popular product sold by druggists. The label read: “Try this and
thou shalt be benefitted,” followed by indications for its use: "A stomach tonic.
For nervousness, catarrh of the head and stomach, scrofulous humor, canker,
pimples and humors on the face, summer complaints, female weaknesses.
Restores the appetite, purifies the blood. For dyspepsia, constipation, sick
headache, dizziness, low spirits caused by disordered stomach, rheumatism,
neuralgia, kidney and liver complaints, bilious attacks, piles, malaria, torpidity
of the system, languor, general debility, fever and ague." Certainly a
comprehensive list of benefits! In 1885 the bitters were taken over by the
Quaker Bitters Company of Boston and sold until around 1908.
Dr Harters Wild Cherry Bitters 1887
In 1873 Milton George Harter, who claimed to be a graduate of six medical
schools, established the Dr. Harter Medicine Company in St. Louis, Missouri.
The company produced various nostrums including Dr. Harter's Fever and Ague
Specific, Dr Harter's Iron Tonic, Dr. Harter's Lung Balsam, Dr. Harter's Liniment,
Dr. Harter's Nerve Pills, and what was to become the company's biggest seller,
Dr. Harter's Wild Cherry Bitters. Based on the bark of the wild cherry tree, the
bitters were recommended for cough, dyspepsia, and kidney and liver complaints.
One of the least "bitter" of the patent bitters, its pleasant almond flavor undoubtedly
contributed to its widespread popularity. An early example of product sample
marketing, Dr. Harter's Wild Cherry Bitters was also distributed in small,
sample-size bottles, which were an exact replica of the larger bottle.
Dr. Henley's Wild Grape Root IXL Bitters 1868
Dr. Henley's Wild Grape Root IXL Bitters were introduced by L. Gross & Co.
of San Francisco in 1868. Newspaper advertisements warranted that the
product was "a sure cure for dyspepsia, headache, biliousness, constipation,
general debility and loss of appetite." It quickly became one of the most popular
bitters in California. By 1871 the firm had opened an office in Chicago for East
Coast distribution. As was prevalent in those times, when a product became
successful, other firms rushed to copy it and attempt to sell their item as the
genuine article. In the case of Henley's IXL Bitters, people were paying to collect
the used, empty bottles in order to refill them with their own version of the
bitters! So much so, that the proprietors of the IXL Bitters resorted to
numerous warning notices in newspapers, threatening prosecution
"to the full extent of the law". The principal ingredient of Dr. Henley's was
the root of the Oregon grape, a shrub native to the North American west coast
from British Columbia to northern California, occurring in the understory of
Douglas fir forests and in brushlands. The plant is not related to true
grapes, but gets its name from the purple clusters of berries whose color
and slightly dusted appearance are reminiscent of true grapes.
Dr Hooflands German Bitters 1850
In 1850 this advertisement for Dr. Hooflands German Bitters appeared
in a Philadelphia magazine: "They have had a long trial in Europe, and are now
introduced into our own country with the most gratifying results. The originator
of this medicine was one of the most eminent men of his time and profession,
flourishing during the latter part of the last and the commencement of the
present century. So popular are his bitters in his own fatherland, that we are
told a bottle of them is to be found in every public house, always prominently
displayed at the bar. They are taken as a simple stomach corrector for
dyspepsia. The sole representatative in America is Dr. C M Jackson,
Philadelphia". Hooflands Bitters was sold until around 1885.
Dr J Hostetters Stomach Bitters 1853
When Jacob Hostetter, a successful Pennsylvania physician, retired
in 1853, he gave his son David permission to manufacture and sell the
private remedy that he had dispensed to his patients for the relief and
cure of colic, constipation and intermittent fever. Now there were literally
hundreds of bitters on the market at the time, so in the face of this
competition, David put every penny of profit that could be spared into
promotion. "Hostetter's Stomach Bitters" appeared on bridges, trees, large
boulders in open fields, barns, houses, fences, billboards, cliffs, in newspapers,
even on the sides of farm animals! With the commencement of the Civil War,
sales of Hostetter's to the armies, where liquor was either prohibited or in
very short supply, assured the growth and continued success of the product.
In later years David's acquired wealth enabled him to establish banks, invest
in oil, finance the Smithfield Bridge across the Monongahela River, and
hold a quarter interest in Pittsburgh's natural gas monopoly. His crowning
achievement was the founding of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad,
where he sat as president until his death in 1888 from kidney trouble,
one of the few ailments the bitters did not claim to cure. At the turn of
the century Hostetter's Bitters underwent a lowering of alcohol content due
to pressure from temperance groups. But it survived Prohibition, and
even went on until 1958. It had lasted an incredible 105 years!
Kennedys Prairie Weed Bitters 1871
Dr. Donald Kennedy started his medical practice about 1848 in Roxbury,
Massachusetts. In 1850 he went into the medicine manufacturing business,
and his line of medicines became very successful. "Kennedy's Medical
Discovery", the first product introduced, was also to become the biggest
seller; it was advertised as beneficial for skin diseases of various types.
Other items which followed were Kennedy's Healing Ointment, Kennedy's
Rheumatic Dissolvant, Kennedy's Rheumatic Liniment, Kennedy's Salt
Rheum Ointment, Kennedy's Scrofula Ointment, and Kennedy's Hair
Grower. Kennedy's Prairie Weed was introduced around 1871, being "a
tonic for the cure of coughs, colds, and inflammation of the throat and
lungs". Its chief ingredient was said to come from a weed growing
on the prairies of the Western States. Kennedy died in 1889
but the business continued until the turn of the century.
Dr Jones Red Clover Tonic Bitters 1881
One of the pioneer residents of Ottawa Illinois, E Y Griggs
established a drug store there in 1853. By 1881 he had expanded
his drug trade to include the manufacture and distribution of Dr. Jones'
Red Clover Tonic. Newspaper ads from 1883 to 1886 elaborated "A debt of
gratitude to German scientists who have developed the great medicinal
qualities of Red Clover blossoms. Best results are obtained when combined
with other medicinal roots and herbs, as in Dr. Jones' Red Clover Tonic,
which is the best known remedy for all blood diseases, stomach and liver
troubles, pimples, costiveness, bad breath, piles, ague and malaria
diseases, indigestion, loss of appetite, low spirits, headache and all
diseases of the kidneys." There is no record of exactly who Dr. Jones
was, if he ever existed at all. Likewise for Griggs' other product, Dr. Bigelows
Positive Cure, which was advertised for coughs, colds and consumption.
The Red Clover Tonic Bitters was produced until 1905.
Kickapoo Indian Sagwa Bitters 1882
Numerous patent medicines were supposedly based on Indian
remedies. Kickapoo Indian Sagwa, introduced in 1882, was the
brainchild of Doc Healy and Texas Charlie Bigelow, who created
the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company,one of the largest and most
famous of the traveling medicine shows. The dancers, jugglers and
acrobats were hired by Healy, and Bigelow trained the "doctors and
professors". There were indeed real Indians in the show, billed as
"pure-blooded Kickapoos, the most noted of all Indian Medical People",
but they were actually Mohawks, Iroquois, and Sioux, the real Kickapoos
being bitter enemies of the white man at that time. After the show and
lectures, the Indians descended with war whoops upon the audience
with baskets full of the Sagwa concoction, "the wonderful remedy for
catarrh, pulmonary consumption, and all ills that afflict the human body.
Made from roots barks, gums, leaves, oils and berries gathered by little
Kickpoo children from God's own great laboratory, the fertile fields and
vast forests." In truth, no Indian had ever heard of Kickapoo Indian Sagwa
before Healy and Bigelow invented it. Kickapoo Indian Sagwa
became extinct, as did so many other patent nostrums,
with the passing of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906.
Milburns Burdock Blood Bitters 1860
Orrin Foster and Thomas Milburn established the wholesale drug firm of
Foster, Milburn & Co in Toronto around 1860. One of the firm's principal
products was Milburn's Burdock Blood Bitters, from a formula based on
burdock root which dated from 1849. The advertised claims for the
medicinal efficacy of the product were grandiose: "It regulates the bowels,
cleanses the blood of all poisonous or effete matter, gives new life and force
to the nerves, tones up the general system, imparts strength, vigor and
renewed vitality to all parts of the human body." "It cures all diseases
arising from impurity of the blood, torpid action of the liver, irregularity
of the bowels, abnormal kidney function." The multitude of advertising
paraphernalia issued for Burdock Blood Bitters included yearly Family
Medicine Almanacs, How To Name The Baby, Egyptian Dream Book,
The Book of Pleasant Pastimes, an annual Pocket Memorandum Book,
as well as literally hundreds of trade cards with victorian illustrations.
In 1876 the company opened a branch in Buffalo, New York.
Burdock Blood Bitters existed until 1934.
Mishlers Herb Bitters 1857
When he was in partnership with his brother at the Old Lion
Brewery & Distillery near Reamstown, Pennsylvania in 1857, Benjamin
Mishler perfected a formula for a bitters which he called Mishler's Herb
Bitters. Mishler sold his interest in the brewery in 1859 and devoted himself
fulltime to the marketing of his bitters, which proved to be well accepted.
Mishler boldly advertised "I will pay any doctor or member of the medical
fraternity the sum of $100 for any compound that posseses more medicinal
virtues and curative powers than Mishler's Herb Bitters, and I will pay a $500
reward to the proprietor of any medicine that can show a greater number
of genuine certificates of cures effected by it." In 1867 Mishler sold the rights
to the popular nostrum to the Dr. S. B. Hartman & Co., who continued the
marketing of Mishler's Herb Bitters until 1879, at which time the company was
reorganized as the Mishler Herb Bitters Company. Pictorial advertising cards,
some of them quite adult in nature, carried the message: "Endorsed by
physicians, Mishler's Herb Bitters possesses the confidence of the people.
In all cases of dyspepsia, liver complaints, kidney disease, loss of nervous
energy, sexual weakness and diarrhea, it will be found a reliable remedy. It is
certain and uniform in its effects. It has cured thousands and will cure YOU."
Mishler's Bitters was produced until around 1911.
National Bitters 1867
The Philadephia firm of Henry Schlichter and Henry Zug
introduced National Bitters in 1867. The bitters was put up in a
tall figural bottle representing an ear of corn. A well-known
advertisement for the product displayed a picture of a
well-fleshed damsel with buxom radiance, accompanied by
the words "If you wish perfect health, use the National Bitters".
Once described as "a vermouth-flavored whiskey",
National Bitters lasted until around 1875.
Old Sachem Bitters and Wigwam Tonic 1860
During the mid 1800s, there was a certain magic about Indian medicine
in the eyes of the public, and many “secret” Indian remedies were
marketed as proprietary medicines. One such nostrum was Old Sachem
Bitters & Wigwam Tonic of William Goodrich, New Haven Connecticut.
Goodrich had a unique barrel-shaped bottle manufactured for his bitters,
which were first advertised in 1859: "From an old Indian recipe in possession
of the family of the proprietor for upwards of a century, is now offered to the
public one of the most healthy and wholesale beverages extant. As a tonic
it is unsurpassed. Sold by principal grocers, druggists and hotels
throughout the union." Judging by the quantities of discarded Old Sachem
bottles that have been retrieved by present-day collectors,
Goodrich's panacea sold very well indeed.
Dr Petzolds Elixir-Of-Life Bitters 1884
Louis Petzold came to America from Germany in the 1860s
and started business in 1862 shipping wines from his Boston
warerooms. In 1884 he began the manufacture of Dr. Petzold's
Genuine German Bitters, which was advertised as "The Great Elixir Of Life".
Its formula was based on the lebens elixier products that were produced
in Augsburg, Germany. These in turn were descendants of the
elixir ad longam vitam, or elixir of long life, which was compounded
in 1538 by the Swedish alchemist and father of modern medicine,
Phillipus Paracelsus. Petzold's bitters were patented in 1887.
L. Petzold & Co. distributed small glass dose goblets engraved with
"Dr. Petzold's German Bitters" as advertising.
Petzold's bitters existed until around 1898.
Pierces Indian Restorative Bitters 1876
Dr. George Pierce, a physician in Lowell, Massachusetts, introduced
his Indian Restorative Bitters in 1858, yet another of the many
proprietary nostrums produced during the 1800s which were
supposedly based on the herbal wisdom of Native Americans.
Pierce died in 1864, but his bitters continued to be marketed until Prohibition.
Red Jacket Stomach Bitters 1864
Red Jacket was a Seneca chief who took his name from the
embroidered coat given to him by the British for his services
during the American Revolutionary War, when the Seneca were
allies of the British. After the war, when the Seneca were forced
to cede much land. Red Jacket spoke for the rights of his people,
and played a prominent role in negotiations with the new United States
government. In 1792 president George Washington presented him with
a special "peace medal", a large oval silver plate engraved with an image
of Washington shaking Red Jacket's hand. Red Jacket wore this medal
on his chest in every portrait painted of him. In 1864 Chicago distiller
Bennett Pieters and Co. played upon the legendary popularity of
the Seneca chief, who died in 1830, by naming its new bitters
product after him. Red Jacket Celebrated Stomach Bitters was
"a combination of rare herbs prepared in the choicest old bourbon
whiskey". The label on the bottle showed a colorful image of Red
Jacket carrying a rifle and wearing his famous red coat and medal.
Soules Hop Bitters 1872
John D. Doyle registered his "hop bitters", a concoction of hops,
buchu, dandelion and mandrake, with the Patent Office in 1872,
and formed the Hop Bitters Manufacturing Company. But the
bitters did not sell well. When the firm was nearly bankrupt, one
Titus Soule took over the business and renamed the productSoule's Hop Bitters. Soule then launched a campaign of
extensive advertising in nearly every publication in the
United States. The ads were worded in a homely vein,
being directed at the common people in common language.
"The greatest blood purifier, liver regulator and life and
health restoring agent on earth". The company
prospered, and Soule made large investments
in the West. He was several times a
millionaire when he died in 1890.
Stoughton Bitters "In Every Saloon " 1854
Stoughton's Great Cordial Elixir was compounded by the London
physician Richard Stoughton in the year 1712. In the American
colonies different versions of the elixir were produced, which
later became prevalent throughout the West as "bitters". There
was a bottle to found in every saloon, and if anybody wanted any
bitters he called for some Stoughton and put it in his drink. It was
only occasionally ever used, but the Stoughton bottle was always
there at the bar. This led to the old cowboy saying that an idle fellow,
always in evidence and doing nothing, was a "stoughton bottle".
Ta Tsing Bitters 1865
Ta Tsing Bitters, produced for the brief period between 1862
and 1865, was advertised as the "Great Chinese Remedy".
It was made by the R. S. Gardner Company of Clarkesburg,
West Virginia, and consisted of Chinese tonic herbs blendedwith prevalent bitters ingredients of the time. The product was
put up in a figural bottle depicting a Mandarin gentleman.
Warners Tippecanoe Bitters 1885
After selling 60,000 metal safes worth an estimated $10 million ($227 million
in present terms), H. H. Warner went into the patent medicine business in 1879.
His initial product was Warner's Safe Kidney & Liver Cure, followed by
Safe Nervine, Safe Diabetes Cure, Safe Tonic Bitters, Safe Rheumatic Cure,
and Safe Pills. With rapid growth of the business, Warner opened offices
in Toronto and London, eventually selling his medicines around the
world. Tippecanoe Bitters was introduced around 1883. Essentially a
"spiced-rum" bitters, it was heavily advertised in the Warner's Almanacs
and other publications, and existed until the turn of the century.
Dr Warrens Yerba Buena Bitters 1870
A rambling, aromatic herb of western and northwestern North
America, yerba buena means "good herb", a name that was
bestowed by pioneer Catholic priests as they settled in an
area where the plant was abundant. They also applied the name
to their settlement, which in 1846 was seized by the United States
during the Mexican-American War and renamed San Francisco.
The herb yerba buena, whose aroma and flavor resemble a
combination of spearmint and savory, had been used for centuries
by the Ohlone Indians for minor ailments such as headaches,
toothaches and joint pains, as well as indigestion. When Homer
Williams and Alfred Wright established a veterinary and proprietary
medicine business in San Francisco in 1869, they purchased a
formula from a Dr. Joseph S. Warren. Yerba Buena Bitters was
introduced in 1870 and proved to be a good seller. An early
advertisement for the product announced "It is as pleasant
to the taste as it is beneficial in its effects. It is sold from a
wagon on Market Street, near Dupont (now Grant Ave),
every evening". And a 1878 newspaper ad claimed "It
cures impurities of the blood, liver and kidney complaints,
indigestion and dyspepsia, biliousness and constipation."
Homer became the sole owner of the business and
in ten years time had become quite wealthy.
Yerba Buena Bitters lasted until 1920.
West India Stomach Bitters 1876
In 1873 Matthew Moody and Joshua Michel, who had been in the
wholesale grocery trade in St. Louis, put West India Stomach Bitters
on the market, and in 1876 they obtained a patent for it. The main medicinal
ingredient in the rum-flavored tonic was quassia bark, a time-honored
folk remedy from the West Indies. Quassia had been used as a stomach bitter
for indigestion, and also for dysentery, malaria, fevers and rheumatism.
In 1876 Moody, Michel & Co. were bought out by the West India
Manufacturing Co., who continued to market the bitters until around 1902.
Dr Wests O.K. Bitters 1871
In 1882 the general assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
passed an act authorizing the manufacture and sale of a medical
compound known as "Dr. West's O.K. Bitters", being a blend of the
extracts of roots, barks & herbs compounded with the purest old
bourbon whiskey". In 1884 a patent for Dr. West's O.K. Bitters,
was granted to a J. H. West of Rocky Hill, Kentucky. Dr. West's
O.K. Bitters were advertised "for the cure of dyspepsia, fever
and ague, rheumatism, bilious diseases, neuralgia, headache,
general debility, and all Impurities of the blood".
The bottle label bore the signature "J H West MD".
F R E E S H I P P I N G
All ingredients in Wild West Bitters packs are
FDA for use in alcoholic beverages.
Claimed originally as having miraculous curative powers, most of
the patent bitters of the 1800s were in reality simple digestive
tonics. In fact many of them were consumed as "recreational"
beverages, much like Jägermeister is today. Bitters prepared
Wild West Bitters