What is Boonekamp?
14 June 2015
As a bitters collector, I often wondered what Boonekamp meant? In the early years of collecting, I thought is was a brand but later realized that many brands of bitters used Boonekamp in their name. Boonekamp is actually a generic name for a bitter spirit or style of stomach bitters.
In Bitters Bottles by Carlyn Ring and W. C. Ham, there are at least twenty Boonekamp listings including a few with proprietors as noted below:
B 141 Boonekamp Bitters, J. Pfixmer, Springfield, Illinois, round lady’s leg
B 142 Boonekamp of Maagen Bitter, J. Pfixmer, Springfield, Illinois, round lady’s leg
B 147 Boonekamp Bitters, Feinster Magen Bitter, labeled
B 148.1 Boonekamp Bitters, Herman Wolfgang, Manufacturer, West Cost Agent, San Francisco
B 151 Boonekamp of Maag-Bitter, Fink & H. Boelter, Chicago
Around 1780, there was a resident pharmacist in Leidschendam, Holland whose name was according to tradition, Boonekamp or Kamp. He made a bitter liqueur from gin and a herb mixture and sold his recipe to AM Freres in Antwerp. This type of liqueur production soon spread to Belgium, Germany and United States.
Boonekamp is prepared by maceration or percolation of selected herbs, fruits, roots and bark in a pre-selected spirit. The different herbal blends contain 36-52 components. Among the herbs are anise, coriander, cinnamon and star anise. The Boonekamp smell is aromatic and spicy, slightly licorice-like, and in the finish, warm-burning. It also has a medicinal taste due to the herb mixture. The alcohol content is 40 to 49 percent by volume and the sugar content is a maximum of three grams per 100 millilitres. The duration of storage causes further differentiation of taste between the various producers. The formulations of herbal formulas varied, so “Boonekamp” is now a generic term.
The “Boonekamp of Maagbitter” is Hubert Underberg-Albrecht from Rheinberg who in 1846 and 1851 deposited as a product recipe sample with the Commercial Register. In 1894, the Law on the Protection of trade names could not be established so he used Underburg Boonekamp Bitters for his brand. You can see an advertising trade card from the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition above which is currently on eBay. His brand is probably the most widely recognized Boonekamp Bitters.
Boonekamp today belongs to the range of many manufacturers of herb liqueurs. Typical is the distribution in small bottles of dark glass as serving size of “stomach therapeutic” in fatty foods. I like the glass of Underberg with typical portion-sized bottle and packaging above.
While I was at the 2015 San Luis Obispo Antique Bottle Show in Morro Bay, I spotted three killer labeled examples on the sales table of Bill Ham. The images are below and represent Boonekamp Style Magen-Stomach Bitters by Victor Gautier & Co. in New York, Boonekamp Style Stomach Bitters by Charles Jacquin, New York and Julius Marcus Boonekamp Stomach Bitters. These examples seem to be unlisted.
Bitters ephemera collector Joe Gourd has the following two Boonekamp examples in his collection. One is a post card puzzle for Lloyd Boonekamp Bitters from Detroit Michigan and the second is matches advertising Van de Wart Bitters. His brands include Van de Wart Boonekamp Bitters, Cossack Brand Stomachic Bitters, Van de Wart Mint Bitters, Van de Wart Kimmel Bitters, Van de Wart Coffee Bitters, Van de Wart Blackberry Bitters and Vandeco Aromatic Bitters. The Lloyd Boonekamp and all of the Van de Wart bitters are unlisted in Ring and Ham.
Here are some more fabulous trade cards from the Joe Gourd collection representing the H. Underberg-Albrecht’s Boonekamp of Maag-Bitter. The Luyties Brothers were United States and Canada sole agents of this award winning brand..