California Bitters / Manufactured only by / J. G. Frisch San Francisco
15 May 2011 (R•051814)
I was in Amityville, New York this past Thursday and Friday visiting with John and Sheila Feldmann for my upcoming Antique Bottles and Glass Collector series article on Great Collectors and their Collections. While taking pictures I came across an extremely rare California Bitters. This example is broken but is still really a great bottle. The only complete example resides safely in a West Coast collection.
From noted bottle historian Warren Friedrich on 19 July 2009 from Western Bitters News:
Over on the WesternGlopTopWhiskies blog site, there has been a lively discussion about whether the California Clubhouse whiskey is the top dog of the western whiskey world. Several reasons were cited as to why it should retain the number 1 spot among the collectors of these coveted cylinders of glass. Full face embossing, interesting, elaborate monogram, color, etc.
I thought it might be interesting to do such a parallel comparison with the bitters. Here is a picture of the California Bitters / Manufactured only by / J. G. Frisch San Francisco, this bitters has the word California spelled out, it also has San Francisco spelled out and it would compare with the whiskies that have full face embossing by having 3 embossed panels. It’s definitely an early made bottle among the bitters bottles standards. It’s rarity is pretty much unquestioned with this example residing on the East coast and the other residing on the West coast. Both examples are an amber coloration with a iron pontil mark on the base. It certainly deserves to rank among the top contenders for the number 1 coveted spot. The one area that it may fall short is whether bitters collectors would consider a bottle that was of western distribution, but eastern in manufacture to hold the coveted number 1 ranking. Obviously there is some consensus to this, as another highly desireable bitters, the Bryant’s Stomach Bitters also a western marketed product but of eastern origin and manufacture is coveted by advanced western bitters collectors and has been published in print as to being considered the top western bitters.
If a vote were to be held between these two examples only, my personal choice would be the Frisch bottle probably based on similar criteria that the whiskey collectors use. However like the whiskey collectors if the listing of choice for the coveted top honor were open, I certainly would have nominated another contender!