There are as many styles of antique liquor and spirits bottles as there are the types of liquor to go in them. Regardless of their shape and size, though, the most collectible bottles are those produced prior to 1919, the year Prohibition began. Figural, barrel-shape, and engraved bottles are just a few examples of the types of liquor bottles from this era.

In fact, one of the first uses of bottles was for liquor, as well as wine. Early bottles, such as those from the 16th and 17th centuries, were made exclusively for storage, not to drink out of. The one-gallon or larger demijohn bottles are good examples of this.

Many liquor and spirits bottle collectors tend to focus on a specific type of liquor, bottle shape, or brand. Brandy, vodka, rum, and schnapps all tended to have relatively uniform bottle shapes, while whiskey and gin came in a wide array of bottles, making them somewhat more collectible than the other liquors because there are so many more variations to collect. In some cases, such as the Jim Beam figural bottles, collecting categories are combined.

Gin was first brewed in the mid-17th century in the Netherlands. Since its invention, gin has been associated with case bottles, which are tall, square-based bottles with short fat necks. In the 18th century, the bases of gin bottles tended to become narrower, though it is extremely difficult to differentiate between eras of gin bottles or their countries of origin by their shapes alone. Early gin bottles almost never had seals and were usually olive or amber colored. More rare are clear gin case bottles.

Whiskey bottles have even more differentiation than gin bottles. Though whiskey’s roots are in Scotland (hence, scotch), it is difficult to come by early scotch bottles, because the drink was not bottled until 1846.

The first bottled scotch was put out by John Dewar as a blend called “White Label.” His first bottles, however, were fashioned from stoneware. Canadian whiskey first appeared in bottles in 1853—prior to the proliferation of bottles, whiskey could often be found in pocket flasks.

Another collectible liquor bottle shape is the cylinder. These squat bottles, like the English “Onion” bottle, date to the 17th century. Roundish in shape, the bottles varied in ...

Other collectible liquor bottle shapes include Benedictine bottles (a French liqueur introduced in the 1870s), which have long necks and trapezoidal-like bases. Handled liquor bottles, as the name suggests, have handles, but the shapes the handles attach to can vary widely.

For collectors, liquor bottles are relatively easy to identify. Prohibition came about just as machine-made bottles were being introduced, so if your bottle is machine made, it is probably from after Prohibition. Conversely, if it is hand-blown it likely predates 1919. Additionally, after Prohibition, the U.S. government instituted a rule that companies must emboss the message, “FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS SALE OR RE-USE OF THIS BOTTLE” on every bottle. That decree lasted until 1964, a fact that can help date bottles.

Liquor bottles can also be dated by the presence of a pontil mark at the base, as well as the type of lip. Some bottles feature a batch number or bottle date, while others bear labels with humorous and historic brand logos and mascots.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Pre-pro.com

Pre-pro.com

Pre-Pro.com tells the story of America’s thriving liquor industry in the era before the enactment of Prohibition … [read review or visit site]

Historic Glass Bottle Identification

Historic Glass Bottle Identification

Bill Lindsey's fantastic bottle identification and information site. Loaded with detailed descriptions and diagrams… [read review or visit site]

Antique Bottle Collector's Haven

Antique Bottle Collector's Haven

There's a ton of information here, but as with bottles, you have to dig to find the best stuff. Start with the famo… [read review or visit site]

Bottle Cap Index

Bottle Cap Index

Assembled by Gunther Rademacher with the help of several other contributors, this collection of over half a million… [read review or visit site]

Plopsite.de

Plopsite.de

Norbert Lamping's collection of 600+ ceramic bottle stoppers, Hutter stoppers, swingtops, swivel stoppers, and ligh… [read review or visit site]

Old Spice Collectibles

Old Spice Collectibles

Lather up with Creighton Fricek's complete chronology of collectible Old Spice shaving products. Start with the bot… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare Western Gold Dust / Kentucky Bourbon / N. Van Bergen & Co" Glob Top 5th!John Kellenberger Wholesale Wines & Liquors Durango, Colorado Whiskey BottleHartwig Kantorowicz Milk Glass Gin Bottle - GermanyPretty Gin Bottle; .99 Cents And No Reserve!!!!!!!!!!!!Udolpho Wolfe Schnapps BottleJohn Kellenberger Durango, Colorado Whiskey Jug StonewareRare ** J.e. Howson * Wine & Spirit Merchant Medicine Hat Alberta Stoneware JugBeautiful Yellow Green Color Udolpho Wolfe's Aromatic Schnapps Bottle Circa 1870Antique Louis Xiii Remy Martin Baccarat Crystal Cognac Decanter Rare 7.0 L L8935Sammy Hagar Cabo Wabo 3rd Gen. Reposado Single Barrel Blue BottleRare!! Silver Plated Old Jug Rye Whiskey Jug, B. Feiock & Co. Rochester, Ny1930's Jas Hennessy & Co. 3 Stars Cognac Bottle With Cork And All LabelsHalf Pint South Carolina Dispensary Flask With Tree3" Miniature Sample Jug Port Wine Tonic Los Angeles Wine Co. Spokane, WashAntique Old Charter Bourbon White Enamel Letter Saloon Back Bar Bottle WowVintage Bottle Kentucky Reserve Backbar Bottle Remy Martin Louis Xiii Baccarat Crystal Bottle 750ml Sliding Display Box/bookletCrystal Head Skull-shaped Vodka Bottle-750ml (empty) Box IncludedMiniature Antique De Kuyper Case Gin Bottle (netherlands)Antique Louis Xiii Remy Matin Baccaract Crystal Cognac Decanter Rare MintSouth Carolina Dispensary Union Full Pint Aqua Flask Bottle Palmetto TreeLabeled Empty Extra Rye Whiskey Flask - M.claudio's Greenport, L.i. New York Remy Martin Louis Xiii Box Papers & Empty Crystal Baccarat Decanter With Stopper1936 Franklin Roosevelt Tva Glass BottlePappy Van Winkle 20 Year Empty Bottle With Embroidered Red Velvet CaseAntique Cyrus Noble Whiskey Bottle (purple) San Francisco Cal WesternJack Daniels (1 Pint ) Whiskey Bottle, #7 Sour Mash, Nashville, Tn., Cork TopPre Pro Major Burke Military Man Your Friend Mcgreal Bro Rochester Ny Shot Glass1913 Amber Antique Whiskey Bottle / Embossed Spider Web / Label / Frankfort KyRare Bong Spirits Vodka 1 Liter Jimi Beach Signed Glass Bottle Holland EmptyLabel Empty Rye Pint Whiskey Nice Picture M.claudio's Greenport, L.i. New York Vintage Whiskey Bottle - Old Joe - Bourbon Lawrenceburg, Ky Kentucky Half PintVtg Large 1970s Gallon Vino Mezcal La Rojena Jose Cuervo Tequila Bottle Mexico4 5/8" J. Rieger & Co. Kansas City, Mo. W/ "label" Tooled TopLabel Empty "cognac Brandy" Amber Flask M.claudio's Greenport, L.i. New York Lyndeborough Glass Company - Liquor Or Medicine BottleCrystal Head Vodka Skull Bottle 750 Ml (empty)Rare Pre-prohibition/1919-mumm's Extra Rye/n.m.uri & Co. Mini 2oz Whiskey BottleCrystal Head Vodka Bottle EmptyHot Rat Rod Tattoo Flash Rockabilly Pinstripe Art Jose Cuervo Tequila Bottle KrSeder Passover Wine Bottle Hebrew Embossing Old Antique Alcohol Bottle Ny AmberCase Gin Bottle W/ Label - Newman & Frisch, Milwaukee - Geneva Gin - Red SealEmpty Bottle And Box - The Macallan Highland Single Malt Scotch Wiskey 25 YearsCrystal Head Skull Vodka Bottle And (4) Shot Glass Collection!Label Empty Monogram Whiskey Flask - M.claudio's Greenport, L.i. New York Bond & Lillard Lawrenceburg Ky Whiskey Bottle With Label - RareWoodford Reserve 4.5 Liter Glassdisplay Bottle Kentucky Straight Bourbon WhiskeyOld David Springs Whiskey Bottle,david Springs Company,loretto,ky.Vintage Continental Distilling Corp Lighthouse Liquor Bottle Amber Figural Rare Boswell Embossed Green Beer Bottle Cap Tin Sign Can Quebec CanadaDutch Gin Case Bottle, V. Hoytema & C. Applied Top And Hand Made2miniature Sampler Antique Bottle Mid 1700s With Rune Marking! Dutch Mallet BaseRemy Martin Louis Xiii Crystal DecanterVintage 1964 CuvPair Of Vintage Bols Dutch Boy & Girl Zentih Gouda Decanter Liquor Bottles EmptyRare Early Historical Label Cordelia Wine Bottle Solano County California 18871890's Crigler & Crigler Distillers Covington, Ky Clear Quart Whiskey BottleRare Michael Godard Empty Vodka Bottle Numbered Limited Edition Must SeeAntique Pre Pro Echo Spring Burbon Whiskey Paper Label Pint Bottle6 Empty Decorative Crown Royal Whisky Bottles 1l&750ml Liquor Clear Glass Clean