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”) 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]

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    

Beautiful Pineapple With Old Hickory Whiskey, Woodford County, Kentucky Label Anna Pottery Pig Whiskey Flask Bottle (good Old Bourbon)Four Crystal Head Vodka 750ml Liquor Bottle Dan Aykroyd Clear Glass Skull Empty Western Sample Size Whiskey Jesse Moore Old Bourbon & Rye San FranciscoOld Oshkosh Wisconsin Wi Gar Grand Army Of Republic Conrad Schuri Sample WhiskyRed Top Rye Westheimer 1890s Pre Prohibition Whiskey Gamblers Paperweight DicePre Prohibition Whiskey Labeled Mini/sample Cream Of Kentucky Freeport IllinoisScarce Figural Civil War Canteen Flask W/applied Handles H.a. Graef's Son N.y.Amber 1890s Bim J. Jesse Moore Old Bourbon Trademark Elk Antlers Whiskey BottleA.m. Bininger & Co No. 19 Broad St Ny Old London Dock Gin Bottle Light Color OldSan Francisco,ca. Dr. Abernethy's Old West Saloon Quart Brandy Whiskey Bottle.L37 Large Jesse Moore San Francisco & Louisville Ky Whiskey Bottle AntiqueRemy Martin Louis Xiii Baccarat Hand Blown Glass- Cognac Bottle - 3/l124778aSet Of 2 Louis Xiii Remy Martin Grand Champagne Cognac Baccarat Crystal DecanterLos Angeles,ca.baldwin's. Old West Saloon Qt California Brandy Whiskey Bottle.Texas Found 3 1/4" Tall Mini Sample "compliments Of" Crock Whiskey Jug2016 Makers Mark American Pharaoh Bottle2016 American Pharoah Makers Mark Bottle Makers Mark American Pharaoh BottleRemy Martin Louis Xiii Cognac Baccarat Crystal Decanter Bottle & Box 750ml EmptySouth Carolina Dispensary Bottle Pint Jo-jo Flask With TreeOriginal 25 Year Old Macallan Anniversary Presentation Box,empty Original BottleRare -merry Christmas- 1898 John Ahrens Davenport Iowa Ia Saloon Mini Jug2016 Makers Mark American Pharoah Collectors Bottle1917 Vintage Pre Pro Prohibition Old Schenley Whiskey Pint Bottle W/ Label Pa2016 Makers Mark American Pharoah Collectable BottleTrump Premium Vodka - 1l Collectible Bottle (empty) - Free ShippingAntique Vtg Old Still Bourbon Cork Top Whiskey Bottle Orig Paper Label C1900s 2016 Makers Mark American Pharoah Collectable BottleTwo Crystal Head Vodka 750ml Liquor Bottles Dan Aykroyd Glass Skull Empty1933 Vintage Post Prohibition Greenbrier Whiskey Pint Bottle W/ Label - KentuckyRosborough & Elice 2145-2147 Clark Louis Missouri Mo Whiskey Saloon Mini JugJack Daniels Old No.7 Tennessee Whiskey Etched Crystal Glass Decanter BottleLot 2 Figural Amber Gun Nipper Cologne Bottles *1890s Nice Color Whittled CrudeHayner Whiskey Back Bar Bottle With Combination Lock Stopper Crystal Head Vodka Bottle (750ml)Empty Remy Martin Louis Xiii Decanter And Stopper, Baccarat CrystalRemy Martin Louis Xiii Grande Champagne Cognac Bottle Decanter Baccarat CrystalGrim Reaper Whiskey Nipper & 2 Skull Cups! Japan No Damage! PoisonSouth Carolina Dispensary Bottle Pint Jo-jo Flask MonogramMchenry Amber Whiskey Bottle Nepa MThe Macallan Miniture Whiskey Bottle Empty With Original Box. 50 Ml.Figural Barrel Liquor Bottle: "greeting-theodore Netter"- 1215 Market St.,phila.2008 Maker's Mark Joe B. Hall Bottle - Collectible' Uncle Dave's Straight Gin ' Bottle - Blacks On Plantation!Early Green And Clark, Missouri Cider, Bottle, Amber, Rgd Aug 27, 1878.Vintage Prohibition Whiskey Bottle, Spider And Rye Scene, Medicinal Use OnlyFour Crystal Head Vodka 750ml Liquor Bottle Dan Aykroyd Clear Glass Skull Empty19th Hole Golf Back Bar Bottle AntiquePappy Van Winkle 15 Year Empty Bottle Vintage Miniature Old Taylor Bonded Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey BottleAwesome Vodka Bottle Shaped Like A Tommy Gun - 22" Long - EmptyVintage Green Warren & Wright Embossed Pint Whiskey/liquor Bottle Portsmouth Va Rare - Miniature Duffy Malt Whiskey - Rochester Ny 4" Nice!!!!!Amor Mio Extra Anejo (empty) Tequila BottleCrown Royal Miniature Whiskey Bottle 1966 2016 American Pharoah Makers Mark Bottle12 Empty Patron Silver Tequila 750ml Bottles In Box Rare Donald Trump Vodka Bottle! 1 Liter **limited Amounts Available"2008 Makers Mark Uk Bottle Joe B Hall 18,000 Ky Kentucky Wildcats