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    

Jack Daniels Frank Sinatra Limited Edition Dummy Display Bottle. Gentleman JackDyottville Full Iron Pontil Olive Amber Excellent Condition Whiskey GlassworksTop Shelf "attic" Found Condition Cosmopoliet Schiedam Early Pictorial Gin. LookJack Daniels Old No 7, 1 Pint Whiskey Bottle, Cork Top Antique BottleJesse Moore Old Bourbon Whiskey Bottle, Old Eastern Applied Top Variant, AntlersIce Blue Historical Double Eagle Flask Geo. A. Berry & Co. PintMatching Pair Of 1890s Enameled Back Bar Whiskey BottlesVery Nice Light Yellow Udolpho Wolfe's Schnapps Bottle $9.95 No ReserveJohnnie Walker Blue Label 1.75l Magnum Bottle And BoxWestern Whiskey! J.h. Cutter Old Bourbon, San Francisco, Glop Top & Character!Keene Valley Adirondack Pre Prohibition Ny Whiskey Bottle Label Riverside InnWestern Whiskey! Spruance Stanley San Francisco Cal 1869 With Embossed HorseshoeLate 1700s Stout Or Ale Dip Mold Amber Olive Dark - Pontil - Whittle Marks NiceWow Whiskey Advertising Pottery Pig Rosenbaum Bros. Kentucky WhiskiesSaloon Back Bar Bottle Embossed Uncle Jerry Pure Rye Swirl Bottle In GoldCrystal Head Skull 750ml Bottle Empty Dan Aykroyd Decanter With Top Display BoxGlob Top, Jh Cutter Old Bourbon, Ok WhiskeyAntique Miniature Iron Pontil Whiskey Bottle "stoddard Glass Works" NhAntique 1880s "whiskey" Back Bar Saloon, Glass Bottle - Santa Fe CollectionDutch Onion Pontil Free Blown Medium Olive Green Liquor Wine Bottle Late 1700s ?Smith & Glaxton General Merchants French Lick Indiana Stoneware 2 Gal Jug Bail1900 Pfeiffer Bros Whiskey Diecut Cdbd Calendar Sign Louisville Ky Easel BackCalifornia Whiskey - "davy Crockett/pure Old Bourbon/hey,/grauerholz/& Co/s.f./"Original Antique Scratch Mini Stoneware Jug Cooperative Store St Louis MissouriExc Black Glass Whiskey Civil War Bottle - Found In Camp Trash Pit -richmond Va.Remy Martin Louis Xiii Baccarat Bottle & Stopper As IsWestern J H Cutter Old Bourbon A P Hotaling & Co Whiskey Bottle Amber Western Whiskey Fifth Kreilsheimer Bros Seattle, Wash Crown Diamonds1888 Hb Kirk Wa Gaines Hermitage Whiskey Bottle W/label Frankfort Ky Ny1866 - Indian War Era Officer's 71/4" Whiskey Flask W/ Pewter Cup & Cap - ExcBaccarat Crystal Remy Martin Louis Xiii Cognac Bottle, Box, Book, & StopperCrystal Head Skull Vodka Bottle (empty) 750mlRare 1900's Tulip Rose I. Trager & Co Whiskey Bottle Paper Label Ohio Original Mini Stoneware Jug Henry Bosonet Whiskey Louisville Ky Souvenir1890s Sample New York California Fifth Cylinder Saloon Distilling Whiskey BottleRare Indian Hill Whiskey Bottle Paper Label Indian Lexington, KentuckyF W Baker & Co. Quart Cylinder Liquor Whiskey Bottle Nashville Tenn Tn Peach Brandy Cordial Label Flask Empire Liquor Co 43 Peachtree St Atlanta, GaCrystal Head Glass Bottle Skull Bones Rocker Biker Gothic Poison Death Pirate Western Saloon Flask The Fashion Mayberry Bros Aberdeen, WashRare I. Nelson's Old Bourbon, Maysville, Ky Barrell WhiskeyRare Vintage Old Grand Dad Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 4/5 Quart Bottle Empty Red Tommy Gun Reposado Tequila Glass Bottle Decanter Capone Roaring 20'sLouis Xiii DecanterBlown Pre Pro Cincinnati, Ohio Sample Mini Whiskey Bottle The Edgewood Dist. Co.Old Whiskey Bottle With Unique Top, Rare Vintage Antique, Cant Buy Anymore!(12)1 Dozen Patron Bottles 750ml Blown Glass And Serial #Camp Nelson Miniature Cork Top Whiskey Bottle "j.p.bowlin & Son" Bourbon St PaulSaloon Whiskey Back Bar Bottle Beckmore Gold Letters Almost A Mini W/ Stopper Old International Sour Mash Miniature Jug1890s E.m. Corthell Dragon Brand Creme De Menthe Boston Back Bar Bottle PurpleErte Courvoisier #6 Cognac Bottle Rare Liquor Decanter France CrystalVintage Pre Prohibition Old Cabin Still Whiskey Bottle W/ Labels, Kentucky,1916Rare Bacardi Atlantis Decanter Unopened Millennium Celebration Special EditionLarge Crystal Skull Vodka Bottle (empty)Antique Liquor Bottle "old Rose Dist. Chicago, Wines & Liquors" Rare1930's Camus La Grande Marque Cognac Nip Whiskey Bottle With Paper Label1930's E. Reimy Martin & Co Champagne France Nip Whiskey Bottle LabelEarly J.rieger & Co, Kansas City,mo.whiskey Qt. & SampleCrown Royal Limited Edition Rare 750ml Whiskey Bottle