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    

J. Pfaff - 16 Exchange Street - Boston, Schiedam Schnapps -blop Seal Case BottleC. A. Richards Whiskey Bottle Boston Ma Stoddard Backwards N’sOld Western 5th - "jesse Moore / Whiskey / Sole Agents" - Great Bottle!South Carolina Dispensary Pint Bottle With Amazing LabelWestern Whiskey Pumpkin Seed Flask Bottle: J. E. Brady Sequoia Mill Valley, CalBear Creek Rye Whiskey Max Klein Bottle Allegheny Pa Prepro 1890s Label AntiquePhoenix Old Bourbon, San Francisco Pre 1900 BottleI W Harper Whiskey Jug, New Orleans Expo. 1884 BottleRare Western Pre Pro "standard / Liquor Co." Shot Glass / Salem OregonSouth Carolina Dispensary Bottle 1/2 Pint Strap Side Flask Palmetto Tree DesignIron Pontil Deep Green Color Good Samaritan Brandy - Gentry.slote & Co New YorkWow!!! An Early American Blown Pictorial Schnapps Bottle/wolfe's/bell Image1850s - "whisky Taster / Shot Glass" Cobalt Blue !Beautiful Pontiled Pig Snout Case GinRare "wedding Bouquet Rye / 1890 / Walter Moise / Omaha Nebraska:" Miniature!Louis Xiii De Remy Martin Grande Champagne Cognac Bottle SetWestern Whiskey H.l. Nye BourbonBaccarat Remy Martin King Louis Xiii 750ml Crystal Decanter BottleAntique Vintage Americus Club Whiskey Bottle San Francisco Collectable Decanter Bottle With Hayner Patented Combination Whiskey StopperPre Prohibition, Old Overholt Whiskey 1pt. Bottle In Box19thc One Of A Kind Whiskey Glass Flask W Raised Donkey Design On Bottle Erte Art Deco Courvoisier Cognac Empty Liquor Bottle " Vendanges" Rare #6686 Crystal Head Vodka Skull Bottle Decanter & 2 Glass Shot Glasses Empty 750 MlRare Baccarat Cristal Louis Xiii De Remy Martin Grande Champagne Cognac BottleAnheuser Busch, Kansas City Branch, Bottle TopDon Julio Real Tequila - Crystal Bottle W/ Tag - Stopper - Complete DisplayFrank Walker Warranted Half Pint Whiskey Butte, MontanaCivil War Age Olive Green Dyottville Glass Works Philada Whiskey BottleLot Of 2 Crystal Head Crystal Skull Vodka Bottles With Corks Empty3 Kah Tequila Skull Bottles 50ml Empty Painted Day Of Dead Yellow Black WhiteCrystal Head Vodka Decanter Empty Skull Head 1.75l 8" Tall550 Ml Crystal Head Skull Wine Vodka Whiskey Glass Bottle Jar Decanter PartyHennessy Pure White Cognac (3 Bottles Available) Scarce Applied Seal "s A Wertz Phila Superior Old Rye Whiskey" Pre ProLook!!!! An Interesting And Early Case Gin With Beveled Corners/p. LoopuytVintage Van Hoytema & Co. Dark Olive Green Black Glass Case Gin Bottle ~1800's~Hawaii Whiskey Bottle - Macfarlane & Co. HonoluluLouis Xiii De Remy Martin Grande Champagne Cognac Bottle SetAmber Color Edgewood Sour Mash Whiskey Bottle Pre Prohibition Paxtone DistilleryEarly Wine Or Porter - Rare Color - PontilLouis Xiii De Remy Martin Grande Champagne Cognac Bottle SetRoaring 20's Tommy Gun Vodka (empty) Glass Machine Gun Decanter- Perfect Cond.Old Whiskey Bottle With Paper Label. Crescent "fine Old" WhiskeyNapoleon 50 Ml Miniature F1 Auto Mini Empty Bottle Hot 550ml Crystal Head Skull Wine Vodka Whiskey Glass Bottle Jar Decanter PartyOld Grand Marnier BottleAntique Adolph Harris Co. San Francisco Quart Whiskey Bottle With CorkPappy Van Winkle 23 Year Old Bourbon BottleJohnnie Walker Blue Label Whisky Wooden Box ( No Bottle )Orphan Barrel "old Blowhard" Empty BottleFernberger Bro Company Whiskey 1/5th Clean Amber Strong Emboss C1890 Phila PaLouis Xiii Remy Martin Baccarat DecanterDuraglass Brown Amber Whiskey, Moonshine, Or Root Beer 1 Gallon Jug Vintage Amber Blown Sample Whiskey Bottle Patterson & Cabell- New York Ladies Leg NeckGrand Marnier Cuvée Du Cent Cinquantenaire 150th + 100th Bottles! Near MintVtg Whisky (wine) Bottle With Music Box, And Animated Scottish Dancer In A KiltRare Antique Wicker Basket Green Glass Wine Or Water Jug. Two Handles. Vintage Italian Leather Covered World Map Glass Decanter & 4 GlassesVtg Hiram Walker & Sons Clear Glass Bottle With Spiderweb & Spider