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    

Outstanding Red Wing Stoneware Mini Miniature Saloon Canteen Jug Rare Crude - Dr. Kiersted's Julep For Diarrhea - Open Pontil - New YorkD Best & Most Bubbly Seam~side Western Flask I've Ever Seen. Scarce Color! Pt.szOur Choice Old Bourbon Hencken & Schroder 208 & 209 Front Street San Francisco!!Antique Glop Blob Top Western Whiskey Flask Bottle Lilienthal & Co. DistillersVintage 1895 Gar 29th National Encampment Louisville Ky Harper's Whiskey BottleEarly Mallet Coast Of New Bedford Mass - Ca.1730'sSkinny Jo Jo Half Pint South Carolina Dispensary Bottle Sc Whiskey S C FlaskGlop Top Western Whisky Bottle J.f. Cutter Extra Old Bourbon Shield Circa Amber Four Crystal Head Vodka 750ml Liquor Bottle Dan Aykroyd Clear Glass Skull EmptyRare Antique Bottle H. Free & Co. Free's Pure Rye Whiskey York Pa. 1882-1900 !Rare ~ Advertising Crock / Jug Greil Bros. Co. Montgomery Alabama ~ LiquorHoffman / Colorado City, Colorado Pumpkin Seed Liquor ? Bottle W/ Ground TopEarly Conn Stoneware Ct Bottle New Haven Rare E.e. Hall’s WhiskeyPre Prohibition Bottle Meadville Rye Whiskey Bottled C Persons Sons Buffalo NyJh Cutter Pure Old Rye Western Whiskey Bottle W/ Barrel Cp Moorman Louisville KyPappy Van Winkle 23 Year Old Family Reserve 750 Ml Bottle (empty)Yellow-citron Colored Large Size Wolfes Schnapps-niceCrystal Head Vodka 750ml Liquor Bottle Dan Aykroyd Skull Empty With Cap, BoxVintage Numbered Old Overholt Whiskey Bottle In Chest - C1940s?Crystal Head Vodka 750ml Liquor Bottle Dan Aykroyd Skull Empty With Cap, BoxPre Pro Shot Glass R B Hayden (pict Grain Stalk) Barner & Kehlenbeck S.f. Pre-pro Purple 1/2 Pint Jas Durkin Western Whiskey Flask Spokane Wa Sprague MillA Van Hoboken &co Gin Jug ,bottle Ivora Gouda HollandAntique Case Gin Bottle ~ Palm Boom C. Meyer Schiedam~ Applied Seal; Sun ColoredHuge Antique A.s. Gigliani San Francisco Western Whiskey Liquor BottleAntique Case Gin Bottle V. Meerten & C. Black Glass Green Bitters Whiskey OldPappy Van Winkle Bottles; 10, 20 Y/o Family Reserve And 13 Year Old Rye BottlesJ.f. Cutter / E. Martin &co San Francisco California Amber Whiskey BottleScarce Vintage Late 1800's Marshall Rye Whisky Bottle - W./original Paper LabelLouis Xii Baccarat Crystal Cognac Decanter-emptyVan Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year Lot "b" Bourbon Bottle OnlyBeautiful Vintage Udolpho Wolfe's Aromatic Schnapps Pt.As Is! Rare! Labeled Only Spokane Washington Wa Whiskey Bottle California PortLouis Xiii Remy Martin Grande Champagne Baccarat Crystal Cognac Bottle 750ml Crystal Head Vodka 750ml Liquor Bottle Dan Aykroyd Skull Empty With Cap, BoxUdolpho Wolfe's Aromatic Schnapps Schiedam ~ 9.75" Brown Bottle ~ Offset SquareRare Antique Amber Pumpkin Seed Whiskey Flask Bottle No ReserveRittenhouse Rye 25 Year-old Single Barrel (unopened Bottle)Pappy Van Winkle's 23 Year Old Family Reserve 750 Ml Bottle (empty) & Velvet BagScarce Antique Western Amethyst Borgfeldt Propfe Co Whiskey BottleCrystal Head Vodka Skull Bottle 750 Ml Empty With Original Box And BookletJohn Jameson Vintage Miniature Liquor Bottle Empty Jj&s Irish Whiskey AntiqueKah Tequila Skull Bottle 750 Ml Empty Hand Painted Day Of The DeadRare Vintage/old 12 Yr Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch Whisky Bottle 750 Ml Full !!Pre-pro Clear Half Pint Portland Oregon Whiskey Flask Ore Importing Company1880 Aqua Washington Liquor Co. Spokane Wash, Blobtop Hutch Liquor Bottle RareKah Tequila Skull Bottle 750 Ml Empty Hand Painted Day Of The DeadVintage Dream Of Jeannie Genie Liquor Bottle With Stopper Dark GlassAntique New Orleans "ben Hur" J. Grossman's Whiskey Flask 1890-1900 RareGorgeous Unique Antique Hand-tooled Leather Bound 1-gallon Stoneware Wine JugGorgeous Amber Whiskey - With Threaed StopperSkull / Crystal Head Vodka BottleVintage Zwack Miniature Unicum Bottle Sealed Bottle Liqueur Bottle. Mini BottleVintage Four Roses Fifth Whiskey Decanter Clear Glass Bottle " Empty "A H Hirsch Reserve 16 Year Old Bourbon Bottle Tag And StringWoodford Reserve Kentucky Derby 136 Commemorative 1 Liter Bottle 2010Glenfiddich 21y Wedgwood Decanter 50mlNew Orleans Peychaud's Bitter Cordial Bottle Jung Restaurant Hotel Bar Club GemSchafer Vater Whiskey Flask Nipper Baby In Cradle Little Scotch Old Bottle