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    

Antique Naber Alfs San Francisco Phoenix Whiskey Bourbon 1/2 Pint Bottle FlaskChoice Old Cabinet Whiskey Bottle Western Glass Antique San Francisco CaliforniaRare Early American Pontiled Sheaf Of Wheat Star Flask Bottle Cornflower BlueJ H Cutter O K Whiskey Bottle Antique Western Glass Honey Amber Bourbon Nice 1870's - 1880's Western Whiskey Fifth Jesse Moore Sole Agents Glob TopIncredible Clevenger E. G. Booz Bottle, 1930's. Applied Top. What A Color!1890's The Old Nick Whiskey Co Lock Box No 26 Williams N C Whiskey Bottle 1768Globular Handled Whiskey Jug19thc Blown English Brandy Ribbed Bottle With StopperRare Early American Pontiled Union Flask Bottle Aqua Civil War Era Mason ArsWestern Dug Killer Green Whiskey Fifth Hammer Whittled !!!Udolpho Wolfe Antique Gin BottlePappy Van Winkle 23 Year Old W/ Velvet Bag & Tag - Empty Bottle (2016)Western San Francisco Whiskey Simmonds Nabob Full Embossing Red Amber WhittledVintage Remy Martin Louis Xiii Baccarat Crystal Decanter Display Liquor Bottle1860-era~stoddard-type~port-wine / Spirits~cylinder Bottle Copper-amber + Crude!Antique Vintage 1906 Old Crow Pure Rye Sour Mash Whiskey BottleRare Early American Pontiled Scroll Flask Bottle Bimal Crude Sheared Lip Glass Pappy Van Winkle / Very Old Fitzgerald - Empty BottleVintage Golden Dome Rye & Bour Whiskey Amber 12 1/4" Bottle St. Joseph, Mo. Qt Ww-1 Era Simon Binswanger & Bro Whiskey Bottle Pre-prohibtion1840s Pontil Crude Olive Green Whitney's Glass Works 2pm Patent WhiskeyCa.1870's Old Shawhan Whiskey - Two Labels - RareVintage Bottle,commodores Royal O.k. Bourbon K.y. Marx Jorgensen,portland OregonHarvard Rye, Klein Bros., Whiskey Bottle With Label And Glass Cork1800's Barnacle Bottle Florida ~43~Sc Dispensary BottleBuffet Fine Old Whiskey Mini Stoneware Advertising Jug!! Cincinnati, OhioFine Cobalt Blue Civil War Era Glass Gin/elixir BottlePappy Van Winkle BottleAntique N.y. "michaelis & Lindeman 459 Broadway" Whiskey Bottle 1870'sHennessy Paradis Extra Rare Cognac Dummy Bottle With Empty Display BoxRare Signed Empty Clase Azul Anejo BottlePappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 23 Year Old W/ Velvet Bag - Empty BottleRemy Martin Xo (1.75ml) Unopened Sealed Dummy Display BottlePure White Hennessy Cognac Brand New Unopened BottlePappy Van Winkle Empty Bottle Lot - Incredibly Rare Whiskey Collectables! Liquor BottlesMacallan 25 Empty Bottle Amber Louis Hunter Pure Rye 1870 Trade Mark Seattle Wash Old BottleVintage Bottle,larry's Whiskey, Large Brown Bottle 32 Ounces, Pre ProWoodpecker Pre Pro Internal Paneled Back Bar Whiskey Decanter Bottle. Ky/mo?Antique Amber Pf Heering Bottle - Blob Top - Marked Kiobenhavn (copenhagen)Los Azulejos Tequila Añejo Empty Bottle Mexico Liquor With Stopper Blue WhiteI. W. Harper Nelson County Louisville Kentucky Picture Whiskey Jug Donald Trump 750 Ml Super Premium Vodka Gold Glass Empty Bottle No Alcohol Bong Vodka Bottle Collectible Holland Limited Ed Capactor Design Hookah PipeHayner Distillery Rye Bottle With Partial LabelsJj W Peters Hamburg Amber Gin Bottle - Applied TopVintage Bols (?) Ballerina Couple Liquor Bottle Music Box 'smoke In Your Eyes'1914 Pre Prohibition Old Taylor Straight Kentucky Whiskey Bottle Frankfort KentuGossler Bros Whiskey Bottle Crystal Head Vodka Skull 750ml Liquor Bottle Dan Aykroyd Clear Glass .craftsScarce! 1890-1900~era Scotch-whiskey~transfer Jug! "j+a Ferguson's Mountain Dew"Vintage Murphy's Irish Whiskey Bottle (empty) W/nice Paper LabelAntique D Dempsey Chicago Ill Brown Liquor Spirits BottleVintage 1968 Very Old Fitzgerald Half Pint Stitzel Weller Bourbon Bottle Ex.condPappy Van Winkle 20yr Empty Bottle.~awesome~antique Pig Snout Case Gin Bottle Footed Early 1800's Lots Of BubblesBooker's Rye Le & 25th Anniversary Bourbon -- Empty Bottles & Display Boxes