Really old booze. Or: What you find when you help your 94-year-old grandmother empty her liquor cabinet


My family has a bit of a morbid streak and likes to way over-prepare for people’s imminent deaths. My grandmother, for instance, is 94 years old and as fabulous as ever. She actually performed better than I did on a stress test at the cardiologist. Sorry, pride, you lose this round. Anyway, ever since she became the last living of six children a couple years ago, she’s been cleaning out her house so that we’ll have less stuff to throw away when she dies. Giving away jewelry, tossing old Christmas decorations—things of that sort. This last time my sister and I went home, we had the lovely task of cracking open the liquor cabinet.

Now this liquor cabinet probably hadn’t been opened since before I was born. Her husband used to be an alcoholic (a real one, not the enthusiast type), but gave it up some time in the late 70s if my calculations are correct. And my grandma, while she loves herself a glass of White Zinfandel, isn’t really the type to chug hard liquor on her own. There was a lot of dust and weird smells in that cabinet and, sadly, every single bottle—except for the pomegranate grenadine—was open. We took them all out, sniffed them, lost some brain cells and some lung function, and poured them down the drain. If you ever get the chance to take a whiff of 50-year-old rum that’s been chilling in a cabinet unsealed and half-drunk, OMG DON’T DO IT. Seriously.

I’m a designer, so of course we didn’t throw the bottles away before taking some pictures. Now, let’s all ogle some pretty packaging from liquor bottles of old.

Trader Vic’s Pomegranate Grenadine Syrup

Trader Vics grenadine syrup

OMG NIPPLES! The bottle today does not have nipples. Or a hula girl at all. A bottle dated 1975 has the girl, but in a very tasteful dress. It looks like this one is from some time in the 40s, according to a few sites.

Also, this is the only one that I actually tasted, since it was still sealed (though I didn’t realize until now that it was from the 40s. Gross). It was tasty and sugary, but not at all pomegranatey. My sister took the second bottle home with her to see if her boyfriend could make a delicious cocktail out of it. I haven’t received any reports on how that went. (Ed. note: Christian is #hellajelly)

Grand Marnier Liqueur

Grand Marnier

Pretty sure the bottles from today look nearly the same, but who doesn’t love a real wax seal?

Santa Teresa, Gran Reserva Selecto, Ron Anejo

Santa Teresa

The Santa Teresa bottles now are nowhere near as fancy. There was a limited edition bottle released in 1996 to commemorate their 200th anniversary that has a similar shape (and costs somewhere upwards of $300). The glass is also detailed, but seems much thinner and less deeply carved. This one definitely wins for coolest bottle in the cabinet.



Yep, that’s just some old Kahlua.

Courvoisier Very Fine Cognac



I haven’t been able to figure out when this bottle is from, but it’s also pretty darn old. I’m a huge fan of the seal on the top that states that the Cognac was made at the instruction of the Late King George VI. That Lion looks so stoked to be on that crest, doesn’t he? (Ed. note: lion says: “WOW MOM!”)

Old Mr. Boston Peach Flavored Brandy

Old Mr Boston-1

Old Mr Boston-2

The Old Mr. Boston distillery was founded in 1933 in Boston. Mr. Boston and his fabulous tophat were the mascot up until the mid-80s, when he went on a break from posing for the bottle. This one from the cabinet seems to be from some time in the late-60s, as the company reportedly dropped the “old” from “Old Mr. Boston” in the 70s.

According to the Old Mr. Boston Deluxe Official Bartender’s Guide from the 1930s:

“He is a jolly fellow, one of those rare individuals, everlastingly young, a distinct personality and famous throughout the land for his sterling qualities and genuine good fellowship. His friends number in the millions, those who are great and those who are near great, even as you and I. He is jovial and ever ready to accept the difficult role of ‘Life of the Party,’ a sympathetic friend who may be relied upon in any emergency.”

(From Modern Drunkard)

I wish more people wore tophats.

(Ed. note: Josey is jovial and ever ready to accept the difficult role of “Life of the Party”)

Holland House Grenadine Syrup

Holland House-1

Holland House-2

I don’t know much about this, but I love myself a good crest. Plus, there’s Latin on this one. “Ad inquirendum,” which is supposedly a legal term that commands an inquiry. Why it is on a bottle of grenadine, I have no idea. But I like it.