A Subset of my Miniature Liquor Bottle collection: Heublein cocktails -- updated 4/20/2011

The G. F. Heublein & Bro. Company was founded in Hartford, CT in 1875. The first ready-made cocktails, including martinis and brandy alexanders, were distributed in 1892. The company also began producing A-1 sauce in 1918, and it was the revenue from this part of the business that kept the company solvent throughout Prohibition. A 1937 ad in Life Magazine lists eight “Club Cocktails” produced by Heublein: Three different strength Martinis, Manhattan, Bronx, Side Car, Old Fashioned, and Daiquiri. By 1968, the number produced by Heublein Inc. had grown to seventeen, as shown in a Saturday Evening Post ad: Mai-Tai, Margarita, Black Russian, Daiquiri, Gimlet, Stinger, Side Car, Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Whiskey Sour, Vodka Sour, Tequila Sour, Apricot Sour, Gin Martinis: Extra Dry or 11-to-1, and Vodka Martinis: Extra Dry or 11-1.

A bit more history for completeness: In 1939 Heublein acquired the exclusive rights to Smirnoff Vodka, and later acquired a number of other major brands. By 1969 it was the fifth largest domestic seller of alcoholic beverages, the largest seller of premium vodka (Smirnoff, Popov, Relska, Koskorva, and Arrow), the leading seller of tequila (Jose Cuervo, Matador), and dominated the market for cordials (Irish Mist and three other brands) and domestic prepared cocktails. In 1978 Heublein acquired United Vintners; in 1971 Kentucky Fried Chicken Corporation; in 1982 Zapata Foods, Inc. In 1989 Heublein was acquired by RJR Nabisco, then sold to Grand Metropolitan PLC of Britain in 1987; in 1997, Grand Met merged with Guiness to become Diageo.The Hartford headquarters were closed in 1998.

Unless you specialize in other types of minis, you most certainly have some of the Heubleins in your collection. Bottle sizes and designs changed over the years, as did the labels, and there are even variations in the alcohol content. In the accompanying photos I’ve shown a sample of each “flavor” but have only shown a few bottle/label variations. For example, I have nine different Manhattans in my collection, but there’s only one in the attached photos.

I’ve included photos of twenty eight different cocktails: Black Russian, Brandy Alexander, Brass Monkey, Daiquiri, Go-Getter, Grasshopper, Hobo’s Wife, Mai-Tai, Manhattan, Margarita, Old Fashioned, Pina Colada, Pink Squirrel, Pisco Sour, Sergeant Major, Screwdriver, Side Car, Stinger, Tequila Sunrise, Wallbanger, Whiskey Sour, Yellowbird, three Gin Martinis: Dry Martini, Extra Dry Martini, 11-to-1 Extra Dry Martini; and three Vodka Martinis: Vodka Martini, Extra Dry Vodka Martini, 11-to-1 Extra Dry Vodka Martini.

The oldest bottles are the brown flasks (e.g. photo 23, the Dry Martini), then came the series of brown rounds with a “lady leg” top and a black oval containing the Heublein name above a yellow oval showing the type of cocktail (e.g. photo 17, the Side Car). Some were issued without the lady-leg (e.g. photo 18, the Stinger).

In the next label change the Heublein name is in a smaller elongated oval above the larger yellow oval containing the cocktail type. These were issued with metal screw tops (e.g. photo 6, the Grasshopper) or plastic screw tops (e.g. photo 8, the Mai-Tai). All were brown round bottles. Volumes and heights varied – 1/8 pint, 1/10 pint, 50 ml.

The next change was to show photographs of the drinks on the labels. Again they came with either metal screw top (e.g. photo 6, the Grasshopper) or plastic (e.g. photo 2, the Brandy Alexander). A few came in clear glass (e.g. photo 12, the Pina Colada).

Finally, the entire label design was modernized, bottles were clear round with metal screw tops (e.g. photo 9, the Manhattan).

Of special interest to me are the ones made especially for an individual airline – the Go-Getter for Ozark Airlines, the Yellowbird for Northeast Airlines. I am still searching for the Roadrunner (made for Frontier) and the Something Else (made for Eastern).

I’m also looking for two others that I know exist – the Gold Rush and the Broadway cocktails. And assuming that minis were made of all the drinks listed in the 1968 ad, there should be a Bronx, Gimlet, Vodka Sour, Tequila Sour, and Apricot Sour out there, although I’ve never seen any of them. If you have any to sell or trade, please let me know.

miniliq@gmail.com. -- Harland Johnson, New Orleans, LA, USA