Bottle tickets, also referred to as ‘wine labels’, have been in use since the early 18th Century. Their predominant use (as their name suggests) is to indicate the content of a certain bottle or decanter. They became more necessary when silver and glass decanters grew in popularity; as there would be no inscription or indication on the decanter itself. Another factor that led to their necessity was the influx of a wider variety of wine and other drinks during the 18th century- more to drink and more to label!
They weren’t strictly used for drinks however; bottle tickets could also label condiments and toiletries such as cologne, tooth mixture, barley water, vinegar, mustard, lime juice among other things. Although these versatile tickets are most frequently crafted in silver, there have been many fine examples found crafted in different materials such as enamel, plated metals, mother of pearl, zinc, nickel, porcelain, tortoiseshell, bone ivory, cork, tusk or even tigers’ claw. In various forms and having various uses, these small collectors’ items have stood the test of time and are still used today for special occasions and important dinners.
Not only are they terribly handy for labelling things, they can also be helpful for disguising beverages that were perhaps more frowned upon. Gin for example, was a traditionally ‘sniffed at’ drink choice. Instead of the word ‘Gin’ therefore, some labels would denote the beverage by the word ‘Nig’, or-more crudely- ‘Mother’s ruin’. Bottle tickets could also be useful if you wanted to decant a perhaps ‘less impressive’ wine into a different, unmarked bottle in the deviant hope that no one would know the difference!