For a friend’s birthday or on the occasion of a wedding you can’t attend, nothing says “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there, but enjoy the celebration!” quite like a bottle of wine or other spirit.
If the recipient lives far away, your only option might be to ship it. You have your big three options: the United States Postal Service, UPS or FedEx.
Can you mail alcohol with USPS, though? The answer might not be what you think. See below.
Can You Mail Alcohol USPS In 2023?
The United States Postal Service absolutely forbids the practice of shipping any intoxicating liquors, except under extremely limited circumstances (where the alcohol content is negligible). This applies to both domestic and international services. Packaging referencing alcohol is also prohibited and must be scratched out or removed if intended for shipping use.
To learn more about why you can’t mail alcohol USPS, what happens if you try and get caught, whether you can ship any liquids and if there are any ways other than USPS that you can ship alcohol, keep reading because I have all you need to know!
Why Can’t You Mail Alcohol USPS?
Prohibition is an era most Americans would rather forget, but the effects of that “unspirited” time – when alcohol was actually illegal for 13 years – can still be felt down the decades.
Case in point: the reason you can’t mail alcohol via USPS is because of laws enacted during Prohibition.
While you can obviously distill/brew and sell alcohol now, for some reason, Congress never lifted the ban on shipping it with the Postal Service, which is an independent federal agency.
Will Congress ever get its act together and lift the ban?
As recently as Spring 2021, there was a bipartisan effort in the United States House of Representatives to end the ancient law.
Nineteen lawmakers on either side of the political aisle proposed the USPS Shipping Equity Act.
This bill would make it legal for the Postal Service to ship alcohol, as long as it adhered to state and local laws.
In addition to ending a ban that has no place in modern society, making it legal for USPS to ship alcohol would generate millions of much-needed dollars.
As of this writing, the bill has been introduced into the House and has 44 bipartisan cosponsors.
What Happens If You Try To Ship Alcohol USPS?
Attempting to ship alcohol via USPS is a federal crime.
While I couldn’t find any specifics, it’s clear that, at the very least, if you attempted it and got caught, you could be facing severe fines and even jail time.
You are better off not risking it.
Can You Mail A Bottle Of Wine USPS?
The United States Postal Service prohibits shipping of all alcoholic beverages, including wine.
To take it a step further, you cannot use an old wine box to ship something else, unless you have removed all references to alcohol first.
So anything like “wine” or “Cabernet” or “13 percent alcohol” must be scratched out or covered; images of wine glasses, bottles or even grapes, should be likewise censored.
If you’re on the fence about whether something on the box suggests there might be alcohol within, play it safe and cover it.
Boxes that even hint at alcoholic contents within could be more likely to arouse suspicion by postal inspectors and might be scanned or even opened.
That, in turn, could cause shipping delays. Err on the side of caution by covering up everything alcohol-related or choose a different box.
Some states even prohibit the legal delivery of alcoholic beverages
Can You Mail Any Liquids USPS?
You can send liquids via USPS, even some that contain alcohol.
Cold remedies, cooking wine, and mouthwash all contain negligible amounts of alcohol, and they are permitted for shipment through the Postal Service.
Non-alcoholic and non-hazardous liquids are also permitted, so long as the necessary packing safety guidelines have been followed.
For more than four ounces of liquid, you must use special materials to cushion and insulate the box and airtight containers.
If you need to keep the liquids cold (as for milk, for example), you can use Styrofoam shipping coolers that USPS sells online.
Can You Send Alcohol With FedEx Or UPS?
Since you can’t ship alcohol with USPS, FedEx or UPS are your other options, but beware: these two shipping giants have their own restrictions for mailing booze.
- You must be a state- and federally-licensed seller of alcohol
- You can only ship alcohol to states where it is legal
- You must have a special contract with the shipper (UPS or FedEx) where they permit you to use their service to ship alcohol
- You must require an adult (21+) signature to receive the alcohol
For a more thorough list of rules and regulations, you can check out this site here.
Clearly, you won’t be sending alcohol through the mail to anyone as an individual citizen.
So how do you send a bottle of whiskey or a bottle of wine to your dear friend for their birthday?
Your best bet is to use a third-party site like Drizly, ReserveBar, or Cellars Wine Club.
Or, if they live in a state like Pennsylvania, with a state liquor control board and state-run stores, you can purchase a gift card for them online!
You cannot mail alcoholic beverages, except in the case of very low alcoholic-content liquids, using the United States Postal Service.
The law restricting this practice has been in place in the 1910s, but perhaps it has met its match in the bipartisan bill that 44 House members introduced in spring 2021.