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The History of Mini Bottle Laws in South Carolina

Welcome, y’all! Today, we’re diving into a subject that’s uniquely South Carolinian and particularly prevalent in Charleston—the illustrious and somewhat baffling history of mini bottle laws.

You may have heard of them or even guzzled down a few in your day, but do you know how they shaped the drinking culture here? Buckle up; it’s time for a nostalgic, liquor-laced trip down memory lane.

The Mini Bottle Era: The Quirk That Defined Us

Let’s get straight to it: for many years, bars in South Carolina were forbidden from using anything but mini bottles—those 50ml cuties—to serve hard liquor. These little guys weren’t just airplane novelties; they were the linchpin of our state’s drinking laws from the 1970s until 2006.

A Shot Too Far: Splitting Shots in Charleston

Unlike the average shot glass, which holds around 1.5 ounces of liquor, a mini bottle serves up a solid 1.7 ounces. Seems trivial, right? But trust a Charleston native, that extra 0.2 ounces adds up.

To adjust for this overpour, Charleston bars got clever and started ‘splitting shots.’ Simply put, bartenders would pour one mini bottle into two glasses to equate roughly to two ‘normal’ shots.

Why Charleston Keeps Splitting

Here’s the kicker: although the state law has changed, Charleston is still one of the only places in the USA where you’ll find bars that split shots. Old habits die hard, and in Charleston, we relish these quirks that set us apart.

The End of the Mini Era, But Not the Culture

In 2006, the tides shifted. South Carolina finally relaxed its mini bottle restrictions, allowing bars to stock regular-sized bottles. And while the mini bottles may be less prevalent today, their cultural impact is far from forgotten.


From their influence on splitting shots to their quirkiness that both locals and tourists loved, mini bottles have left an indelible mark on South Carolina, especially in Charleston.

So, next time you’re at a bar in this great city, order a split shot. You’ll be tipping your hat to a strange yet wonderful slice of Charleston history.