How to Ship Alcohol

By Baillee Perkins
Mar 11, 2022
Learn how to ship alcohol with UPS and FedEx!

Table of Contents

  1. Limitations of Shipping Alcohol
  2. Shipping Alcohol with UPS
  3. Shipping Alcohol with FedEx
  4. State Restrictions
  5. Glass bottle packing guidelines 
  6. Tips for packing glass bottles

With so many guidelines and restrictions in place, it’s easy to feel like you’re on the rocks with shipping alcohol. That’s why we’re here to shake things up! With our how-to guide, we’ll uncork carrier restrictions and give you advice on securely packaging your alcohol. Now let’s crack open the world of shipping alcohol. 

Limitations of Shipping Alcohol 

As with most specialty items, there are certain limitations to shipping alcohol. For example, no alcohol can be shipped through USPS. As crazy as it sounds, this ban dates back all the way to the Prohibition Era! While there have been attempts to change this ban, the policy still has yet to be updated. 

ShippingEasy customers can’t ship alcohol through their UPS One Balance accounts, so a separate UPS account will have to be connected. 

Hungry for more? Check out How to Ship Food with USPS!

Shipping Alcohol with UPS

When it comes to shipping alcohol with UPS, there are specific guidelines and licensing requirements that need to be met, including creating a UPS account, signing a UPS Agreement for Approved Spirits Shippers, and enabling Adult Signatures confirmations for all alcoholic shipments. Let’s break down the UPS requirements a little further. 

Requirements for shipping alcohol 

UPS only supports certain types of alcohol shipping including, Licensed to Licensed, Direct to Customer, Interstate Distillery Shipments, and Intrastate Distillery Shipments. 

  • Licensed to Licensed: When alcohol is shipped from one business that has a license to another business with a license. This includes retailers, distilleries, and distributors shipping alcohol to one another. 
  • Direct to Customer: When alcohol is shipped from a licensed business to a customer. 
  • Interstate Distillery Shipments: When alcohol is shipped from a licensed business to a customer in another eligible state 
  • Intrastate Distillery Shipments: When alcohol is shipped from a licensed business to a customer in the same eligible state.

Beer and wine shipments have some additional types of alcohol shipping such as: 

  • Direct to Consumer: Winery On-Site Purchase States: When alcohol is shipped from a licensed winery to a customer out of state after they bought the wine in-person from the winery. 
  • Interstate Brewery Shipments: When alcohol is purchased from a licensed brewery by a customer in another state that is eligible for out of state shipping 
  • Intrastate Brewery Shipments: When alcohol is purchased from a licensed brewery by a customer in the same state this is eligible for same-state alcohol shipping

Creating a UPS account 

The next step in shipping alcohol is creating a UPS account if one doesn’t already exist for your business. This account can be created through UPS’s website as seen below. 

For more information on creating this account, we recommend reaching out to UPS directly.

Required documentation 

Before your business can officially start shipping alcohol with UPS, your business needs to sign agreements with UPS, depending on which type of alcohol you’ll be shipping. To receive your UPS Agreement for Approved Spirit Shippers, UPS Agreement for Wine Shippers, or UPS Agreement for Approved Beer Shippers*, you’ll schedule an appointment with UPS directly.

*For more information about these documents, check out our Recommend Bookmarks.  

Along with your UPS Agreements, you need to submit any state alcohol licensing your business has received to [email protected]

Label requirements 

Like with other specialty items, your package needs to be labeled as containing alcohol to avoid any risk of it not being shipped. In addition to specific alcohol labeling, shipping labels for packages containing alcohol have to be printed through a UPS Compatible Shipping system like WorldShip or an authorized external shipping software system like ShippingEasy.  

Ready to make ShippingEasy? Start your 30-day free trial today!

Delivery requirements 

Any UPS shipments containing alcohol have to add the UPS Delivery Confirmation Adult Signature Required option. This option requires the recipient to show their ID to the UPS delivery driver to avoid anyone under 21-year-old from being able to sign for these packages. 

UPS also has a couple of options for shipment pickup called the UPS Hold for Pickup or HFPU service and UPS Access Locations. If your business is approved for these services, recipients can pick up their package from a UPS Customer Center or UPS Access Location. Recipients will still have to show ID at pick up for both of these services as well. 

UPS Access Point® Locator

Shipping Alcohol with FedEx

Similar to UPS, FedEx has guidelines and requirements for shipping alcohol through their carrier services, including a FedEx account for your business, a FedEx Alcohol Shipping Agreement, and enabling the adult signature confirmation option for all alcohol shipments. 

Requirements for shipping alcohol 

FedEx currently allows two types of alcohol shipping, which are: 

  • Licensee-to-Lincensee: When alcohol is shipped from one licensed business to another licensed vendor, business. etc…
  • Licensee-to-Customer: When alcohol is shipped from a licensed business to a customer* 

*The biggest thing to note is that wine is the only type of alcohol FedEx can transport licensee-to-customer. 

If your business meets one of these requirements, it’s time to set up your FedEx account! 

Creating a FedEx account 

To open your FedEx account, you’ll start out by visiting FedEx’s website

Once your FedEx account has been created, you’ll reach out to your personal FedEx account executive to assist further with getting your account ready for shipping alcohol. If your business doesn’t have a FedEx account executive, don’t worry! You can contact FedEx directly for next steps. 

Required documentation 

FedEx also requires alcohol shippers to fill out a contract with FedEx called a FedEx Alcohol Shipping Agreement. These agreements are also found with your business’s FedEx account executive or through FedEx support

Label requirements 

After creating your FedEx account and speaking with FedEx about the documentation needed to ship alcohol, it’s time to start printing your labels! Labels can only be created through a FedEx-based system like FedEx Ship Manager® or an authorized shipping software like ShippingEasy

 Image Source: FedEx 

Delivery requirements 

FedEx requires an adult signature confirmation option for all shipments containing alcohol. This option does come with an additional fee, and like UPS, it does require the recipient to show their ID when the package is delivered. If your customer and/or recipient isn’t available during the delivery window FedEx or would rather pick up their shipment, FedEx has the FedEx Hold at Location where the package can be picked up. ID will still be required for pickups as well. 

FedEx also has an option for delivery interception where a package can be sent to a different address for your recipient if the new address is located in the same state, as long as the package is deemed eligible. For more information on this service, you can reach out to FedEx directly at 1.800.463.3339.

State Restrictions 

Each state has its own set of alcohol shipping restrictions for both shipping alcohol in and out of the state. The National Conference of State Legislatures or NCSL has created a list of all 50 states and their specific guidelines, restrictions, and licensing requirement that can be found on their website

For more information regarding your state’s laws around shipping alcohol, the NCSL recommends reaching out to an agency that specializes in alcohol regulation.

Looking to grow your knowledge on certain restrictions for specialty items? Read our How to Ship Plants blog!

Glass bottle packing guidelines 

UPS and FedEx do have some supplies they prefer over others when shipping alcohol, but they do also provide several different options that will be accepted by the carriers. Both carriers recommend using the following supplies when packing your shipments: 

  • Molded Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam
  • Pulp dividers 
  • Corrogated trays
  • Molded fiber tray with dividers
  • Thermoformed plastic trays

While UPS only mentions that shipments must have a “sturdy outer corrugated container,” FedEx is more specific in what shipping materials can be used. FedEx won’t accept shipments where bottles are only separated by paper materials, bubble wrap, packing peanuts, or corrugated dividers in the box. A full list of FedEx’s accepted shipping materials can be found on their website

Tips for packing glass bottles 

While UPS and FedEx have their own guidelines for materials needed for shipping alcohol/other glass bottle beverages, there are some best practices for shipping fragile and/or specialty items. Here are a few tips to avoid any damages: 

  • Attach your label where the top of your package should be: Your package may be shifted around in transit, and it could potentially be placed upside down when being handled. If your label is attached to the top of your package, it can help signal to the carrier which side is up and which side is down. 
  • Add extra tape to the bottom of your fragile and heavy packages: Nothing is worse than the bottom following out of your box (think about when your bag has broken at the grocery store and how heartbreaking that is). Use more tape on the bottom of your box to help cushion your items and prevent damages. 
  • Mark your package as fragile: Most carriers like UPS and FedEx have mandatory labeling for fragile items like alcohol, so it’s important to add fragile labels to your products to help your items arrive save and sound. 
  • Cover all old labels when reusing boxes: If you’re reusing old boxes, all old labels, logos, and any other information that can potentially cause confusion with your carrier should be covered. If your boxes have any mentions of alcohol, including logos, these shipments can be fully denied shipment. 
Ready to pack it in? Turn your shipping woes into shipping knows with our How to Ship a Package blog!

Conclusion 

Shipping alcohol can definitely stir up stress. We’re here to take your shipping fears and turn them into cheers! Knowing carrier and state restrictions, as well as the best shipping prep for your alcohol, will take away any bitter feelings you may have about shipping alcohol. Straight up. 

Drink up more information with our blog, Shipping Liquids: Rules to Know for USPS, UPS, and FedEx!

Recommended Bookmarks

Alcohol and Tobacco Trade Bureau

FedEx Consultation

How to ship alcohol: Regulations and requirements for FedEx

How To Ship Beer with UPS

How To Ship Wine with UPS

How To Ship Spirits with UPS

National Conference of State Legislatures

UPS Customer Support

UPS Consultation

UPS Access Point® Locator

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Baillee Perkins

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