The question of whether or not liquor can go bad is a pretty broad one. When we think of liquor, we tend to think of distilled drinks like whiskey, vodka, and gin. But, hiding on the peripheries, there are also some distilled drinks that qualify as liquors but won’t quite have the alcohol proof that these spirits do. These drinks can sit as low as 40 proof on the scale and are generally watered, or ‘tampered’ down to taste. On the weaker end of the scale, these drinks can behave totally differently under long-term storage. So, keeping that in mind, we will try our best to cover all bases under the broad umbrella of ‘liquors’ so that you get all the information you need. If you want to know how to store your liquors long-term and stop them from losing any of their quality, then you’ve come to the right place! Read on!
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Does Liquor Go Bad?
If liquors are stored correctly, most of them can last for an incredibly long time. The reason we say ‘most’ of them is that there is a big difference in how a strong spirit like vodka and a liqueur like Triple Sec will keep. Generally, this difference is marked by the presence of things that can go off in the bottle. For example, the alcohol itself acts as a preservative, but if there is any form of dairy or fruit in the ingredients list it won’t preserve as well. That being said, you should still find that there is no real rush to finish the bottle as soon as it is opened!
How Do I Store Liquor?
Thankfully, storing liquors of any strength is mercifully easy. They are generally a quite resilient product that can pretty much handle themselves. There are only a few things that you need to be wary of when putting your liquor away. The first thing that you need to avoid is dramatic sways in temperature. The only other thing to avoid is sunlight. Each of these has the potential to alter the subtle compounds in your liquor, changing the flavor and causing it to go bad much quicker than it normally would. So, though you will see bottles of liquor and liqueurs on the top shelves in brightly lit bars, this is by no means a good storage technique. Instead, your best bet is to store them in a cool, dark cabinet. Better yet, if you are one of the lucky few to have a cellar, this is an ideal climate to store liquor. This is generally the case all across the spectrum, but there are a few exceptions here and there. With weaker liqueurs, always check the label as some of them will require that you refrigerate the bottle after opening. Naturally, after any bottle of liquor has been opened, it must always be resealed properly before it is put away.
Should You Refrigerate Liquor?
Though there is absolutely no demand that spirits as strong as vodka, gin, tequila et al should be stored in the fridge for any length of time, it is always a nice touch to have them nice and chilled before entertaining guests. Such a small fluctuation in temperature won’t compromise the liquor, and the cocktails or shorts will be much more refreshing. Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule in the broad spectrum of distilled drinks. For example, as soon as a drink like Baileys Irish Cream or Kahlua is opened, it needs to be refrigerated at all times thereafter. This is due to the increased potential for spoilage as a result of the dairy content in the bottle.
Can You Freeze Liquor?
Strong liquors have such a low freezing point that you may not actually be able to freeze them at home. However, we are by no means suggesting that there is no point in doing so. After all, some spirits just go down amazingly well at icy cold temperatures. For example, across Europe, drinks such as Jagermeister are generally served at a temperature below the freezing point of other liquids. For contrast, try this drink at room temperature and see which you prefer. Inevitably, most will prefer the chilled version. So, though there are no lifespan-related benefits to freezing your liquor, sometimes it just makes sense to stick a bottle in there the night before you have friends over.
How Long Does Liquor Last?
Though we mentioned that there is a difference in how liqueurs and liquors store over long periods of time, this difference is only going to become apparent now. So, starting with liquors, we’ll try to get in as much detail as possible and cover all bases.
When people say that strong alcohol doesn’t go bad, it turns out that they are only half right. The ethanol in hard liquor is essentially a preservative. It is also an incredibly hostile environment for bacteria to grow in. So, the chances are good that if you’ve always kept the bottle sealed that it will last an absurdly long time! Our estimates on the shelf life of the most popular liquors are as such:
Vodka – anywhere up to 10 years, 2 years (after opening)
Whiskey – 10 years or more, 1 year (after opening)
Tequila – 10 years, 3 months (after opening)
Rum – pretty much forever, 3 months (after opening)
Bourbon – 15 years, 5 years (after opening)
You will notice that there is quite a range in how long these spirits can last after they have first been exposed to the air in your home. The reason for this is that bourbon generally has a higher alcohol content and is more stable than many other spirits.
When it comes to liqueurs, there can be a huge gulf in shelf-life. It really depends on what the liqueur has on its ingredient list. For example, things like Triple Sec will last much longer than any liqueur with dairy or egg as an ingredient. In general though, it is reasonable to expect that your liqueurs won’t last anywhere near as long as your liquors. So, seeing as it virtually impossible to get through all of these, as a general rule, we would suggest that a liqueur is best enjoyed within a year. However, it is still recommended that you learn to tell the signs that your liqueur may have gone off. We have compiled a section that deals with exactly this.
How Do I Make Liquor Last Longer?
The most obvious tip we can give you is to always make sure the lid is tightly sealed after the bottle has been opened. That alone can buy you months, or even years in some cases. One great tip that we can impart to you is to transfer the contents of the bottle into a smaller bottle after you have consumed more than half of it. This will reduce the contact the liquor has with oxygen and give it an extra lease of life. Apart from that, all we can really recommend is following the storage techniques above.
Signs That Your Liquor May Have Gone Off
In most cases, your liquor won’t go off so much as it will begin to diminish in quality. However, if it does happen, the signs are really easy to spot. The smell and color of a gone off spirit will be drastically different from the norm. Color changes are also a tell-tale sign that something has gone wrong; more than likely, a foreign body will have entered the bottle at some point if it was left open and unattended. In the case of liqueurs, they will smell absolutely abysmal if they have gone bad. If you don’t notice any of these signs, the best thing to do is to have a little taste before possibly subjecting your guests to an unappealing cocktail. The taste will reveal anything you need to know right away. It is important to note that in some cases, a liqueur may have a shelf-life as short as 6 months.