While some of you might be fortunate enough to have a personal stash of booze or even a home bar, the majority of us have to either venture on an undesired and unplanned sobriety break or down some of the stuff from that suspicious-looking 2-month-old opened bottle of Teachers Highland.
But before you make a dash for that opened bottle of liquor, are you sure you're not consuming something that's actually expired or spoiled?
While alcohol doesn't go bad in the traditional sense of inducing sickness (at least as a result of microbes), it does expire and after a point, tastes like Satan's bedtime tea. Also, there's no commonly defined shelf life for all kinds of booze, so while some types might actually be good for a while after being opened, it's a tad more complicated to make the others last.
Fret not, for we'll supply the information you need to make your favourite opened bottle of alcohol, last as long as it can. Here's all you need to know about preserving opened liquor.
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Does Rum go bad?
Rum is known for its incredibly long shelf life, but that's only the case for when the bottle is unopened, and the seal untouched.
- While unopened rum can last indefinitely when stored and preserved carefully, the shelf life of a rum bottle begins to deteriorate from the moment you open the seal
- The oxidation process gets accelerated, which makes the rum inside the bottle lose its taste and potency, so by the end of it, you're left with a mild rum-like liquid you won't enjoy drinking one bit.
How to make Rum last as long as possible?
The more liquid there is in your rum bottle, the lesser is the oxygen and hence, the slower the deterioration process.
- Your best bet is to store your leftover rum in a smaller bottle, seal it tightly, and consume it within the next six months
- You can maximise the shelf life of your opened rum by storing it in a cool and dry area, away from direct exposure to sunlight
- Instead of cork closures that tend to dry out the alcohol, opt for a screw-top closure.
Does Vodka go bad?
Just like Rum, an unopened bottle of Vodka will last for more years than you can count.
- The natural oxidation of a sealed bottle of Vodka happens at a very slow rate, one that takes several decades
- Opening the bottle fastens this oxidation and evaporation process, but your Vodka is still good for a couple of years, at least
- After a decade or so, your Vodka will begin to lose its flavour, and get weaker as more time progresses
- Once the proof dips below 25%, your Vodka becomes prone to bacteria and yeast developing in the bottle, which might not lead to serious sickness, but is still inadvisable to consume
How to make Vodka last as long as possible?
A few years should be enough for you to finish your opened bottle of Vodka, no? Because even after being opened, Vodka will take around a decade to evaporate enough for the taste to change indiscernible ways.
However, some Vodka brands like Absolut recommend consuming it within two years. The same tricks can be used to maximise the shelf life for Vodka, as for Rum, such as:
- Store in a cool place
- Prevent exposure to extreme temperature changes or direct sun
- Seal the bottle tightly with a screw-top closure.
Also Read: 20 Vodka Brands Absolutely Worth a Shot
Does Whiskey go bad?
Again, like most spirits, unopened Whiskey lasts virtually forever.
- But after the bottle is opened, exposure to external elements like light and temperature changes begin to change the flavour of your whiskey
- Whiskey doesn't age once bottled, so it's pretty pointless to keep a bottle around for years to come, in the hopes of it getting better with age
- Most experts place the shelf life of opened whiskey somewhere between 1 to 2 years, post which the changes in taste due to oxidation, become more noticeable
How to make Whiskey last as long as possible?
The rules for maximising the shelf life of most spirits, including Whiskey are pretty much the same.
- Cool and shady storage in smaller containers with as little air as possible
- Limit exposure to temperature changes and tightly screwed on sealing can help preserve your opened Whiskey a tad longer
- An additional tip is to store Whiskey upright, as the strong liquor can eat away at the cork if the bottle is horizontally stored, thereby accelerating the oxidation process tenfold
Does Tequila go bad?
Just like its effect on your sobriety levels, Tequila is quick to degrade once opened, although it does not become physically harmful upon consumption.
- If you've had a bottle of opened Tequila lying around the house, it's in all likelihood safe for drinking
- The difference would probably, however, be in its fragrance, flavour and strength
- It's advisable to consume an opened bottle of Tequila within a year of the seal being broken, after which it will become weak, but not injurious to health. However, do trust your instincts
- If an opened bottle of Tequila smells strange or you find the taste to be alarmingly off, it's better to discard the bottle, than take your chances
How to make Tequila last as long as possible?
Same as other spirits.
- Pour in a smaller bottle with as little air as possible
- Store in a cool and dry place
- Limit exposure to light and temperature changes
Does Wine go bad?
Unlike the one-year leeway you will get with a bottle of spirit after it's been unsealed, opened wine tends to last for as long as 3 to 5 days, depending on the type and quality.
- While exposure to air and resultant oxidation does not make wine harmful for consumption, it does turn it practically into vinegar
- Sparkling wine lasts the least after being opened, losing its freshness in a matter of 1-2 days, while opened fortified wine can last relatively longer, roughly 20 days
- After a few days of being opened, oxidation causes white wine to become uniformly flavoured and dull, while red wine becomes flat and dried out in the taste, and often, bitter
How to make Wine last as long as possible?
Your best shot at extending the life of an opened bottle of wine comprises of re-sealing the bottle tightly to slow down the impact of time.
- Remember to re-cork your wine bottle every time you pour from it
- After sealing the bottle with a cork, you should place it in a dark, cool place, ideally in your refrigerator
- Since exposure to air is what flattens wine, you can either store it in a screw-cap half bottle
- Or minimise air exposure with slightly complicated techniques like vacuum pumping the bottle to remove air
- Or spray the bottle with a colourless, odourless and non-reactive gas to displace the oxygen.
- You will probably not be able to extend the life of your opened wine for more than a week, so it's advisable to finish it off as quickly as you possibly can
Does Liqueur go bad?
A liqueur is an alcoholic drink that comprises distilled spirits and additional flavourings and elements, such as Baileys Irish Cream
- The additional ingredients in Liqueur increase its propensity for spoilage as compared to spirits, once it's been opened and exposed to oxygen
- Liqueurs that contain milk or milk derivatives like cream are even more susceptible to getting spoiled
How to make Liqueur last as long as possible?
The more alcohol a particular liqueur contains, the higher are its odds of staying the same for a longer period of time. Regardless, most opened liqueurs are likely to be good for another year or so.
- Keep it stored in a cool, dark place, away from exposure to sunlight and temperature changes
- Since liqueurs with cream tend to get spoiled in the same way as milk products do, it's advisable to refrigerate them
- Most cream-based liqueurs will come with storing instructions, and a best to the date stamped on the bottle
- It's also recommended that you wipe down the neck of the bottle after each use to prevent the high sugar content from drawing fruit flies
- Or form a tight seal beneath the cap
- Trust your instincts: If it smells or tastes off, don't hesitate to discard it.
Does Beer go bad?
Beer does NOT fall in the category of alcohol that lasts for a reasonable time after being opened, and if you're a regular alcohol drinker, you're probably already aware of that.
- Once you've opened a bottle, pint or can of beer, it's advisable to finish it off within a day or two
- Every beer comes with an expiration date, and unlike spirits that last almost indefinitely, beer's quality tends to deteriorate fairly quickly
- Most beers also remain safe for consumption after the expiry period, we all know how horrendous flat, warm beer tastes
How to make Beer last as long as possible?
One thing you always need to remember about storing beer, sealed or otherwise, is that its biggest enemy is light.
- Exposure to light can make beer become skunky, in both smell and taste, which is why beer is often stored in dark bottles
- If you want to make your opened beer last as long as possible, you need to store it in a dark place with minimal light
- You should also store it somewhere cool, considering warm beer makes for one of the worst tasting beverages in the world
- After a day, your opened beer will become flat enough for you to want to discard it anyway
- It's highly recommended you polish off that leftover beer as quickly as you can
To sum it up, beer deteriorates the fastest (1-2 days) with wine following closely after (6-7 days). On the other hand, you get at least a solid couple of months to finish off your spirits after they've been opened. Regardless, if something feels off with your alcohol, it's probably because something is. So please, trust your instincts before you down an opened bottle of alcohol.