How Long Does It Last?
Do you have certain seasonal cocktails that you enjoy serving only at special times during the year? Do you have opened bottles from your recent games night that are still almost full?
You might be wondering if you should keep it or get rid of it. You may be wondering “does alcohol go bad?”
The answer to this really depends on the type of alcohol. While some alcohol can get worse as it ages, others can get better or at least stay the same.
As a general rule, spirits such as Scotch, rum, rye, whisky or gin can be kept for long periods of time if it has never been opened. But if it’s been opened, you’ll want to check the ingredients to gauge how it might age. Some spirits that are flavored will tend to age, and not well, because of the sugars that are added.
However, neutral spirits, such as vodka, usually age over time, but don’t age for better or for worse. Once opened, it can be used for a long period of time after opening.
Here is a basic guideline for the shelf life of different types of alcohol:
Cream based liqueurs - these types of liqueurs do not last very long after opening because they can curdle from the heat and generally include sugars. Be sure to check to see if your bottle of Irish cream or white chocolate liqueur has curdled before using it if it’s been stored for any length of time. Usually you should toss it out a few months after being opened and unused.
Rum, Scotch, Whiskey, and Vodka - These spirits all have a relatively long shelf life because of the high alcohol content. They will be even better if they are left unopened, but normally can be kept for a few years once opened.
Bourbon - Since it has a high alcohol content, normally you can keep it for years even after it’s been opened. Spirits that are pure alcohol can usually stay in your cabinet for many years without going bad.
Wine - Once opened, a bottle of wine begins to oxidize rapidly. While red wine may last a day or two longer than white wine, neither will be very palatable after two or three days. Oxidization doesn't make wine toxic, but it will cause it to taste unpleasant. Putting the cork back into an opened bottle of wine and putting it in the fridge will keep it from over-maturing for about a week.
Fortified Wines (Port & Sherry) - A standard Port is meant to be bought and enjoyed quickly – which is why it doesn't have a full cork. Once opened, if you keep the bottle corked, it can last between one and four months before its flavour is lost. A vintage Port, once opened, loses its flavour quickly (more like wine) and should be consumed within 24 hours of decanting, if possible. Most styles of sherry should be enjoyed within a month of opening.
Champagne - To keep Champagne after it has been opened you should use a Champagne bottle stopper. This will keep the pressure in the Champagne. But even with a proper stopper, Champagne should not be left more than 24 hours after opening.
Beer- Unlike spirits and wine, most beer doesn’t taste better with age. In fact, if a beer isn’t reasonably fresh, it will start to taste stale. You normally want to drink beer before it gets warm, which means once you open it you want to drink it within a couple hours. So definitely toss the can of beer that you didn't finish last night.
In terms of unopened beer, it will last about 6 weeks under normal conditions. If you treat it carefully, keep it cool and out of sunlight, you can make it last even longer. But after a few months, even the most carefully nurtured bottle of beer is going to start to taste less than optimal. There are also some higher-alcohol beers which have been known to improve with age.
Generally speaking, spirits with higher alcohol content will have a longer shelf life because it doesn't have a lot of other ingredients to cause it to go bad such as grapes, sugar, hops and cream. So check the ingredients and then store it in a cool place that is not directly in the light.