Gin is a popular base liquor and essential for a home bar. One day, you find a seemingly old bottle in the cupboard. The color fades away. It’s different from what you used to know. Does this mean gin has gone bad?
You’ve probably heard that gin and distilled spirits can last for many years to come. But, you’re not quite sure if gin can go bad. You need to make sure before indulging yourself with classic gin and tonic.
You’re not alone. It’s a valid question whenever we find old forgotten items in our kitchen. It is natural to ensure that you won’t risk your health by consuming such old stuff.
So, if you’re curious about gin’s shelf life, storage, and how to know if gin is going off, keep reading! We address all those essential details in this article. Read on!
How To Store Gin
Gin is distilled spirits mixed or flavored with juniper berries and other aromatics. Gin’s flavor is mainly characterized by juniper berries. After all, it’s the juniper that makes gin, a gin.
This liquor is produced worldwide and should comply with country regulations. In the UK, gin is bottled at a minimum of 37.5% alcohol by volume, while in the US, it has to be at least 40% ABV to qualify as distilled spirits.
Some popular types of gin are London dry gin, Genever, Old Tom, and Plymouth gin.
It’s worth noting that gin doesn’t get better with age. So, it’s pointless to wait for years to make yourself gin and tonic. An unopened bottle will taste the same now and a few years later. On the contrary, it may degrade if you don’t take good care of it.
1. Keep at room temperature or a little cooler. As you’ve probably known, the alcohol content is strong enough to make it shelf-stable and prevent bacterial growth. Gin can safely stand outside your fridge, between 55 to 60ºF (or 12 to 16 °C).
Some people prefer to keep it in the refrigerator or freezer because gin is best served chilled. A kitchen cupboard, pantry, or liquor cabinet is among the most popular choices.
2. Protect it from heat and light. These two provoke evaporation and oxidation that consequently degrade the flavor and taste. That means, don’t store gin anywhere near a window, above your fridge, or next to a microwave.
3. Place the bottles upright. This is highly recommended for bottles sealed with natural corks. Long term storage can damage the cork if the bottle is placed on its side.
4. Always close the lid tightly. After serving, don’t forget to close the lid tightly to limit exposure to air. If you use a pourer, make sure to take it off before putting the bottle back to storage.
5. Transfer into a smaller bottle. If you only have a little amount left in the bottle, finish it off immediately (in moderation, of course). Otherwise, it’s best to transfer it into a smaller container. Excess air causes alcohol to evaporate. If you let it happen, you’ll end up with a tasteless gin.
How To Tell If Gin Is Bad
As with other base liquors (such as vodka and whiskey), gin doesn’t really go bad in a typical sense of food spoilage. The high alcohol content acts as a natural preservative. What you might see is declining quality, while the chance of going bad is very slim.
Gin is characterized by clear liquid and distinct flavor from the addition of herbs and botanicals. Improper storage may cause oxidation and evaporation, consequently, deteriorate these unique characteristics.
Some regular occurrences look suspicious, but not necessarily harmful.
1. Sediments on the bottom. These layers might be traces of botanicals that managed to escape during the filtration process.
2. Fading color. The natural color fades away as time goes by, mainly due to the oxidation process. No worries, this is totally normal.
Now, let’s talk about the worst scenario. Although the chance is minimal, it’s always worth spending extra minutes to give your old gin a thorough check before mixing yourself gin and tonic.
Look into the bottle. If you see impurities or contaminants in the bottle, maybe you let it open long enough to allow them to enter the bottle. When the alcohol evaporates and drops down to very low, bacteria might be able to survive.
Next to that, if gin smells or tastes different, it’s better to get a new bottle. If everything looks fine, give it a little sip to taste. If you’re pleased, feel free to serve it. If the taste is a bit inferior, it’s best to use it for a mixed drink or cocktails and take advantage of other ingredients to mask the gin’s taste.
How Long Does Gin Last?
As a base liquor, gin is renowned for having an amazing shelf life. Unopened bottles can keep for years (or almost indefinitely), provided with proper storage. (*)
Remember that gin is not meant to age at your home. Despite its long shelf life, you don’t need to wait to drink it. On the contrary, the quality drops with improper storage.
When it comes to opened bottles, the story is a little different. After opening, the air is introduced into the container. Oxidation and evaporation start to occur; subsequently, the color, flavor, and taste might change.
Unlike vodka that’s known for its flavorless and tasteless characteristics, the addition of botanicals and berries in gin makes the changes in flavor and taste more pronounced.
Some manufacturers suggest to finish off a bottle within a year after opening. This way, you minimize the risk of having a subpar taste. Of course, it stays drinkable after a year, but it won’t taste as nice as a freshly opened bottle.
|Gin||Room temperature (liquor cabinet, cupboard, pantry)|
|Gin (unopened)||Keeps indefinitely|
|Gin (opened)||1 year|
This table is a general estimate, while the actual shelf life largely depends on the storage conditions. In case of doubt, better discard it.
Both vodka and gin are distilled spirits or liquor. But, these two are different products. Vodka is known for its neutral taste and flavor. Meanwhile, gin has a distinct character from the infusion of juniper berries and other botanicals.
If you happen to find an old unopened bottle of gin in your storage, it’s likely safe to drink. Make sure it is perfectly sealed, with no leakage, and no signs of impurities. Otherwise, it’s better to stay on the safe side. Gin doesn’t get better with age, either.
Gin does not freeze because it has an alcohol by volume of 37.5% so keeping it in the freezer is not a problem. However, if your gin freezes, it must have a lower proof and higher water content.
Gin doesn’t really go bad in terms of typical food spoilage, thanks to the high alcohol content. Keep gin at a cool, dry, dark place, away from heat and sunlight. Your pantry, cupboard, or liquor cabinet should do the job.
With proper storage, gin can last for years. But, gin doesn’t get tastier with age. If given poor care, the quality degrades significantly. After opening, try to finish it off within a year to enjoy the best flavor. But, it remains safe after it.
Fading color and sediments are a regular occurrence and harmless. If gin smells and tastes different, or contaminants are evident, it’s better to get a new bottle.
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