vermouth shelf life

Vermouth Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

So, you’re in the mood of mixing yourself a gin martini. You’ve got gin and olives. One more item to check, vermouth!

You’re hoping that leftover vermouth from the last party is still fresh. Sadly, it smells terribly sour. Does this mean vermouth has gone bad?

Or, you miscalculated the amount of vermouth needed for a cocktail party. Now, you end up with a few unopened bottles. You’re asking yourself: How long can you keep vermouth for?

If either of these situations led you to this page, that’s exactly what this article is for. We share the nitty-gritty of vermouth, its shelf life, storage, and common signs of going bad. So, read on!

How To Store Vermouth

Before we get down to the details. Let’s clear up one thing. Many people often confuse vermouth as a distilled spirit, maybe because it is used in a lot of famous cocktails—think of Martini, Manhattan, or Negroni.

Truth to be told, vermouth is not a distilled spirit. It is sort of a hybrid between spirits and wine, precisely termed as fortified wine. Vermouth is made from a blend of wine and distilled spirits (usually it’s brandy) and aromatized with botanicals, herbs, and spices.

Vermouth is undoubtedly one of the essential items for a bar. Two types of vermouth are available: sweet and dry vermouth (hence, the famous dry martini). It contains 16 to 18% alcohol by volume, slightly higher than other wines.

Next to being a base for many cocktails, in some European countries such as Spain, Italy, and France, vermouth is also a popular choice for an aperitif, a drink taken before meals.

When it comes to storage, it’s exactly similar to how you store other types of wines. That being said, an unopened bottle of vermouth keeps well in a cool, dry, dark place, away from heat and sunlight.

You can store them together with your other wines or liquor. A dark cupboard or a wine cooler should do the job. If you can’t find a dark spot, you can cover it with a cloth. Keep it away from the window, oven, or stoves.

After opening, always keep it sealed and chilled in the refrigerator – either in its original bottle or transfer it to an airtight container. Heat and air are real enemies to vermouth.

Excess air means accelerated oxidation. Refrigeration helps to slow down bacterial activities and other physical and chemical changes.

How Do You Tell If Vermouth Has Gone Bad?

General symptoms of vermouth going bad are pretty much similar to other kinds of wines.

1. Acidic smell and taste. When fermentation takes place, acetic acid bacteria turns the alcohol into vinegar. As a result, your vermouth smells acidic and tastes sour.

2. Loss of flavor. Excess heat, light, and air will speed up oxidation and evaporation, mainly after opening. At some point, vermouth doesn’t hold that rich, complex flavor anymore.

If you see a layer of sediments on the bottom, don’t panic. This is totally normal and harmless. This sediment is tartrate crystal, a naturally occurring acid formed during wine production.

In fact, this same crystal is used to make cream of tartar, that white powder used for baking. Simply let the sediment settle down at the bottom before pouring the vermouth. If it’s too disturbing, you can always filter it with a sieve or cloth.

If everything seems reasonable, give it a little sip. If the taste is bright and rich, you’re good to go.

If vermouth turns somewhat dull, consider mixing it with other strong ingredients to mask the inferior flavor. But that’s for you to decide. If you’re afraid of ruining your cocktails, just stay on the safe side and get a new bottle.

If the fermentation goes a little too far and vermouth is closer to vinegar rather than wine, you can always use it as a white wine substitute for deglazing a pan, making risotto, stew, etc. Many people do!

How Long Does Sweet and Dry Vermouth Last?

Vermouth keeps for a reasonable amount of time if properly stored. It won’t last for decades compared to fine wines or distilled spirits like whiskey or vodka, but unopened bottles can certainly stay in its prime for at least 3 to 4 years.

After opening, vermouth retains its freshness for 1 to 2 months in the fridge without getting sour. The addition of distilled spirits makes it more stable compared to other wines.

So, if you only drink vermouth occasionally for cocktails, you have enough time to empty a bottle. But, if this time slot is not sufficient, perhaps consider buying a smaller bottle. This way, you can make sure your cocktails taste consistent rather than a little spoiled from the vermouth.

VermouthRoom temperatureRefrigerator
Vermouth (unopened)3 to 4 years
Vermouth (opened)1 to 2 months

This table is only a rough estimate. The actual shelf life depends on its initial quality and storage conditions.


Can you drink old vermouth?

Older vermouth might have suffered from loss of flavor. While it’s not really suitable to drink, you can still use it for cooking as a white wine substitute.

Can old vermouth make you sick?

The chance is very slim that you get food poisoning from old vermouth. You’re likely risking a duller taste rather than getting sick.

Can you freeze vermouth?

It’s not recommended and unnecessary. Freezing may damage the flavor while it doesn’t prolong the shelf life either.

Final Thoughts

Vermouth is a fortified wine infused with herbs and botanicals. It has a considerable shelf life, but it certainly doesn’t last forever.

Keep an unopened bottle of vermouth in a cool, dry, dark place – the same place you store your wine collections. After opening, keep it sealed and chilled in the refrigerator for up to 1 to 2 months.

Vermouth starts to lose its complex flavor once opened. After a while, it goes flat and dull. Vermouth can also develop sour smell and taste if spontaneous fermentation continues. At this point, you can still use it for cooking instead of drinking.

vermouth goes bad

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