vodka shelf life

Vodka Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

Every now and then, we keep discovering forgotten stuff in our cupboards. One time, you find a bottle of vodka that looks old and dusty. Maybe it’s from one of your parties years ago. You hate creating food waste, but you also doubt if it’s still safe to drink.

Before pouring into your glass, you need to make sure: Does vodka go bad? How long can you keep vodka?

We’ve all been there. Fear not, you’re in the right place. In this article, we delve into the essential details of vodka’s shelf life, how to store vodka, and how to tell if it’s bad or expired. So, read on!


How To Store Vodka

Whether you’re an occasional or regular drinker, you’ve probably heard about vodka. This Russian distilled spirit is a must-have in every bar.

You can mix it into so many different cocktails – think of Bloody Mary, Cosmopolitan, or Sex on the Beach. Vodka also tastes great to drink neat or straight from the bottle.

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Vodka originates from Russia and Poland, the so-called European Vodka Belt. To date, vodka is widely produced and enjoyed worldwide, including in the US and other countries.

Vodka is made from the distillation of fermented grains and potatoes. It typically contains 40% alcohol by volume or 80 proof.

When it comes to storing vodka, it is no different from other hard liquors, such as rum, tequila, or whiskey. One thing to point out about liquor storage is they are shelf-stable. Liquors contain a high amount of alcohol that doesn’t support microbial growth.

In general, refrigeration or freezing is not necessary. Of course, you can always put a bottle of vodka in the fridge or freezer to chill before serving.

That being said, you can safely keep an unopened or opened bottle of vodka in a cupboard, liquor cabinet, or in the cellar.

  • 1. Cool, dry, dark place, out of heat and light

The last two are real enemies to your liquor supply. While safety is not compromised, heat and light can negatively alter the flavor.

  • 2. Constant temperature

Pick a spot with constant temperature ranging between 55 to 60ºF (or 12 to 16 °C). Fluctuating temperatures may affect the taste.

  • 3. Store in an upright position

Contrary to wine storage, you need to put your vodka (and other liquors) vertically. When placed on its side for the long term, the cork might be damaged by the high alcohol content and lead to leakage.

This risk is less if the bottle is sealed with a screw cap. For long term storage, a cellar is an ideal place.

  • 4. Don’t leave a pourer on

Always seal the bottle after each serving. If you leave the pourer on or the bottle is not tightly sealed, the alcohol starts to evaporate and oxidize. At some point, you’ll end up with inferior quality vodka.

  • 5. Transfer into a smaller container

If the bottle is only a quarter left or even less, consider transferring the vodka into a smaller bottle. More room in the bottle means more air to speed up the evaporation process.


How To Tell If Vodka Is Bad

Vodka is among a few food items that do not necessarily go bad or spoiled from microbial activities. The alcohol content makes it unfavorable for microbial growth.

However, if vodka doesn’t get proper care, the quality may drop drastically, or you’ll find impurities or dead bugs inside the bottle. The chance is bigger with open bottles.

Unflavored (regular) vodka is clear, tasteless, and odorless. So, if it smells strange (or doesn’t merely smell like vodka), tastes unusual, and looks cloudy, it’s better to throw it out. You won’t be happy either after sipping it.

If nothing looks or smells off, give it a small sip to decide. If the taste is acceptable, feel free to use it. If it tastes a little off, but you don’t want to waste it, maybe use it to make cocktails. Other ingredients can make up the loss of flavor or taste of your old vodka.


How Long Does Vodka Last?

Vodka and other hard liquors are very stable and durable. With proper storage, an unopened bottle of vodka keeps well for many, many years, if not indefinitely.

Vodka is not typically aged during the manufacturing, and it doesn’t age either after bottling. Although it can last for years, you don’t necessarily need to wait to enjoy it.

If you happen to find a very old unopened bottle of vodka in your storage, it’s likely safe to drink. Make sure that the bottle is perfectly sealed, no leakage, and no signs of impurities.

After opening, oxidation and evaporation start to occur at a faster rate. While chemical and physical changes do not really affect the safety aspect, the flavor and taste may drop after left open for years in your cupboard. It certainly won’t taste as great as a newly opened bottle.

However, the changes happen very slowly to let you have enough time to finish off a bottle. Unless you forgot and found it a decade later.

Aside from regular vodka, you may have heard (or maybe tasted) flavored vodka. The flavored version is less stable compared to pure vodka. According to Absolut, their flavored vodkas are best to enjoy within two years after purchase.

Vodka typesPantry/ cupboard/ cellar
Vodka (unopened and opened)Keeps indefinitely
Flavored vodka (unopened and opened)2 years

FAQs

Can old vodka make you sick?

The high alcohol content of vodka doesn’t really allow the growth of bacteria, which can make you sick. You’ll likely suffer from a dull, weak taste. But, if you’re doubting or if vodka smells and tastes off, better to discard it.

Does vodka go bad in the freezer?

No, vodka doesn’t necessarily go bad in the freezer. If you’re worried if vodka will freeze like a rock-solid, vodka with 40% alcohol content freezes at -10ºF (or -23ºC). Home freezers do not typically reach this point. Even if it freezes, vodka still has the same quality when melted. (*)

Is vodka gluten-free?

Yes, pure vodka is considered gluten-free although it’s made from barley, rye, and wheat, thanks to the distillation process. However, be careful with flavored vodka as this one may contain traces of gluten from the flavoring agents. You should be able to get this information on the label or manufacturer’s website.

Does vodka lose its potency?

After opening and after a while, it will lose its alcohol content and taste.


Final Thoughts

Vodka—just like other distilled spirits—benefits a miraculously long shelf life from its high alcohol content. Vodka doesn’t go bad in the typical sense of spoilage, but the quality may change as time goes by.

Unopened bottles of pure vodka can last for decades, provided with proper storage. Keep it in a cool, dark, dry environment and protected from sunlight and heat.

After opening, oxidation and evaporation take place and may alter the quality. It may take a while to notice the difference, but vodka is not made to get better with age. So, drink it while it’s still in its prime. Flavored vodka is less stable and best to enjoy within two years after purchase.

If you found an old, forgotten bottle, it’s always worth spending a few minutes checking on it. If it smells, tastes, and looks strange, or dead bugs are seen in the bottle, better to throw it out.

Up Next: Does Wine Go Bad?

vodka goes bad

Image by igorr1/depositphotos

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