Does Alcohol Go Bad? How To Know When Beer, Wine & Liquor Expire

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Does Vodka & Alcohol Go Bad? When Beer, Wine & Liquor Expire

Every drinker usually has a shelf of alcohol that they keep to entertain guests, show off to others, or have a slew of choices when they end their day with a nice nightcap.

Many opt for a glass of wine while others fix themselves a strong cocktail. Or, maybe you’re going against the grain (haha grain alcohol... get it?) and taking shots of your favorite liquor. Because who says shots are only for Saturday nights out?

Does alcohol go bad?

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Keeping your alcohol around for a long time may not be as good of an idea as you think, especially when it comes to specific liquors.

Let’s break down the shelf life of each type of alcohol, and the best way to store it.

Does wine go bad? 

Most wine lovers know that once a bottle of wine is opened, it should be consumed as soon as possible. That’s because, after opening, wine can taste like vinegar due to bacteria metabolizing the alcohol into acetaldehyde and acetic acid. Wine can also oxidize, which is why it loses its original taste.

Since both reactions are chemical, never store your wine in a cool, dark place. Instead, store your wine in a low temperature location (between 55-59 °F), like a fridge or actual wine cellar.

While sealed bottles of wine can last for years if stored on its side, newly opened wine can last from two days to two weeks, depending on its age; older wines should be finished in two days, while younger wines can last two weeks.

Does sparkling wine go bad?

If you have leftover bubbly from your Sunday brunch or a celebration, be sure to drink it within 24 hours. Since champagne is carbonated, it will lose its bubbles very quickly. 

It can, however, be stored in the fridge for 1 to 3 days using a wine stopper, but don’t expect those refreshing bubbles. Luckily, unopened champagne can last up to 10 years if it’s stored in a cool, dark place.

Does beer go bad?

Though beer comes with an expiration date on the bottle, you don’t have to strictly adhere to this; however, doing so will decrease your chances of drinking stale or smelly beer.

Beer can last between three to nine months, depending on the type. And if it’s refrigerated and unopened, beer can last up to two years. 

Beer is also sensitive to light and heat, meaning if it’s not properly stored, it can begin to smell skunky or stale. Cans, as opposed to bottles, will last longer since they block out light.

Does vodka go bad?

The good news is that vodka has a longer shelf life than most liquors, but you’ll still want to be sure to drink it within a certain time frame. Companies like Absolut recommend drinking the vodka within two years.

A sealed bottle of vodka can last indefinitely, but once you break the seal, oxygen and light oxidize the alcohol. The oxidation doesn’t make the liquor dangerous, per se, but it probably won’t taste too good. There’s also the issue of crystallization and discoloration, in which the vodka is definitely not good to drink and you should discard it immediately. 

But you can keep your vodka tasty and safe to drink. Be sure to store it in a cool, dry place away from heat or sunlight. Also keep the top closed very tightly. Though you may like to store it in the freezer to keep it ice cold, doing this actually makes it thicker and less flavorful, since it mutes the volatiles (the chemicals that make up a specific flavor).

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Does Kahlúa go bad?

According to the actual makers of this coffee liquor, the shelf life of Original Kahlúa is 4 years, Flavored is 2 years, and the drink mixes last for 1 year. That doesn’t necessarily mean the product won’t be drinkable, but the quality will degrade over time.

Because the main flavor of this liquor is coffee, the compounds begin to break down over time. So, if your Kahlúa has been opened, you may notice a change in color, bad smell or taste, sugar crystals on the edge of the bottle, and even signs of mold. If the taste is bland, it’s best to throw it out. 

To store Kahlúa, put it in a cool, dark place away from heat and sun exposure. And, as always, keep the bottle tightly sealed; the flavor compounds are sensitive to air, and this will also prevent the liquor from oxidizing and evaporating.

Does Baileys go bad?

This cream liquor, according to its producers, keeps its taste for 2 years from the day it was made, both opened and unopened. The process includes blending spirits and whiskey with fresh Irish cream, not using any preservatives, since the alcohol itself is a preservative.

Baileys has dairy in it, so store it in the fridge, away from sunlight, and with the bottle tightly sealed. If opened, keep in mind that once air touches the alcohol, the quality deteriorates faster. So, the recommended time frame is to drink it within 6 months.

If you notice a different taste, bad odor, or texture change, it’s safe to assume that the Baileys is no longer good to drink and should be discarded.

Does whiskey go bad?

Unlike wine, whiskey doesn’t get better or worse over time when stored; rather, it matures when stored upright. While whiskey doesn’t go bad, it can expire. 

When opened, it lasts 6 months when it’s less than half full; unopened, it can last 1 to 2 years if it’s half full. Why? Because the more oxygen touches it, the quicker it oxidizes.

To store whiskey, be sure to place it away from direct sunlight, which can bleach the dark color. Whiskey can be stored for 10 years, but the fill level will decrease as it’s evaporated through the cork. Store whiskey in temperatures lower than room temperature, somewhere that’s protected from humidity.

Does rum go bad?

Rum is a lot like whiskey when it comes to the oxidation process. The recommended amount of time to keep rum once opened is 3 to 6 months.

While the shelf life is indefinite when unopened, once it is opened, rum begins degrading after 3 months. Also keep in mind that pure rum differs from coconut rum, which should be consumed within 1 year of opening.

Be sure to store rum in a cool, dry place out of the sun. And also keep the cap on very tight, since a loose top can lead to quicker degradation.

Does sake go bad?

While sake is similar to rum in that it doesn’t deteriorate like other liquors, there’s a big difference between pasteurized and unpasteurized sake in terms of shelf life. Regular sake lasts 1 year, while unpasteurized sake should be consumed within 6 or 7 months. Once opened, however, sake should be enjoyed within one day.

Be sure to look out for any strange taste, a rotten smell, particles floating in the bottom of the bottle, or a yellow tint, as all of these indicate that sake has gone bad. To store sake, keep it out of sunlight, refrigerated, and with the cap on the bottle. Failure to do so will lead to a tainted aroma, color, and freshness.

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Does vermouth go bad?

Vermouth is a fortified wine that is aromatized and flavored, and, unfortunately, can be degraded the moment oxygen hits it, leading to flat flavor. Unopened, vermouth can last 3 or 4 years on your shelf; however, the quality will not be the same, though it’s still safe to drink. Once opened, vermouth lasts weeks to months, but the recommendation is to consume within 3 weeks.

Vermouth won’t spoil, but the color and smell will change. Be sure to check for any signs of mold and, if so, discard it. To store vermouth, put it in the refrigerator and out of sunlight.

Does brandy go bad?

The good news with brandy is that it won’t go bad if it remains unopened and out of the heat and sunlight! Even better news? Brandy has a shelf life of 1 to 2 years before it degrades in quality.

Because of its high alcohol content, brandy won’t spoil in terms of growing mold or contaminants, but it can degrade with evaporation and oxidation. So, be sure to store brandy in a cool place, with the cap tightly on, since it will oxidize quickly with temperature changes. And that doesn’t mean it needs to be stored in the refrigerator.

Does tequila go bad?

With unopened tequila, the shelf life is indefinite, meaning it doesn’t expire. But once opened, tequila should be consumed within 1 year. Over time, oxidation causes the smell and flavor to change. That means, whip yourself and your friends up a few rounds of margaritas so you don't waste!

Store tequila away from heat and sunlight, as this can speed up the oxidation process. It can be stored at room temperature to preserve it longer. Of course, if the taste is not up to par, it’s not unsafe to drink, but may not be as satisfying as a new bottle.

Does gin go bad?

Like tequila, gin has an indefinite shelf life when unopened; however, it must be consumed within 1 year after opening. Gin is made with herbs and botanicals, so be sure to check for quality before drinking it, including taste, smell, and particles in the bottle due to oxidation. 

Store gin away from heat and sunlight, in a cool, dry place, like a refrigerator. When it’s unopened, you can keep gin in a cupboard, as long as it’s out of the sunlight. Also make sure to keep that bottle cap on tightly!

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Samantha Maffucci is an editor for YourTango who focuses on writing trending news and entertainment pieces.