The conversation around alcohol has been an important one during the lockdown. First, its sale was banned, which lead to its black marketing. Then, when liquor shops were opened, thousands flocked to it, violating social distancing norms.
All these incidents have led to people stocking alcohol at their homes. With the lockdown extended again, many people are wondering about the state of their alcohol. The lockdown has impacted breweries as well. The lack of customers has led to their craft beer getting stale, prompting huge concerns for the outlets. The news has led to many people wondering about the shelf life of their booze.
Can alcohol go bad? Does it expire? How long can you keep alcohol at home? We try to answer these questions.
Can Alcohol Go Bad?
The short answer is yes. Alcohol and practically any type of booze can go bad. When it is said that alcohol will go bad, it doesn’t mean that drinking it will make you sick. However, if the liquor is past its due date, it can certainly taste horrible.
However, the shelf life of alcohol depends upon the type of liquor. Different drinks have different life spans. While some can be kept for ages, and in fact, some alcohol gets better with age, some can’t and has to be consumed quickly.
The first response when it comes to wine is, the longer it has been aged for the better. While this is true in most cases, wine can expire too! The nicer and the more expensive wine it is, the longer you can store it. However, it is advisable to drink the cheaper versions of wine within a year or two of its purchase.
However, this only holds true for unopened cases of wine. If you’ve already opened the bottle, be aware that it’s only good for a couple of days to a week. If it’s a sparkling wine, it stays true to its taste for two days before going flat.
If you want to know whether the wine you have is still in prime condition, examine its taste, smell and colour. If you see a change in colour or smell something different, it’s probably best to discard the bottle. One way to extend the life of an opened bottle of wine is by keeping them in the fridge with an airtight wine stopper.
If you're looking to age wine at home, be careful about the time period. The safe range is about 5-10 years. If you're looking to keep it in storage for longer than that, it is advisable to do some research on best practices.
The shelf life of beer is going to be comparatively shorter to other liquor options. To get an idea of how long your favourite can of beer will last, check the label to see its best before date.
However, don’t think that once the best before date has passed your beer is spoilt. You can probably drink that beer as long as it is within 3 months of its stated date.
Another thing that increases the shelf life of your beer is the way it is stored. The warmer a beer is, the faster it ages. So if you store your beer correctly in refrigerated conditions, it is much likely to last longer.
The alcohol content of the beer could also help you determine if it is okay to drink. Generally, a beer with an alcohol by volume (ABV) greater than 8% is slightly more shelf-stable than beer with a lower ABV.
If you have an opened can or bottle of beer, you could try smelling it for the skunk to check whether it has gone bad or not. If the buy is stale, it will have a sour and earthy taste.
This is where all the good news comes in. Fans of vodka, whisky, tequila can rejoice as their alcohol won’t go bad for months.
Since liquor like gin, vodka and whiskey is distilled, it doesn’t get bad soon. While keeping it in storage for long may give it a cloudy appearance, it doesn’t affect how the liquor tastes.
If you’ve left a bottle open, know that while it doesn’t go bad, the alcohol content in it may decrease as it oxidizes.
If you’ve not opened that bottle of tequila, don’t worry it is good to go for years. However, if you have an open bottle lying around, you have about a couple of months before oxidization and evaporation lower its quality. So ideally, you’d want to finish your tequila within 3-6 months of opening it.
While Absolut recommends finishing that vodka bottle within 2 years of purchasing it, your vodka can last longer than that. An opened bottle of vodka stays the same for many years. If you’ve opened it though, 10 years is maybe the time till you can safely enjoy the alcohol.
Whiskey has a similar story. As long as you store it in a cool, dry place it’ll last for years. If you have opened a quarter recently, finish it in about 3-4 months and if it’s a full bottle, you should drink it within a year.
These generally last for about a year. But if you see crystallization, discolouration or curdling then it is time to throw the liqueur away. Cree liqueur like Bailey’s is good for about 18 months. Check the expiration date of these liqueurs, as consuming them after their due date can make you sick.
So yes, alcohol does expire. However consuming it past its expiration date isn’t considered to be dangerous generally, but do it at your risk. But don’t worry, you have a lot of time before all that liquor you’ve stocked up during lockdown goes bad.