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Ask Bunnyville Liquors: Will Alcohol ever expire? Let’s find out.

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It’s a question most of us adults have pondered at some point. They always say, the older the alcohol gets, the better it tastes, but of course, not all alcohols can defy time. There are different types of alcohol, and they have their own lifespans but the clock for the expiration date starts when the bottle is opened. Opened alcohol can expire, and when it does, it usually loses its color, flavor, or both especially if it has additives like, sugar, flavorings etc., it’s probably best to throw it out if you don’t want an upset stomach.

The good news is an open bottle of liquor won’t go bad as quickly as an open bottle of wine or beer will, but oxygen will still get in and do its thing. That doesn’t mean an opened bottle of straight spirit, such as vodka, whisky, gin, will go bad.

Here’s a guide on every alcohol’s shelf life. It is a crucial part especially if you’re a liquor connoisseur. So, you won’t be serving bad drinks to family and friends, which could be embarrassing and unenjoyed. Before you buy more liquors, you should learn how to look after your bottle collection and how to preserve them.

Does Liquor Expire?

Unopened liquor has an indefinite shelf life. Opened liquor lasts about a year or two before it goes bad as it gradually loses its color and flavor. If you’re not using the bottle for 2 years, don’t use it on well drinks. It does not get toxic, if you don’t see anything suspicious like mold or something was floating.

Always be ahead and manage your liquors inventory as its one of the essentials of being an Alcohol connoisseur.

Why Does Liquor Go Bad?

So, what makes a liquor go bad? There are three factors: light, temperature, and air.

Why is light bad for liquor? When liquor is exposed to daylight over a long period of time, it can lose color. For liquor, color changes are indicative of flavor changes. Like that, temperature changes can degrade an organic molecule called a “terpene,” which alters the liquor’s flavor. Lastly, air exposure can lead to oxidation of liquor that affects its flavor.

That said, if you store hard liquor at moderate temperature away from direct light, it lasts indefinitely. At 30% to 40%, liquor is not a hospitable environment for bacteria. And if it’s not opened, you’ll deal with virtually no oxidation.

But once you open a liquor bottle, oxidation begins. That’s why most hard liquors will “go bad” within a year or two. But when we say bad, we don’t mean they grow mold, become toxic, or coagulate. What we mean is that the amount of oxidation degrades the flavor and quality to such a degree that you may as well not drink it. But you can if you want.

We recommend that you finish the bottle (which is admittedly not easy to do with some liquor bottle sizes) as soon as possible after you open it. Because once you open a bottle, time’s not on your side. Adhering to the proper standard pours and keeping track of your pour count is a good way to avoid waste.

Does Vodka Go Bad?

No, vodka really doesn’t go bad. If the bottle stays unopened, vodka’s shelf life lasts for decades. So, effectively, vodka doesn’t expire.

Vodka is a simple, stable spirit. There’s just not much in it. So, there aren’t many chemicals to start decaying and going out of control. But any bottle of vodka isn’t perfectly, hermetically sealed. There will be some contact with the outside air.

After about 40 or 50 years, an unopened bottle of vodka may have lost enough flavor and alcohol content—due to slow, consistent oxidation—to be considered expired. But it could take 100 years, too. The point is that for our purposes, vodka doesn’t expire, but it wouldn’t literally last forever.

Once opened, there aren’t many changes. Vodka is a durable spirit. The shelf life of opened vodka is around 10 to 20 years. Having opened the bottle, the seal will be weaker and the oxidation more rapid, relatively speaking. We’re still talking about decades before the vodka expires, which is why we say not a whole lot of changes.

Enjoy flavored vodkas within 90 days of opening, or better yet, inside of a month.

Does Whiskey Go Bad?

Unopened whiskey doesn’t go bad. Whiskey that hasn’t been opened lasts indefinitely, but whiskey can expire. You just must open the bottle.

  • Most whiskey scientists believe that an opened bottle of whiskey lasts about 1 to 2 years—if it’s half full. Whiskey expires about 6 months if it’s a quarter or less full. That’s because the less whiskey in the bottle, the more oxygen it has. And the more oxygen, the quicker the oxidization and the quicker the whiskey can go bad

Does Bourbon Go Bad?

The shelf life of bourbon isn’t much different from the shelf life of whiskey.

Unopened, a bottle of bourbon won’t go bad. You can store it for decades. But once a bottle of bourbon is opened, it’s got roughly 1 to 2 years before it goes bad. Again, that time frame depends on the amount of whiskey in the bottle.

Does Rum Go Bad?

An unopened bottle of rum doesn’t go bad. Unopened rum can last for decades upon decades. But once the bottle is opened, rum goes fast. Sea spirits Distillery, master rum distillers, recommend drinking a bottle of rum within 6 months of opening. There are worse fates.

Does Tequila Expire?

Tequila doesn’t expire if left unopened, like the other shelf-stable spirits. But tequila can go bad. may, in fact, taste the same 20 years from the day it was placed in its bottle. Liquor storage is important, though. Tequila should be kept in a cool dark place to optimize its shelf life

Once opened, tequila should be enjoyed within a year. That’s how long tequila lasts.

Does Gin Go Bad?

Gin can go bad if not consumed within about a year of opening the bottle. If kept sealed, a bottle of gin can last indefinitely if stored out of direct sunlight in non-extreme temperatures.

Unlike vodka, gin depends on the subtle flavors of botanicals. That means that gin has a lot more to lose when it comes to flavor degradation. That’s why the open-bottled shelf life of gin is a fraction of vodka, yet they’re both clear liquors.

Does Brandy Go Bad?

Brandy, if unopened, does not go bad if kept away from heat and light.

Once a bottle of brandy is opened, it’s got about 1 to 2 years left before noticeable degradation in flavor and quality.

Do Liqueurs and Cordials Go Bad?

Liqueurs and cordials like Grand Marnier, Drambuie, and Midori will spoil much sooner. That’s because they contain sugar and other volatile ingredients.

If you’re ever confused about which bottle will expire fastest, just look at the sugar content. The more sugar an alcohol has, the faster it will expire, especially if opened.

A lot of liqueurs and cordials, like crème liqueurs, may spoil and become undrinkable after a year or more. Even if your bottle isn’t on the verge of spoiling, it’s best to store them strictly according to their storage guidelines. If opened, they can lose their flavors over just a few months.

Check the bottle to see if there are any preservatives. That may help stem the tide of spoilage. There may even be an expiration date on the bottle, which is always helpful.

But if you ever see any discoloration or sedimentation in the bottle, it’s best to toss it. You can give it a quick taste test if you want, but chances are it won’t meet your standards.

Does Beer go bad?


Beer may be the most delicate alcohol of all. Don’t lie! At some point we have all had to run out of the door, half full beer still in hand, popped it in the fridge in hopes we will drink it once we return. After a day or two, your unfinished beer might still taste okay, but past the third and we are getting in disgustingly flat beer territory. A lot of beers, if over 9%, can age well if not open for months at a time, but once opened try to drink it so it does not lose its tasty carbonation. This principle remains the same for other carbonated beverages such as malt liquor or wine coolers. Basic rule of thumb? There’s no reason to keep an unsealed beer around, c’mon and chug that baby! If chugging isn’t an option, beer bottle savers or insulated beer growlers go a long way to keep your brews fizzy.

Does Wine Go Bad?

Yes, wine can go bad, but there are many factors that play into how bad it goes and when it goes bad. Wine storage conditions, the type of wine if it’s been opened, and how long it’s stored. The below times assume proper wine storage temperature and wine cellar lighting.

How Long Does Wine Last Unopened?

Red wine that costs around $10–$30 at the store will last about 2–3 years unopened. Likewise, unopened white wine of similar quality lasts around 1–2 years.

You may not want to purchase a full case of wine if you don’t go through bottles quickly. If this flies in the face of what you’ve heard about wine being aged for decades, that’s by design. Wines at these price points are designed to be enjoyed right after bottling. If a wine is meant to be aged, that’s built into the winemaking process.

When you get into fine wines that are meant to be aged, they can last for decades unopened. Both reds and whites, though bigger-bodied wines and red wines tend to age better. The best thing to do if you’re serious about aging wine for years is to find out the optimal storage conditions and time for that specific wine.

Non-Alcoholic Mixers

For non-alcoholic mixers and other perishable items, we suggest following the stated expiration date on the bottles. You’ll often need to refrigerate these after you open them, too, and that’ll also be on the bottle. This includes juices, too.

The ones with the shortest life span at your bar are most likely sodas and sparkling waters. As anyone knows from a lifetime of consuming carbonated beverages, that stuff doesn’t last long. Use the fizzy stuff as soon as you can after opening it.

Since these mixers are a part of most of the most common cocktails, it’s important to make sure they don’t go bad.

Final Judgement: Does Alcohol Expire?

Unopened liquor has an indefinite shelf life. Opened liquor lasts about a year or two before it goes bad as it gradually loses its color and flavor. If you’re not using the bottle for 2 years, don’t use it on well drinks. It does not get toxic, if you don’t see anything suspicious like mold or something was floating.

Yes, your alcohol can go bad. Quickly, too, if you’re not careful enough in the storing process. This is why it’s important that your bar buys liquor in the right amount and stocks the bar with a full bar liquor list considering usage and par levels.

You also need to store your liquor properly if you intend you sell it through online liquor sales, particularly if you’re shipping alcohol long distances.

Like everything else in your bar, your booze has its own expiration dates that you need to be aware of. Always know how many beers are in a keg, so you know when you’re about to run out and you’re not pumping turned beer.

To avoid wasting your liquor, you can keep track of every bottle’s expiration date using a bar inventory template. But that can be an enormous amount of work if you have more than a thousand liquor bottles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does beer go bad?

Most beers last longer than the expiration date printed on the package. When stored at room temperature, you can expect beer to last for 6-9 months past the expiration date. Keeping it refrigerated increases this period up to 2 years.

How can you tell if liquor has gone bad?

You’ll know if your liquor has gone bad if you detect any changes in color or smell, although it’s uncommon.

Is it okay to drink expired alcohol?

After a bottle of alcohol has expired, it’s okay to drink but the alcohol content will be decreased.