Almost everyone has a bottle of gin collecting dust in the back of their liquor cabinet. Perhaps it was from that time you decided to make gin and tonics, or maybe you can’t even remember where it came from! Either way, there’s still the matter of what to do with that bottle. Can gin go bad and how should you store it to extend the shelf life?
Can Gin Go Bad?
Like all spirits, it’s highly unlikely (and pretty much impossible) that gin will go bad in the traditional sense. The shelf life of gin is basically indefinite, when properly stored. An unopened bottle of gin can stay safe to consume for years, or even decades! This means that if you find a bottle of gin in the back of the liquor cabinet, it’s most likely still good.
Instead of spoiling or rotting, spirits like gin can instead degrade in quality over the years, mainly due to heat and oxygen exposure. This is normal, and won’t impact the safety of the drink, but could impact the taste and potency. Learning how to properly store gin can help you to get the most out of your liquor cabinet.
Image used under Creative Commons from Alex
Evaporation, Oxidation, and Signs of Spoilage in Gin
Because of the high alcohol content of gin, it is not likely to spoil in the way most foods do, as the alcohol will prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. As long as the gin is clear and free of debris, it should be safe to drink. However, while protective, alcohol is also the ingredient in gin that will degrade over time. The two main things that can the alcohol in gin are evaporation and oxidation.
Evaporation can occur when the bottle is not tightly sealed. Over time, the alcohol can evaporate away, leaving the gin a bit more dilute. Exposure to heat and light can speed up the evaporation process, so if you want that gin to retain its kick, proper storage is important!
Oxidation is caused by exposure to air, and can change the flavor of the gin over time. While this can occur when the bottle is not tightly sealed, even air that’s inside the sealed bottle can oxidize the gin. Like with evaporation, exposure to light and heat can expedite this process. Of course, proper storage can slow down oxidation, keeping that gin tasting as it should.
How to Store Gin Properly
Storing gin is the most important factor in preserving the quality of the spirit. Fortunately, proper storage is actually really simple! The most important part of storing spirits is to keep them in an airtight bottle, and away from heat or light. So, storing gin in a cool dark cupboard, or even in your cellar is fine, so long as the bottle remains tightly sealed.
Refrigerating or freezing a bottle of gin can help prevent both evaporation and oxidation, so long as the bottle remains sealed and at a constant temperature. Too many temperature fluctuations could increase the rate of oxidation. If you’ve chosen to store the bottle of gin in the fridge or freezer, be sure to remove it only for short periods of time, and replace it quickly.
If you’re really aiming to preserve the quality of gin for a long period of time, transferring the spirit to a smaller container can help reduce oxidation. Gin can oxidize from the air left in the bottle, so when there’s quite a bit of air, oxidation will occur at a faster rate. Transferring the remaining gin to a smaller, tightly sealing glass jar can limit this process, and keep that gin as fresh as it can be. This is most effective if you are planning on storing the remaining gin for more than a few months, as smaller amounts of air exposure are not as damaging.