Can Triple Sec Go Bad?

You threw a party a couple of months ago, and that opened bottle of triple sec you’ve bought to mix drinks is still in storage. And since it’s a liqueur, you’re now wondering if it can go bad, or how long you can store it before it loses its quality.

Or maybe you went with the triple sec syrup instead so that you could make both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. And now you’re anxious that it will go bad before you can use it.

In either case, we got you covered. In this article, we talk about both the liqueur and the syrup. We go over the essentials of triple sec: storage, shelf life, and signs of going bad. If that’s what you’re looking for, read on.

Served triple sec
Image used under Creative Commons from Tim Sackton

Can Triple Sec Go Bad? How To Tell If Triple Sec Has Gone Bad?

Since the liqueur is the more popular option, let’s start with it. Triple sec is a variety of Curaçao liqueur made from sweet and bitter orange peels. When it comes to liqueurs, it’s quite a strong one, usually containing between 30 and 40 percent alcohol by volume ([BND]), or 60 to 80 proof.

Such alcohol content makes it pretty much immune to spoilage, provided that you store it properly. Nevertheless, if you ever notice that the color has changed or the smell altered, toss it in the trash.

What’s more likely to happen is that its quality will degrade over time. It will lose some of its fresh and fruity flavors, and if stored for long enough, the alcohol content will suffer too. At a certain point, you will decide that it’s not good enough to use anymore. And that’s when you discard the rest.

Bottle of Curacao Triple Sec
(credit: Dominic Lockyer)

When it comes to triple sec syrup, the situation is similar. Of course, it won’t keep quality for as long as the liqueur does, but it’s unlikely to spoil if stored well. The syrup usually contains sugar and citric acid ([CAT]), both natural preservatives, and often has some additional ingredients to keep it fresh.

But if the orange and fruity flavor and smell are gone, or the syrup changed its color, it’s time for it to go. If it’s a bit old, but seems perfectly fine, give it a taste to make sure it’s okay before you make any drinks with it.

Bottle of triple sec
Image used under Creative Commons from Dominic Lockyer

How Long Does Triple Sec Last?

Once again, let’s start with the liqueur. As I already mentioned, the high alcohol content makes it resistant to any microbial growth. That makes it safe to drink for decades.

But like with all alcoholic drinks, we not only want it to be safe but to have the flavor we’re looking for too. And when it comes to the latter, triple sec should taste good for about ten years unopened, and maybe 2 to 3 years after opening.

Please note that these are only estimates, and everyone has their preferences and quality standards.

When it comes to triple sec syrup, it comes with a best-by or use-by date on the label that you should observe. Usually, it lasts between a year and two years. That depends on the producer, so it’s easiest to stick with that date. Of course, it should taste perfectly fine for at least a couple of weeks past that date.

Once you open the syrup up, its quality starts to degrade much faster. More often than not the label will inform you that for best quality, you should finish the bottle within a specific time frame, e.g., six weeks ([CAF]). But in most cases, the syrup will stay okay to use at least until the best-by date.

Make sure to read the label of yours to learn what the manufacturer recommends.

How To Store Triple Sec?

When it comes to triple sec liqueur, you store it the same way you store vodka, gin, or any other high-proof alcohol.

Like all alcohols, triple sec is sensitive to temperature changes and light, so what you’re looking for is a dark place with stable temperature. When it comes to temperature, room temp is perfectly fine. But if you plan on making some drinks in the evening, you can chill it in the fridge, especially if you serve it neat.

As usual, keep the cap sealed tightly when the liqueur is not in use, so the alcohol doesn’t evaporate.

Bottles of various alcohols on shelves
(credit: Rennett Stowe)

For the syrup, things are quite similar. Keep an unopened bottle in a cabinet in the pantry or the kitchen. Make sure it’s not near any heat sources and doesn’t sit in the sunlight. Once you open the bottle, make sure to seal it after using. When it comes to whether or not you should refrigerate the syrup after opening, that depends on the producer, so make sure to check the label. Oftentimes chilling it in the fridge isn’t necessary ([CAF]).

In a Nutshell

  • It’s unlikely that triple sec liqueur ever goes bad. But its quality degrades over time, and after a couple of years being opened, it won’t taste as good as it used to when you first opened the bottle.
  • Triple sec syrup is quite unlikely to spoil due to the presence of natural and artificial preservatives. However, it does lose flavor over time, and won’t retain quality nearly as long as the liqueur does.
  • Triple sec liqueur keeps quality for about a decade unopened, and two to three years once opened. Your experience may vary, though.
  • The syrup should stay perfectly fine until the date on its label, but please note that its quality starts to degrade faster once you open it up.
  • Keep triple sec liqueur in a cabinet, away from sunlight and any heat sources.
  • Store triple sec syrup in the pantry or kitchen, in a sealed cabinet. Check the label to learn if the producer requires refrigerating it after opening.

References