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Can Vodka Go Bad?

Have you ever looked in the back of your liquor cabinet to find that old bottle of vodka from a party ages ago and wonder – can vodka go bad?

You hate to waste the money, but you don’t want to get sick either. Learning about the shelf life and storage of vodka will help to save you from this predicament in the future.

Bottle of Smirnoff vodka
(credit: William Warby)

How Long Does Vodka Last?

Vodka is a popular base liquor for endless drinks and one of the most requested spirits. Thankfully for you, vodka is a stable distilled spirit that keeps for a long time.

So, how long does vodka last? Does vodka expire? If the bottle has not been opened, it will last indefinitely. Vodka will taste almost exactly the same if opened the day after purchase, or 40 years later.

The storage of the spirit will change the taste very slowly over time, as some liquid may evaporate through a corked lid or chemicals will leach out of the plastics of a bottle. However, this is a very slow process and will probably take decades to affect the flavor.

Absolut vodka lot
(credit: Alec Favale)

Does Vodka Go Bad After Opening?

Now you may be wondering, does vodka go bad after opening? The evaporation from earlier will occur at a faster rate if a bottle of vodka has been opened, but it will not happen in just a year or two.

After a decade or so, vodka will slowly loose its flavor possibly making it taste terrible. However, vodka will not go bad. It will get weaker over time.

After a few decades, the proof may dip below 25% which increases the probability of bacteria and yeast may develop in the bottle. This could cause food poisoning in a worst case scenario, which is extremely unlikely.

However, if your vodka has developed an off odor, strange flavor or a changed appearance you should discard it for safety and quality purposes.

Vodka - as long as it's sealed tightly, it can be stored for a long time!
Image used under Creative Commons from Karola Riegler

Storing Vodka

After wondering to yourself “can vodka go bad”, you may ask yourself “how should I store vodka”? Storing vodka the correct way will help to maintain it’s flavor longer. Follow these guidelines to increase the life of the vodka’s flavor:

  • Light – Keep vodka in a dark place away from any bright or direct lights. Liquor cabinets and cupboards are ideal.
  • Heat – Don’t expose your vodka to any extreme temperatures both hot and cold. This includes being stored next to heat sources or cooling devices.
  • Capping – Always use the original cap and seal tightly. Replacement caps usually don’t seal as well as the originals. Also, never store your liquors with a bottle pourer in place of a cap.

Finding a good place to store your spirits is the key to a long shelf life. Finding a cupboard away from any appliances or a liquor cabinet kept in a separate area are just two ideas. There are also options for bottle bags and cases if you prefer using a shelf.

So now, when you open that cupboard and wonder – can vodka go bad? Just remember it doesn’t expire, it just loses it’s flavor and strength. If the style has changed from bell bottoms and afro’s to skinny jeans and scarves, you may want to taste the vodka before serving it in a drink.

If you store your vodka properly, the flavor will take longer to fade and you will be set for the next 20 or so years.