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How long does liquor last?

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#1 jBo

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 04:11 PM

I've worked in bars before and swore that we had the same bottle of B&B forever (not the B&B crowd), so I was wondering how long liquor was good ... does it have an expiration date?

I would like to start building a bar, but I don't drink that much. I like to buy nice things, but I would like them to last a while. For instance, when I went to France, we went to the Grand Mariner distillery & I bought a (most wonderful :wub: ) bottle of Cuvee du Centenaire and Cherry Mariner. As wonderful as these spirits are, they will not be finished for a long time.
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#2 Jason Perlow

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 04:31 PM

Hard spirits such as rum, gin, vodka and whiskey and brandy have no expiration date. Keep them in a cool place, however to avoid evaporation.

With brandy and rum as well as some liqueurs you need to be a little bit more careful because they have components in them that can oxidize, so make sure that the bottles are corked tightly when not being used. Heat is obviously something you need to avoid of with liqueurs.
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#3 eje

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 04:32 PM

Here's a few I know about...

From what I've read, most fruit based liqueurs should be consumed within 6 months or so after opening. My bottle of Chambord even had a warning included in the box. Which reminds me, it's about time for a kir royale...

Homemade fruit liqueurs may last a year or two unopened. They will probably fade faster than commercial liqueur once uncorked. Depending on proof, it's also probably not a bad idea to keep these refrigerated after opening.

The herbal liqueurs like Benedictine and Chartreuse keep much better. I'm not sure what the common sense time limit for them is. Unopened, they keep nearly forever.

Since they are basically just flavored wine, aperetifs like Vermouth and Lillet should be refrigerated once opened and consumed fairly quickly.

Given their alcohol content, most won't go bad, the flavors will just fade. Heat and oxidation are the big enemies.


Edited for awful grammar. And I hadn't even had a cocktail!

Edited by eje, 09 July 2005 - 06:41 PM.

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#4 NulloModo

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 04:37 PM

Liquor should last forever. While cleaning out my great-great-aunts basement after she passed away my father and I enjoyed a glass of approximately 70 year old moonshine, of which she had at least 10 gallon sized jugs of down there, and it was still as good (or bad?) as I imagine it would havebeen the day it left the still.

Liqueres, on the other hand, can be trouble. Often the alcohol content isn't quite high enough to stave off infection forever, and some, like Bailey's, contain naturally perishable ingredients. Then againg, liqueres in general are cheaper than fine spirits, so it is no big deal if you need to toss a bottle here and there.
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#5 mbanu

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 06:28 PM

The liqueurs and fortified wines in the 15-20% range usually can make it a couple years if you keep them closed, possibly longer. Really at that alcohol strength you're more at risk of having fruit flies die in your bottle than any sort of contamination. They may oxidize a bit if you store them in mostly empty bottles, but depending on what the spirit originally tasted like, this might not be a big deal. Some things take oxidation better than others. If you're concerned about that, just transfer your liqueur or fortified wine to a smaller bottle if you're sticking it in storage for a long time.

Once you hit 40% alcohol or above, really they don't have a practical expiration date. Plus the rate of oxidation slows dramatically. You could store a mostly empty bottle of whiskey in the basement for decades and only slightly risk the chance that it will have developed any weird flavors. I mean if you leave an open bottle hanging around on a shelf it will pick up smells from the air and bugs will die in it, but that's what caps are for. :)

Cream-based liqueurs are a bit sketchier, not because of alcohol content (bailey's should be stiff enough) so much as because the cream may seperate out of the emulsion it's kept in after a few years (not sure because I've never kept bailey's around that long :P)

Edited by mbanu, 09 July 2005 - 06:35 PM.

#6 jBo

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 09:31 PM

Thanks, guys, you're awesome!
"I cook with wine ... I sometimes put it in food."

#7 Joe Blowe

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 09:49 PM

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently discovered a forgotten bottle of Royal Salute (21 y.o. Chivas) Scotch that was basically ruined due to a crumbling/disintegrating cork. Hermetically sealed liquor bottles, and previously opened and properly resealed liquor bottles, may last close to "forever." But when the bottle is open to the environment, it'll be toast...
So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

#8 Daniel

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 04:25 PM

What if you dont have a cap on the liquor bottle. The liquor bottle was sitting out on a shelf for like a month completely opened.. This might sound really stupid, does the alcohol evaporate out first.. Possibly leaving a liquid with a much lower proof..

Edited by Daniel, 23 July 2005 - 04:26 PM.

#9 Dave the Cook

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 05:20 PM

That's quite likely. Among liquids, water is particularly slow to evaporate because of exceptional hydrogen bonding. Although alcohols contain the same OH molecular component as water (H-OH), the carbon in alcohol (CH3-CH2-OH) keeps the bonding from being as strong.

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#10 Ed Hamilton

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Posted 24 July 2005 - 05:20 AM

The rate of deterioration of alcohol in a bottle is a function of several factors: original proof, temperature, height of vapor space between liquid level and the opening at the top of the bottle, velocity of the air above the opening (is the air-conditioning on, or is there an open window nearby?) and the shape of the bottle.
Less predictable factors include the daily, weekly or seasonal temperature variations (effecting expansion and contraction of the vapors above the liquid) which are in part a function of the color of the spirit if there is any variable light source. An open bottle subjected to sunlight can be destroyed very quickly, in a matter of days.
But the least predictable factor in the deterioration of spirits is the effect of unwanted air borne contaminants that can enter the open bottle including smoke and flying insects.

If all this sounds a bit analytical, it is. After spending considerable time establishing an empirical formula for the variation of the alcohol in an open bottle as an excercise in a college class, including several sample bottles placed in our apartments, the only thing we conclusively determined was that we couldn't precisely predict the results outside the laboratory where conditions were controlled. There was, however, a great party at the end of the course, with unopened control bottles.
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#11 CharlotteM

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Posted 22 January 2007 - 02:40 PM

I have another question about liquor shelf life, cream liquors specifically...

I have 4 bottles of unopened cream liquors (we're not big drinkers of the cream-based stuff), and they've been around for a couple of years. How long do these liquors last? We have Amarula, Rose Tequila, Sheridan, and something else I now forget. Are any of these liquors especially prone to spoilage/clotting?

Are they ready to be tossed? They're stored in a cool/dark cupboard, the temperature around 18-20 degrees Celsius.