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Shelf Life of Bar Stuff


Fat Guy
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Okay, so I know most distilled spirits will last forever. At least I think so. Is that correct?

What about something like Kahlua?

Rose's lime juice?

Bitters?

Vermouth?

What are some rules of thumb for cocktail-ingredient shelf-life and perishability?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Some spirits experience a decline in their overall quality and taste if kept for long periods of time. Some are faster than others, too -- such as a creme liqueur product. (They often recommend refrigeration and usage within three months, or so, after opening). However I don't imagine a plain vodka (one without flavouring) suffers much from age other than continued, albeit slow, evaporation. Others may darken or fade in colour with time.

While anything I purchase for home or entertaining purposes generally doesn't see much longer than a week or two (depends on the spirit :raz: ) I have found with the slowness of our Kahlua sales we'll hold onto a bottle for perhaps a month or thereabouts. The older it gets, it seems to become thicker and a bit gritty/sugary in any of the drips that may grace the threads under the screw cap, or build up on the stainless steel pourer. (Which is why there are designated pourers for liqueurs that are larger in size/width than a regular liquor "speed pourer" and are usually washed/soaked each week, but may be missed in the list of regular bar chores).

Vermouth does loose something but I cannot venture to say the timeline for its life. DrinkBoy or Doc may have a better estimation....

Rose's -- the only time I've had a botte go sour was when a few bottles were stashed in a milk crate at the end of the bar against a beer bottle cooler. The exhaust didn't blow directly onto it, but it was a warmer spot. The bottles turned red and were thusly pitched to the dumpster. My general dislike for the product has prompted one litre sized bottle of the stuff to remain in my fridge for the last year and a half. Still green. Still nasty. (IMHO) Not spoiled yet! :biggrin:

Bitters seem to last forever. Hopefully others more in the know will weigh in on this.

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Bitters will last forever.

Rose's will last at least two months in the refrigerator. Maybe three, but I go through mine by then, so I'm not positive. The occasional night out on the counter because I forgot to stick it back in the fridge doesn't seem to make any difference -- it's still fine.

I'm not entirely sure about vermouth. I don't refrigerate mine, and I've kept bottles a couple of months at least. I've never done a comparison tasting with a fresh bottle to see if they've deteriorated in flavor, but I can say that they won't make you sick.

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The oldest thing in my bar is a bottle of Galiano. I think it's just turned 18. I'm afraid to drink it now, but since it's a skinny bottle it's not taking up so much space that I should throw it out. Since I don't have the patience to cellar my wine, I think I'll see how long I can keep it.

I know a man who gave up smoking, drinking, sex, and rich food. He was healthy right up to the day he killed himself. - Johnny Carson
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Galliano...

Every old school bar has a bottle. And like yours, it, too is about 18 years old... and perhaps about 2/3 full!

Which begs the idea- was the whole world's supply of Galliano made in one batch about 18 years (or more) ago??? :raz:

Heh heh..

C.R.

aka "Greg Koetting"

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Galliano...

Every old school bar has a bottle. And like yours, it, too is about 18 years old... and perhaps about 2/3 full!

Which begs the idea- was the whole world's supply of Galliano made in one batch about 18 years (or more) ago???  :raz:

Heh heh..

C.R.

aka "Greg Koetting"

Just found this on Google:Galliano history

In 1986, a talented Italian distiller, Arturo Vaccari, by blending local and exotic ingredients such as star anise and vanilla, gave birth to a new spirit. He named his creation "Galliano" after Maggiore Galliano, hero of the East African wars at the end of the 19th century. Galliano Liquore soon travelled across the borders with the Italian pioneers heading for the gold rush in California. Thanks to its verstalityadn original taste. 70 proof.

and it is exactly eighteen years ago ... :rolleyes:

Edited by Gifted Gourmet (log)

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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No shit? 18 years ago, for real?

Hah! That's funny... I couldn't even pretend to know a thing about that stuff.. All I know is that you can make two drinks- a Golden Cadillac and a Harvey Wallbanger (which is nothing but a screwdriver with a drizzle of Galliano, maybe?)..

Good googling, dear Gifted Gourmet!

C.R.

aka "Greg Koetting"

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Galliano...
In 1986, a talented Italian distiller, Arturo Vaccari, by blending local and exotic ingredients such as star anise and vanilla, gave birth to a new spirit.

Um...I'm afraid that should be 1896. But why ruin a good story....

aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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Okay... nice side track, but shelf life, please? :rolleyes:

Take a sip of it and see how it tastes. That's all that will suffer -- the flavour, colour or texture. The stuff, Galliano being a liqueur (liqueurs contain a minimum sugar content of 100 grams/liter), won't poison you for being old.

As far as Steven's initial question about vermouth, this fairly recent DrinkBoy post on Webtender may be helpful.

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Hah! That's funny... I couldn't even pretend to know a thing about that stuff.. All I know is that you can make two drinks- a Golden Cadillac and a Harvey Wallbanger (which is nothing but a screwdriver with a drizzle of Galliano, maybe?)..

C.R.

aka "Greg Koetting"

Try a Yellow Bird

YELLOW BIRD

2 oz. Rum

1/2 oz. triple sec

1/2 oz. Galliano

3/4 oz. Fresh Lime juice

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail/martini glass. Garnish with a lime peel.

KathyM

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Wow, you guys are on a totally different consumption schedule from what I'm talking about. About 90% of the liquor in my cabinet is 5-10 years old.

Let me start with something very simple: will distilled spirits -- as in vodka, scotch, brandy, etc., as opposed to liqueurs and such -- degrade if left unused for 10, 20, or 100 years? I was under the impression that these items were totally shelf-stable. Am I wrong?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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you mean i should be refrigerating my rose's ? d'oh!

and yes, galliano--did they invent the harvey wallbangar to sell their product? i make maybe 4 of those every 5 years but i have the bottle of galliano anyway. it is a cool bottle, however.

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Let me start with something very simple: will distilled spirits -- as in vodka, scotch, brandy, etc., as opposed to liqueurs and such -- degrade if left unused for 10, 20, or 100 years? I was under the impression that these items were totally shelf-stable. Am I wrong?

No, anything that high in alcohol won't degrade. If it's stored in direct sunlight, it may change color slightly.

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Let me start with something very simple: will distilled spirits -- as in vodka, scotch, brandy, etc., as opposed to liqueurs and such -- degrade if left unused for 10, 20, or 100 years? I was under the impression that these items were totally shelf-stable. Am I wrong?

No, anything that high in alcohol won't degrade. If it's stored in direct sunlight, it may change color slightly.

I remembered reading something about this fairly recently, but Gary Regan has a differing perspective/point of view on this:

If the bottles are unopened, and the level of the contents are still up to, or in, the neck of the bottle, the spirit or liqueur should be okay. Sometimes even unopened bottles allow spirits to evaporate a little, and oxidization can occur if too much air gets into the bottle, and it's left there for too long.

Once a bottle of spirits is opened, as a general rule you should try to finish it within 6 - 12 months. Again, this depends on how much air is in the bottle. I once had a rare bottle of Irish whiskey, got down to the last 3 or 4 inches, and decided to save it for a special occasion. By the time the occasion arose, the whiskey was completely oxidized & we ended up pouring it down the sink. Be warned!

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...=0entry555044

It is my general, unpublished bartender opinion (read: not as experienced with product knowledge as one Gary Regan :raz: ) that it varies with with the type of alcohol. I don't see much happening to a bottle of vodka, but can understand what may occur with a fine bottle of whiskey. It also may be something of a matter of perception. One that enjoys a spirit often enough to discern a difference with "age" (length of time it has been opened -- I couldn't think of a better term) would be different than one who will drink the same spirit infrequently without noticing any said differences.

Perhaps a side by side, tasting comparison? New bottle versus an old? But then Steven will be stuck with two bottles of the stuff and it's already taken him this long to start using up the first bottle of x, y or z! :biggrin:

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Since I haven’t noticed any “Expiration Date” or worse “Born On Date” on my bottles (and I do believe the liquor industry would latch on to this if they could – Oops! My liquor expired, time to toss it out a get a new one = more $$$ for them), I assume they will remain unchanged pretty long, provided the bottle is tightly sealed.

Now about this “tightly sealed” business. If the bottle is not tightly sealed and the alcohol is steadily evaporating, will the remaining liquor have a more condensed or intensified flavor?

Natasha

"The main thing to remember about Italian food is that when you put your groceries in the car, the quality of your dinner has already been decided." – Mario Batali
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  • 2 weeks later...
What the heck IS Galliano anyway? (Since I never did get a sip of the stuff.)

Licore Galliano was concocted by Italian distiller Arturo Vaccari. He blended 80 some various herbs, roots, berries, alpine flowers and spices to create its exotic one of kind taste. Of note is the anise, licorice and vanilla. Vaccari named this herbal liqueur after Maggiore Galliano who is purportedly an Italian war hero of the East African wars at the end of the 19th century. It is believed that it made its way to the States as a result of the Italians bringing their beloved liqueur in pursuit of the California gold rush.

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What the heck IS Galliano anyway? (Since I never did get a sip of the stuff.)

Geez, I forgot all about my Galliano post - didn't realize it would induce so many flashbacks.

Just had a taste out of the old bottle - and it tastes just fine! Wasn't even all crusty under the cap, like I thought it would be!

Here's a link to a picture of the bottle.

I think Splificator must be right - it had to be invented way before 1986. I'm sure my dad had a bottle when I was a kid. Why else would I get a bottle for my "first bar"? I don't even LIKE Harvey Wallbangers!

I know a man who gave up smoking, drinking, sex, and rich food. He was healthy right up to the day he killed himself. - Johnny Carson
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