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  • Writer's pictureBig Rick Stuart

Does Alcohol Expire? A Guide to Storing Liquor


Chances are, you’re already familiar with the limitations of lower-proof alcoholic beverages like wine and beer: Most properly stored six-packs have a shelf life of maybe a year before they begin to skunk (though plenty of people prefer to drink them fresher), and even a fine red wine that’s intended to age for decades will eventually sour or fade. But does that make them downright dangerous? And where does the vast world of fortified wines, liqueurs, and spirits fit in?


The good news, according to Andrew L. Waterhouse, PhD, UC Davis Professor Emeritus of Enology and author of is that “across the board, there are really no safety issues [with alcoholic beverages]...in fact, they’re safer from a microbial perspective than drinking water.” Assuming you’re drinking from a bottle that’s labeled and hasn’t had any new ingredients introduced, you run virtually no risk of poisoning yourself with a sip—which is why you won’t find an expiration date on, say, a bottle of vodka. Instead, the question of whether alcohol “goes bad” really boils down to a matter of taste. We spoke to beverage scientists and cocktail industry pros to get a better understanding of how light, air, microbes, and time affect our favorite bar cart staples, and how to extend their shelf lives for as long a period of time as possible.

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