Liquor Shelf-Life
December 25, 2004 11:58 AM   Subscribe

What is the shelf life of open bottles of liquor? I've read from eternal (vodka) to six months (rum). [+]

My mom has bottles of liquor that must be 30 years old. Some are opened, some are not. Is this stuff still good? Any ideas on how to dispose of it other than having a party and getting people sick?
posted by Frank Grimes to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Only one way to find out, eh?
posted by cmonkey at 12:24 PM on December 25, 2004

I've never heard of brown or clear liquors going bad. I did have a nasty glass of port the other day, though, and found a bottle of Bailey's Irish Creme in my mom's cabinet that had all the dairy solids separated out.

But cmonkey's advice is probably best. Baby sips. :)
posted by jtron at 12:39 PM on December 25, 2004

My family is currently imbibing Old Smuggler whiskey, Gordon's gin, Smirnoff vodka and an enormous bottle of Bacardi rum, all of which are older than me.

I'm 28.

So far, no ill effects and no off tastes. We did chuck a bottle of Irish Mist that had separated and there's a bottle of Kahlua that has sealed itself shut and is resisting our best efforts to get it open.

I say drink away.
posted by bcwinters at 1:09 PM on December 25, 2004

Alcohol is already poisonous. How much worse can it get? Drink, drink away!
posted by five fresh fish at 1:12 PM on December 25, 2004

bcwinters: Run hot water over it for like 5 minutes, eh?
posted by abcde at 1:50 PM on December 25, 2004

So far as I know, the only alcohols that go bad are those with creams, or high sugar (most liqueurs). Also everything in the wine family: wine, port, madeira, brandy, etc.

That's if they've been opened, of course. Sealed, most boozahols will last quite a long time.

By the way, anyone who likes Baileys, try Amarula Cream. It's heavenly, especially in milkshakes.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:12 PM on December 25, 2004

pssh. i spent last year drinking through the last of my parent's liquor cabinet, which was largely comprised of bottles of liquor they had purchased for dinner-parties pre-children. So at the very least, 26 year old liquor is fine for you.
posted by fishfucker at 2:13 PM on December 25, 2004

Drink it! Then tell us which ones tasted ok. You're a guinea pig now.
posted by Arch Stanton at 2:39 PM on December 25, 2004

Response by poster: Most of the collection pre-dates the children, with a few newcomers added since 1976. Here's a selection: San Matias Tequila (looks like it is direct from Mexico, does not have the paper stamps like the others), Jameson whiskey, Ferandes Vat 19 Rum, Frangelico liquer (in a monk shaped bottle), Ancient Age Kentucky Bourbon ($5.24 sales price). If these are still good, I may have to take them to a New Years party.
posted by Frank Grimes at 2:39 PM on December 25, 2004

I'd say everything except the Frangelico will be okay. Even that should be fine, but the sugars may have crystallized.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:50 PM on December 25, 2004

No, no, it's all gone bad, and is Very Dangerous. Send it to me for extensive testing RIGHT AWAY. I implore you, do not risk your health, or the health of your loved ones. Send me the hootch, and I'll see that it is disposed of properly.
posted by theora55 at 3:48 PM on December 25, 2004

Sugary liqueurs I could imagine going "bad" possibly...but I've definitely had the experience of them growing sugar crystals on me. Grinding sugar crystals under a metal cap can lead to an icky metallic tang sneaking in when you pour. I threw out a bottle of amaretto once because of this. Dry winter air in my area might be leading to easier evaporation.....I'm fairly sure that a good anal-retentive wipe of the bottle after pouring would eliminate drips and future crystals.
posted by gimonca at 4:20 PM on December 25, 2004

Don't they age this stuff and charge more for it?
posted by pissfactory at 4:29 PM on December 25, 2004

mmmmmm..... ancient jameson.
posted by monkey!knife!fight! at 5:03 PM on December 25, 2004

Someone left a bottle of strawberry flavored tequila cream stuff (Baja Rosa) at my housewarming when I moved 2 years ago. I left it in the fridge the entire time. At a party last week I fed it to all the cheapos who drank through their 6packs in the first hour and none of them seemed any worse for the wear - other than the fact they were drinking creamy strawberry tequila.
posted by jeffmik at 7:53 PM on December 25, 2004

Anything distilled should be fine, with the exception of spirits which have had something added after the distillation process (like dairy). That includes brandy, rum, and bourbon. Even port and sherry should be fine, the spirits that are added to them at the end of the solera process serve as a preservative and prevent it from changing too much in the bottle.
posted by cali at 12:54 AM on December 26, 2004

Me mum found some Haig's Dimple with an imprint for His Majesty the King - and I think it may not have been for the King prior to Queen Elizabeth, but for the one prior to him - and it tasted delicious.

Frangelico of a similar vintage had crystallized sugar, but also tasted fine. I think the Cherry Herring turned out alright, as well.

That said, I'd still be leery of the sugary stuff.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:09 AM on December 26, 2004

Cherry Herring!?

Memo: Please send bourbon, whiskey and tequila via 1st Priority FEDEX ASAP for 1st round QC testing and mass spectrometer sampling. Pour the sugar sauce down toilet or in-law.
posted by loquacious at 4:36 AM on December 26, 2004

Port and sherry will go off if they've been opened.
posted by transient at 6:53 AM on December 26, 2004

I'm fairly sure that a good anal-retentive wipe of the bottle after pouring would eliminate drips and future crystals.

Yah, but then you've got the fecal contanimation issues to deal with.

I should think a wipe with a paper towel would truly be your best bet.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:36 AM on December 26, 2004

Don't they age this stuff and charge more for it?

Ah, 'stricky, that. Unlike wines, spirits don't age in bottle. They do, however, become rarer as their peers are imbibed.

I'd be most wary of liqueurs (c. 20% a.b.v) partly because the sugar usually crystallises in a not-pretty way, but mainly because those bottles of blue curaçao and crème de menthe (bought for one cocktail and abandoned) are the most likely to lurk in drinks cupboards for decades on end...
posted by riviera at 2:35 PM on December 26, 2004

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