Settle a bet with my spouse: Can I Drink This?
July 2, 2021 5:51 PM   Subscribe

My spouse and I are in disagreement about whether or not it's safe to drink a jug of lemonade that has not only been opened, but has been left out of the fridge on the counter for several days. Low to moderate light conditions; room temp. Not sugar free. Is this a likely bacterial wasteland or is it safe to drink?

No, we will not be revealing who is taking which side of this disagreement!
posted by nightrecordings to Food & Drink (38 answers total)
I'd drink it as long as it did not taste funny or have mold on the top and not even think about it. This is just a personal preference along the faulty logic of lemons keep cut apples from browning, it will be fine.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:58 PM on July 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

Pour some into a clear glass. It'll have colonies in it if it's been growing stuff.

On the other hand, it may be acidic as heck and nothing is surviving in there.

I'd buy more lemonade-- it's cheap stuff, or cheaper than any interruption in your life due to it making you sick. Far far cheaper than any medical encounter.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:59 PM on July 2, 2021 [5 favorites]

It would depend on whether someone put their mouth on it or not. If there's potential backwash, then no. Also, if the lid was off and dust or bugs had settled therein, no.

If it smells OK and isn't moldy or fizzy, then yes.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:00 PM on July 2, 2021

Best answer: This is how my husband gave himself diarrhea.
posted by Knowyournuts at 6:08 PM on July 2, 2021 [51 favorites]

I'm usually pretty dang picky about this kinda thing. I wouldn't drink it. It's probably fine though, the citric acid will keep it safe for a while.
posted by bbqturtle at 6:10 PM on July 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

My SO and I would not, the potential for gastrointestinal upset is too high.
posted by ReiFlinx at 6:15 PM on July 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Ugh no.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:23 PM on July 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

No, this is probably not safe to drink.

Normal lemonade is not acidic enough to inhibit bacterial growth; it goes bad real quick. It is not nearly as acidic as lemon juice, and even that can still go bad if it's left out after being opened.

If it's a commercial, pasteurized product with a lot of preservatives in it, it might last longer but hooooboy, it can still go bad in like, under a day.

I am often the one who is baffled by how cautious/paranoid people are about food safety on AskMefi, but now I find myself baffled at the idea that opened lemonade left out for several days is fine. Lemonade is fruit juice. Slightly more acidic than other fruit juices, but not nearly enough to remain sterile once opened!
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:23 PM on July 2, 2021 [19 favorites]

I’m gonna say no, but not because of bacteria or anything. I just think old, warm lemonade would taste kind of gross.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:33 PM on July 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Overnight? I might risk it. Several days? Definitely not.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 6:40 PM on July 2, 2021 [4 favorites]

I'd think that all the sugar added to typical lemonade would overwhelm the acidity and increase the risk of something going wrong, whether I could see it visually or not. I wouldn't drink it.
posted by stormyteal at 7:03 PM on July 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Scientifically, the safety depends on the acidity, the sugar content, the temperature, and the exposure to contaminants.

I'll note that the cost of a a food item is not an issue. Contaminants and microorganisms do not care about capitalism, despite our best collective efforts.

On balance, I personally would drink some with caution, and ideally with whiskey, assuming it was fairly tart and mostly sealed.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:11 PM on July 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Since there's no way to know if it's contaminated, I think the spouse who thinks it's safe should drink every drop. If they get sick, the other spouse should feel free not to show any sympathy at all. If no illness ensues, the lemonade-drinker may try to say "I told you so," to which the other can reference 'russian roulette' and continue to live their wary life.

I wouldn't drink it. My husband might.
posted by wryly at 7:28 PM on July 2, 2021 [10 favorites]

Well... the pH of lemonade is about 3, which will support growth of yeast and mold but not most bacteria. So there's some scientific basis for "If it looks, smells, and tastes normal, it's probably OK" (which in general can be wrong and harmful advice).

I still wouldn't drink it.
posted by aws17576 at 7:36 PM on July 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

I don't think I've ever had lemonade go bad, but it's essentially fruit juice, which can ferment by growing yeast or get moldy. It has a lot of acid and sugar, both of which have preservative qualities, esp. if not very diluted. Look for obvious mold, obvious scent of fermentation - alcohol or yeasty. If you decide to test, try a few sips, wait an hour or so. Some forms of food poisoning do not smell and take longer than 30 - 60 minutes to make you ill, but mold or yeast seem the most likely.

i look forward to hearing the results of both the lemonade and the relationship.
posted by theora55 at 7:42 PM on July 2, 2021 [5 favorites]

I'd drink it if I were trying to either prove a point and/or prove to someone else that I'm a badass MF weirdo and nothing can kill me
posted by wats at 7:51 PM on July 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I drank some bottled mango lemonade once a few months past its expiration date and strongly regretted it, fwiw. (It seemed to taste okay, but maybe the mango was masking the flavor.)
posted by trig at 8:04 PM on July 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Store bought or homemade?
posted by vrakatar at 8:43 PM on July 2, 2021

posted by fingersandtoes at 8:43 PM on July 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I made lambic lemonade like that one time. I did not drink it.
posted by Candleman at 9:01 PM on July 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I would not drink that. (Ewww)
posted by amaire at 9:13 PM on July 2, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I would double boil it in a pressure cooker (in heat resistant glass on a trivet, covered but uncapped, in about 2.5 in. of water.) and then drink if it still tastes good. But I do have a weakness for food-redemption narratives.

Ordinary orange juice has about .5% alcohol (the existence of Mike's hard lemonade seems to be making it impossible to google a comparable figure for lemonade), but my guess is that your lemonade will have quite a bit more than that, and you will be able to taste the alcohol.
posted by jamjam at 9:52 PM on July 2, 2021

On "Can I eat this?" posts, the poster should give their location, and MeFi should award Internet points to "yes" people who go over and put their money where their mouths are, so to speak.
posted by spacewrench at 9:57 PM on July 2, 2021 [4 favorites]

Is it the shelf-stable or refrigerated kind? I’d be more likely to drink the former. But really, just buy a new jug!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:58 PM on July 2, 2021

I have regretted drinking unrefrigerated Newman’s Own lemonade on a road trip, and I have a tough stomach.
posted by Grandysaur at 11:33 PM on July 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

If it's just normal Sprite it will be fine for another month at least.
posted by turkeyphant at 12:50 AM on July 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

To follow Turkeyphant’s comment, if anyone ever looks here again — worth noting the US/UK different definitions of “lemonade.” US — water/sugar/lemon juice. UK — akin to Sprite/7-Up. I agree with everyone else — US-style, definitely not. UK— maaaaybe? Gross but likely not a moldfest yet…
posted by profreader at 1:04 AM on July 3, 2021 [8 favorites]

You can check my post history in which I asked whether it was ok to eat a week-old cooked chicken left in the fridge, which I did and was fine.

But I would not drink this, as the potential to go bad is high, and also lemonade is cheap. Not worth the potential food poisoning.
posted by moiraine at 3:25 AM on July 3, 2021

I think you have probably inadvertently made tepache - and I would definitely cautiously drink it - as long as it tastes good.
posted by roofus at 3:43 AM on July 3, 2021

I don’t know what the risk is, but I wouldn’t even drink pure water that had been sitting in a jug on the counter for several days.
posted by Phanx at 4:00 AM on July 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

No. Nein. Nope. Nyet.

And I say that as someone who regularly makes ferments, including pineapple tepache. Fermenting is a controlled process that requires a measured amount of salt or sugar, a certain temperature range, and the natural bacteria and yeast present on the fruit or veg itself.

Pasteurized juice will have had almost all the bacteria--bad or good--killed, and when then left unrefrigerated or when past its use-by date is often taken over by bad bacteria pretty quickly, especially if opened and exposed to particles in the air. This is why old or improperly handled pasteurized milk always turns disgusting, but unpasteurized milk sours under the right conditions and can be drinkable.
posted by Flock of Cynthiabirds at 6:31 AM on July 3, 2021 [5 favorites]

Hi, former barista and bartender here. Absolutely no fucking way is that safe to drink. Whether you drink it with no issues is ultimately your own choice, but I don’t understand why you wouldn’t just throw it out. Please read up on food safety if you need more convincing, liquids are the items most likely to become bacterial breeding grounds.
posted by Champagne Supernova at 9:12 AM on July 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Even pure lemon juice will eventually grow all sorts of interesting colonies if left out on the counter the acidity only means it is slower to start growing them, once they start going they grow just fine, throw in sugar and unboiled water and I wouldn't drink it as contaminated lemon juice can give you food poisoning, fresh squeezed lemon juice only has a shelf life of 2 to 4 days even if refrigerated and you've contaminated that juice with additives and left it out past that range not in the fridge.
posted by wwax at 9:33 AM on July 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Personally, it wouldn't be worth it to me to drink it. But here is what says (referring to food safety when there is a power outage):
Fruit juice. Refrigerated juices are safe without refrigeration; however, if mold, cloudiness, bubbling or off-odors (yeasty, fermented) occur, the product should be discarded.
p.s Fresh-squeezed lemonade vs the perservative-filled-bottled-kind you buy at the store goes bad more quickly.
posted by SageTrail at 9:53 AM on July 3, 2021

Can you drink it? Sure, as long as it's still in a liquid state, I see no physical issue.

Should you drink it? Heck no. That's disgusting and your body may be angry with you.

Here's an anecdote I read recently about a guy who left his commercially prepared cranberry juice at room temperature, and drank that regularly.
posted by hydra77 at 10:51 AM on July 3, 2021

I am a person who eats a LOT of stuff left out incredibly unwise amounts of time, but I am a big lemonade drinker and I have seen how fast that stuff can turn, which I think starts a lot sooner than it is visible. I do not drink it if it's been left out.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:41 AM on July 3, 2021 expensive is this lemonade? Because like, is the idea that you should drink it when it's been sitting out for days so that it doesn't...what, go to waste? That's so bizarre to me, and I eat and drink a lot of things I probably shouldn't. Just get some new lemonade.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 3:13 PM on July 3, 2021

Yeah, I'm a weird goblin who's pretty willing to eat things that have been in the fridge a while as long as they smell OK, and I wouldn't drink anything sugary that was left out longer than a few hours in the summer, or overnight in the winter. The germ potential is just too high.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 1:34 PM on July 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

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