Does Vodka Go Bad?

Vodka is one of the most popular base liquors. If you’ve got a half empty bottle of vodka that stays in your pantry for months, or an unopened bottle that’s a few years old I’ve got good news for you – the liquor is probably fine.

Vodka’s taste and shelf life

Vodka is a very stable distilled spirit so you can store it for a long time. If the bottle stays unopened it has literally indefinite shelf life. If the liquor was bottled in 1980 and you’ll open it in 2020 it should taste almost exactly the same as if you would’ve opened it in 1980. Why “almost exactly” and not “exactly” ? Even an unopened bottle isn’t ideally sealed, especially if the cap is natural (like cork), so the liquid evaporates (very slowly). If the bottle (or its cap) is plastic then it’s probable that the liquor will start to very slowly change its taste after a couple of decades. That’s caused by the chemicals that are leaching out of the plastic. Again, both of the mentioned processes are going very slowly.

Does vodka go bad? Nope, it doesn't.
(credit: stroganov)

When it comes to a bottle that is already opened, then the process of evaporation is going definitely faster than when the bottle was unopened. Of course that doesn’t mean that the liquid will evaporate in a year or two. It means that vodka will gradually lose its flavor qualities and after a decade or two it might just taste awful.

It’s almost impossible that vodka will go bad. You should note that alcohol evaporates faster than water, so the liquor is getting slightly weaker throughout the years. If one will store an opened bottle for a very long time (like a couple of decades), it’s probable that the liquid’s proof will drop below 25%. When that happens, it’s probable that some bacteria or strains of yeast will be able to develop in that environment. In case that happens, one could get food poisoning after drinking that vodka. Again, this is the worst case scenario and it is extremely unlikely to happen. The worst thing that really can happen to the liquor is that it’ll evaporate or lose its taste.
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How to store vodka

To maintain vodka’s taste you should store it properly. Vodka should be kept in a dark place where it isn’t exposed to any bright, direct light. The liquor shouldn’t be exposed to any extreme temperatures, both high and low, so you have to avoid storing it near any heat/cold sources. Every opened bottle should be sealed tightly using the original cap. Any replacement caps probably won’t seal the bottle as good as the original one, so processes of losing flavor and evaporation will go faster. Last but not least, don’t ever store vodka (or any other liquor) with a bottle pourer – after using this tool you should seal the bottle with the original cap.

You should know by now that it’s almost impossible that vodka will go bad. The worst thing that can happen is that it loses its flavor or evaporates. When storing vodka you should remember about a few basic guidelines, like to avoid bright light and extreme temperatures. When you’ll apply those guidelines your vodka should taste fine for long decades (when it comes to unopened bottles) or years (when the bottle is already opened).