Does Margarita Mix Go Bad?

Cinco de Mayo has long passed, but you’ve still got the remainder of that bottle of margarita mix, plus the unopened one in the pantry. Now you’re wondering if the mix is still good and if it will last until the next Cinco de Mayo party. Does margarita mix go bad?

If you’re one of the people who rarely if ever drink tequila and only in cocktails such as margarita, that’s a legitimate question to ask. Throwing out a perfectly good mix would be a waste. Storing one that should be discarded long ago is no good either.

Therefore, I think learning a bit about storage, shelf life, and if margarita mix can go bad makes sense. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re in the right place.

Margarita
Image used under Creative Commons from Ted Major

How To Store Margarita Mix

Let’s start with non-alcoholic margarita mixes, such as the popular Big Bucket margarita mix.

Before opening, you should store such a mix in a cool and dark place. A pantry is a great place, but a cabinet in the kitchen will do too. Just make sure it’s not in a place where the temperature fluctuates.

Once you open the bottle, or in case of Big Bucket the bucket, you should store it in the fridge for the best quality. If, after opening, you leave the mix in the pantry, it won’t go bad, but it’ll lose its freshness much faster than if you keep it chilled.

When it comes to ready-to-drink margarita mixes with tequila, such as the one sold by Jose Cuervo, storage guidelines are pretty similar. Before you open the bottle, store it in the pantry or kitchen cabinet. After you open the bottle, it’s probably best to keep it refrigerated.

Tip

Since mixes that already include tequila have a good amount of alcohol, they probably fare better at room temperature than non-alcoholic mixes, so storing in the pantry for a limited period is an option.

Margarita on the lake
(credit: Luke Bender)

No matter if it’s a non-alcoholic mix or a ready-to-serve one, always make sure it is sealed tightly when not in use.

If the cap is damaged, broken, or simply lost (Cinco de Mayo parties..), pour the mix into another bottle that you can seal. Alternatively, if you don’t have access to a spare bottle at the moment, you need to channel your inner MacGyver and find a temporary solution. One possibility is to cover the bottle’s opening with plastic wrap and secure it with a rubber band.

Let’s finish this section with a few words about freezing margarita-mix. Generally speaking, freezing store-bought margarita mix rarely makes sense because its shelf life is quite long. Fresh homemade margarita mixes, on the other hand, are frozen quite often and with great results.

How Long Does Margarita Mix Last

Margarita mixes, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic ones, have a quite long shelf life and usually don’t go bad in the traditional sense of this word.

Each bottle comes with a best-by or use-by date, but those dates only inform for how long the product should be of best quality. That doesn’t mean the mix will spoil or become undrinkable a week or month after.

That means that with time the flavor of the mix will degrade slowly. And as long as the seal remains intact, the degradation process goes on very slowly. An unopened margarita mix can easily last for a year or even two past the date on the label. That means that the leftover unopened bottle can easily be used in next year’s Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Margarita drink garnished with a slice of lime

Once you open the bottle, the taste profile starts to degrade faster. Obviously, the sooner you use the mix after opening, the better quality you will get. But if you don’t drink tequila that often, leaving the mix in the fridge for a few months is fine. After those few months, you might notice a slight change of taste, but the liquid will be safe for consumption and still quite good.

What about storing that opened mix for a whole year for the next Cinco de Mayo? Well, it’s difficult to say how good it will be. My best piece of advice would be to taste it a few days before the celebration and decide if it’s good enough for the party. If it’s not, you still have some time to buy a new mix or make one yourself.

 PantryFridge
Margarita mix (Unopened)Best By + 1 year 
Margarita mix (Opened) 6 – 9 months

Please note the dates in the table are approximate and for the best quality only. Margarita mix often will last much longer in reasonably good condition.

Buttermilk margarita garnished with lime skin
(credit: Johann Trasch)

How To Tell If Margarita Mix Is Bad?

Margarita mix, unless you leave the bottle uncapped, most likely won’t go bad in a way it will be unsafe to drink. But sometimes life finds its way and things don’t go according to plan.

Because of that, if you find that your mix smells odd (like extra sour), is discolored, or there are any particles in the bottle, discard it. Same thing if, for whatever reason, you’re not sure that it’s safe to drink.

We, humans, have pretty good intuition when it comes to spotting unsafe food, so you should use it. If it seems perfectly fine, give it a taste. If it tastes good, feel free to enjoy it.

What’s more likely to happen is that the margarita mix you have stored for quite some time will taste flat. It won’t smell fresh, and after a sip or two, you’ll notice that it doesn’t quite hit the spot.

If that’s the case, you can discard the mix for quality purposes. Another option is to try to revive it with some fresh lime or lemon juice. That might help, but I cannot guarantee you’ll be happy about the result.

Either way, there’s no point in mixing good tequila with flat-tasting margarita mix. If the mix tastes bad, cut your losses and throw it out.