Does Tequila Go Bad?

If you stumble upon an opened bottle of tequila sitting in the cabinet for a few months, the question “does tequila go bad?” comes to mind immediately.

Or maybe you have a bottle of tequila you got as a birthday gift a few years ago, and you still didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy it.

Now that you’ve done a bit of research and decided if you want to try it neat, with lime and salt, or in a drink. You’re ready to try it out, and the only thing you need to do is to make sure that it’s actually safe to drink.

I have some good news for you: the tequila you’ve got is almost undoubtedly safe to drink, and most likely will taste quite good.

If you’d like to learn a bit about storage, shelf life, and if tequila can go bad, read on.

Botte of tequila with lemon
Image from Fidel Fernando

How To Store Tequila

Since tequila is a distilled spirit, you store it the same way you store other distilled spirits, such as vodka, rum, or whiskey. That means you keep it away from sunlight and sources of heat, in a dry area that’s relatively cool. The pantry would be best, but room temperature is okay too.

Once you open the bottle, oxidation starts to be a problem. In short, oxidation is a process that slightly changes the compounds in alcohol. That results in altered flavor.


To experience the results of oxidation you can leave some tequila in a shot glass for 24 to 48 hours and compare its taste with tequila poured right out of the bottle. If you have a bit of experience with the drink, you should notice the difference.

The critical step to prevent oxidation is to keep the bottle of tequila sealed tightly when not in use.

If you drink tequila in small amounts and only on rare occasions, you might want to pour the alcohol into a smaller bottle once the original one is about half-empty. The more oxygen in the bottle, the faster the oxidation process, therefore pouring the spirit into a smaller bottle will slow down the process.

Of course, that only makes sense if you plan on storing the opened tequila for more than a few months. The oxidation process proceeds gradually, so if you finished the bottle in a month or two, the quality gains would be negligible.

Label on the bottle of tequila
Image used under Creative Commons from fasteddy760

How Long Does Tequila Last

This question might be a little tricky. Spirits, once they’re removed from casks and bottled, cease to mature and improve. In other words, they no longer age.

That’s why storing tequila for a long time doesn’t make it more valuable. Once it’s bottled, it stays pretty much the same as in the moment it was bottled. So, if the quality of the tequila you’ve just opened isn’t good enough, it most likely was that way right from the beginning.

Basically, the shelf life of tequila is indefinite.

Please note that once you compromise the seal, meaning you’ve opened the bottle at least once, it’s suggested to drink the tequila within a year. That’s approximately how long the liquor remains at peak quality.

After opening the bottle, the flavor and aroma will very slowly start to deteriorate. Of course, as I already mentioned, the speed of deterioration depends on how you store the alcohol and how much is left in the bottle.

Tequila (Unopened or Opened)Stays safe indefinitely

How To Tell If Tequila Is Bad

As I’ve mentioned earlier, tequila has basically an indefinite shelf life. That means it doesn’t go bad unless you help it.

If you have an opened bottle sitting in the cabinet for a long time, it’s most likely safe to drink. Give it a good sniff, and if the smell is okay, drink a tiny amount.

If the taste is perfectly acceptable, feel free to drink it neat or with lime and salt. If the taste isn’t that great, but it’s not that bad either, consider using it in a cocktail like a margarita. The additional ingredients will help mask some of the tequila’s imperfections. If the taste is subpar, it’s probably best to discard it.

One more reminder when it comes to food spoilage in general: it’s important to trust your senses. If something seems wrong with the liquor, like the smell is off, or the taste odd, discard it. Humans, like other animals, have great intuition when it comes to sensing that food is not safe to consume. If you’re not sure it’s okay, throw it out.

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