Does Tonic Water Go Bad

If you just found a bottle of tonic water sitting in the cabinet for over a year, the question “does tonic go bad?’ pops up immediately.

Maybe you wanted to make some cocktails, or simply drink a glass of tonic water with lime, but now you’re not quite sure if it’s still safe to drink.

Fortunately for you, similarly to other carbonated drinks, tonic water lasts quite a long time in an unopened bottle. Once you open the bottle, the time it remains at peak quality is limited.

If you’d like to learn more about storage, shelf life, and going bad of this soft drink with quinine, read on.

The Tonic Water
Image used under Creative Commons from Antonio

How To Store Tonic Water

To keep the unopened bottle of tonic fresh and bubbly, you should store it in the fridge or the pantry. Choose a place that’s dry and away from sunlight and any sources of heat.

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Refrigerating an unopened bottle of tonic doesn’t really extend its shelf life much, but it’s useful to keep the liquid chilled.

Once you open the bottle, the best place to store the leftover tonic water is the fridge, in a tightly sealed bottle. That means tonic water needs refrigeration after opening.

Of course, if you’re going to use the whole bottle the same day you open it, chilling in the fridge isn’t really required. It won’t make much of a difference. If you, however, want to store the tonic for a few more days then the fridge is a must.

Gin and tonic
(credit: Helen Thomas)

How Long Does Tonic Water Last

Tonic water comes with a date on the label. Usually, it’s the best-by date, which informs you how long the product should remain at best quality.

Of course, the unopened bottle of tonic water will remain safe to drink and bubbly for much longer. You can easily assume that the beverage will last at least a few months past the date on the package, if not more.

If the seal is perfectly intact, the bottle can last years. With a quick search online you can find a dozen stories of people who opened tonic water that’s 3-5 years after the best-by date, and it was still fine.

Once you open the bottle, things change drastically. At room temperature the tonic water will remain good for a day, maybe two. If you chuck it into the fridge, it will last for a few more days. And by “good” I mean it will retain its flavor and the bubbliness you are looking for.

After a few days, just like soda, it will lose its carbonation, and become flat and watery. It will be still safe for consumption, but without one of its most important qualities, you will probably choose to discard it. In other words, it won’t work that well in gin and tonic (even if it’s with grenadine), or any other drinks for that matter.

 PantryFridge
Tonic (Unopened)Best By + 1 yearBest By + 1 year
Tonic (Opened)1 – 2 days3 – 5 days

Please note that the time constraints above are for best quality only.

Glass of gin and tonic
(credit: Louis Hansel)

How To Tell If Tonic Water Is Bad

Generally speaking, tonic water doesn’t easily go bad in a way that it’s unsafe to drink if you store it properly. Unless contaminants get into the bottle, it will last quite some time.

When it comes to an unopened bottle of tonic water, it usually lasts years after the date on the label.

If the bottle that’s a bit old looks perfectly fine, the tonic is most likely safe to drink and still bubbly. If that’s the case, pour some into a glass, check out its smell and look for discolorations (e.g., yellowish tint).

If it looks and smells okay, give it a taste and decide what to do with it based on that. Provided that it tastes okay, feel free to use the rest. Otherwise, just pour it down the drain.

What about an opened bottle of tonic water that’s sitting in the fridge for a few days, you ask?

Start off by giving it a taste before preparing any drinks. If it’s still bubbly, feel free to use it. If the taste is flat or watery, the cocktails probably won’t turn out as good as you’d like.

In that case, you can either discard it for quality purposes or use it. It’s up to you really, as the tonic will be safe to drink, but the flavor won’t be that great.

If you found an opened bottle of tonic water that’s sitting in the cabinet for who knows how long, just toss it out. Same thing if your senses tell you there’s something wrong with the beverage. The best list of signs of a product being spoiled won’t replace common sense and trusting your gut.