Does Triple Sec Go Bad

So you’ve got that bottle of Cointreau triple sec sitting in the liquor cabinet for some time now. You opened it, made a few drinks, and pretty much forgot about it.

That happens all the time with alcoholic beverages. Now the question “does triple sec go bad” popped off in your head and you’re searching for the answer.

Fortunately, triple sec lasts quite a long time and does not require refrigeration. That means that your bottle of Cointreau is probably perfectly fine and free for you to enjoy it.

If you’d like to learn a bit more about storing triple sec, its shelf life, and if it can go bad, this article is for you.

A bottle of triple sec
Image used under Creative Commons from Dominic Lockyer

How To Store Triple Sec

You should store triple sec pretty much the same way you store hard liquors, like tequila. That means you need to keep it in a cool and dry area, away from sunlight and sources of heat. The pantry is the perfect place, but a liquor cabinet in the living room is equally good.

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In case you were wondering, there’s no need to refrigerate triple sec.

Once you open the bottle, the oxidation process starts to do its thing. In short, oxygen in the air reacts with the alcohol compounds changing the taste of the liqueur.

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If you’d like to check yourself how oxidation changes the taste of alcohol, pour a tiny amount of triple sec into a glass and leave it uncovered overnight. You’ll probably notice the difference in flavor the next day.

Fortunately, oxidation can be managed quite well by restricting access to oxygen.

The first and most important way to do that is to seal the bottle tightly when not in use. The second one is to pour triple sec into a smaller bottle once its original bottle is less than half-full.

Of course, transferring the liqueur into a smaller bottle makes sense only if you plan on storing it for longer than a few months. Otherwise, it’s not worth the trouble because the difference in flavor will be negligible.

When it comes to storing triple sec in the fridge, feel free to do that. As mentioned, there’s no need to keep it in the refrigerator, either unopened or opened. But, like with other alcoholic beverages, triple sec is best served chilled

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Storing triple sec in the pantry and chucking it into the fridge a few hours before drinking seems to be the best of both worlds.

A liquor bottle lot
(credit: Tim Mossholder)

How Long Does Triple Sec Last

Even though triple sec is a liqueur, it’s shelf life is pretty much indefinite. With its high alcohol by volume content of about 35% to 40%, it’s similar to amaretto.

It doesn’t contain any perishable ingredients, so there’s not much in it that can spoil. However, its flavor slowly changes over time, even in an unopened bottle. That means that after years of storage that slightly orange flavor might be almost gone.

Once you open the bottle, the speed of these changes increases.

To sum things up, it’s difficult to tell how long this liqueur will stay at its peak quality. One thing is sure, if you store it properly, that time frame will be years, not months.

Some bottles of triple sec might come with a best-by date on the label. Please remember that date is not an expiration date by any means. It just informs you for how long, at the very least, the liquid will be at peak quality. And since triple sec is very high in alcohol, it will easily last for years after that date.

 Pantry
Triple sec (Unopened)10+ years
Triple sec (Opened)3+ years

Please note that the dates above are for best quality only. Triple sec has pretty much an indefinite shelf life.

Does Triple Sec Go Bad?

Triple-sec is a high-proof alcoholic beverage, so it doesn’t really go bad. Unless, of course, you help it go bad be leaving the cap off, or allowing some contaminants into the bottle.

Alcohol acts as a natural preservative and keeps bacteria and mold from growing inside the beverage. That being said, over time the quality of triple sec will slowly drop, and it will lose some or all of its pleasant citrus flavor.

If you’ve stored an opened bottle of triple sec for a long time, it makes sense to do a quick exam before serving.

Check the smell and the flavor of the liquid. If the smell is off, discard it. If it smells okay, but the taste is somewhat flat and lacks that orange flavor, you have a choice to make. At this point, the quality of this alcoholic beverage is likely not good enough to serve it neat or on the rocks. You can discard it for quality reasons, or use it in cocktails.

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Triple sec works wonderfully in a host of cocktails, such as margarita, sangria, and others. Other ingredients in cocktails will make up for what the liqueur lacks.

As usual, if you notice that something is wrong with the liqueur regarding odor, appearance, or taste, throw it away. The human brain does a pretty good job of spotting foods and beverages that might make us sick. If an alarm goes off in your head telling you something is not safe to consume, trust that alarm and throw that thing away.