Does Vodka Go Bad?

If you found yourself with a half-empty bottle of vodka that’s sitting in the cabinet and started to wonder “does vodka go bad?”, you’re in the right place. Same thing if you have a bottle or two from your birthday party two years ago.

In most households, vodka is a kind of liquor that’s enjoyed rarely. We buy a bottle or two to make drinks when our friends come and are left with a half-empty bottle after the party.

Or we buy a bottle to have a fancy drink with our spouse, but we end up with a glass of wine instead. Preparing a drink means you need to look up some recipes and get the ingredients. More often than not, it’s much easier to open a bottle of wine.

In the end, that bottle of vodka is left sitting in the beverage cabinet, often for years at a time. The good news is, the vodka is most likely perfectly fine after all this time in storage.

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

How To Store Vodka

You should store vodka the same way you store other spirits, like whiskey, or vodka’s cousin brandy.

To keep its quality for as long as possible, you should keep it in a cool and dry area, away from sunlight and heat sources. If possible, the bottle should stay upright to prevent any leakage.

Once you open the bottle, you should seal it tightly using the original cap before putting it back into the cabinet. Any replacement caps probably won’t seal the bottle as good as the original one.

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.

Bottle of Flaming Caesar vodka
(credit: Jacalyn Beales)

If you would like to serve the vodka chilled, you can put it into the fridge for a few hours. To speed up the process, you can use the freezer instead. Don’t worry about the alcohol freezing. Vodkas freeze when the temperature is lower than -10 degrees F (or -23 C), and your freezer most likely can’t go anywhere near that temperature.

If your bottle of vodka is less than half full, consider pouring the remaining alcohol into a smaller glass bottle. The less air in a bottle the slower the oxidation process goes, and that means the flavor will remain great for longer.

Of course, following this tip makes sense only if you know the vodka will sit in the cabinet for a few years. If you’re going to use it next week, month, or in half a year, there’s no point in doing that. The loss of flavor in such a short period is negligible.

How Long Does Vodka Last

Vodka is a very stable distilled spirit so you can store it for a long time. If the bottle stays unopened, it has a literally indefinite shelf life. If the liquor was bottled in 1980 and you open it in 2020, it should taste almost exactly the same as if you 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 very slowly evaporates. If the cap is plastic, then it’s probable that the liquor will slowly start to change its taste after a couple of decades. That’s caused by the chemicals that are leaching out of the plastic. No need to worry about them, the amounts are minimal and don’t pose any health risks.

Once you’ve opened the bottle, the process of evaporation accelerates a bit. 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 and after a decade or two it likely won’t taste as good as when you’ve opened it.

Vodka (Unopened and Opened)Stays fine indefinitely

Please note that the date above is for vodka stored properly.

Smirnoff vodka and a shot glass
(credit: William Warby)

How To Tell If Vodka Is Bad

It’s almost impossible for vodka to go bad. You should note that alcohol evaporates faster than water, so the liquor is getting slightly weaker throughout the years.

If you store an opened bottle for a couple of decades in bad conditions, some of the alcohol will evaporate. If that’s the case, it’s technically possible that the liquid’s proof will drop low enough so that some bacteria or strains of yeast might be able to develop in that environment. In case that happens, you could get food poisoning after drinking that vodka.

That means if your opened bottle of Smirnoff is reaching adulthood itself, and you didn’t care for its storage much, it’s time to discard it. Again, this is the worst-case scenario, and it most likely won’t happen. The worst thing that can realistically happen to the liquor is that it’ll lose its taste.

Of course, the typical signs of going bad apply to vodka too. That means if the alcohol develops an off odor, you can find some contaminants inside the bottle, or it tastes bad, just throw it out. Better safe than sorry.