How Long Does Alcohol Last?

The type of beverage, the amount of alcohol in it, and how it is stored, affect the shelf life of alcohol

Whether you enjoy drinking sometimes or are an expert in exquisite wines and spirits, you may have pondered whether alcohol goes bad. Alcohol, after all, doesn’t have an expiration date listed on the label like other perishable commodities do.

Hand holding alcoholic whiskey brandy

We’ll look at the shelf lives of several types of alcohol in this post, along with other commonly asked topics about safe alcohol storage and how to identify when your favorite drink has gone bad.

The Shelf Life of Different Types of Alcohol

Alcohol, like many other items, can deteriorate over time as a result of a number of causes, including heat, light, air, and bacterial contamination.

Several glasses of different drinks

The amount of alcohol in the beverage, its type, and the way it is stored all affect how long it will last on the shelf. The normal shelf life of some popular varieties of alcohol is listed below:

1. Beer: Most beers have a shelf life of around six to nine months if stored properly, although some craft beers and stouts can age well for years. Light beer and lagers have a shorter shelf life than heavy beers due to their lower alcohol content.

2. Wine: Most wines, especially red wines, can age and improve in flavor for several years if stored in a cool, dark, and humid place. However, most table wines are meant to be consumed within a year or two of bottling.

3. Spirits: Hard liquors like whiskey, gin, and vodka can last indefinitely if stored in a cool, dark, and dry place away from sunlight and heat sources. However, once a bottle of liquor is opened, it can start to oxidize and lose flavor over time, especially if not properly resealed.

Signs that Your Alcohol Has Gone Bad

While alcohol seldom spoils or becomes harmful to consume, it can gradually lose its flavor and quality.

male alcoholic with bottle and glass drinking whiskey

Here are a few indicators that your booze has become tainted:

1. Beer: If your beer smells or tastes sour, skunky, or like wet cardboard, it may have become oxidized or infected with bacteria. Beer that’s past its prime may also have a flat or stale taste.

2. Wine: If your wine has a vinegar-like smell or taste, it may have turned into vinegar due to exposure to air or bacteria. Wine that’s turned bad may also have a dull or off-tasting flavor, and the cork may be pushed out or leaking.

3. Spirits: If your liquor has a strong chemical or solvent-like smell, it may have been contaminated with bacteria or degraded due to exposure to heat or light. Liquor that’s gone bad may also have a harsh or bitter taste.

Tips for Storing Alcohol Properly

It’s critical to store alcohol correctly to preserve its quality and increase its shelf life.

Hand taking bottle of beer from shelf in alcohol and liquor store

Here are some suggestions for how to store various types of alcohol:

Beer: Keep beer in a cellar or refrigerator that is cool, dark, and dry. Avoid exposing beer to heat, light, or air because these elements might hasten its deterioration.

For the finest flavor, consume beer that has been opened within a few days.

Wine: Wine should be kept in a dark, chilly, and humid environment, like a wine cellar or a closet. To keep the corks moist and stop air from entering, keep the bottles lying down. Once a bottle of wine is opened, seal it carefully and keep it in the fridge for up to a week.

Spirits: Keep booze cool, dry, and dark, preferably in a cabinet or cellar. To avoid evaporation and oxidation, keep the bottles well closed. Avoid placing alcohol in direct sunlight or next to heat sources.

For the finest flavor, try to drink a bottle of booze within a year or two of opening it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Various alcoholic cocktails on a wooden table

Can you get sick from drinking expired alcohol?

While drinking expired alcohol is unlikely to make you seriously ill, it can cause stomach discomfort, nausea, and a bad taste in your mouth.

It’s always best to check for signs of spoilage before drinking any alcohol, and to avoid drinking anything that smells or tastes off.

What happens if you drink spoiled wine?

Drinking spoiled wine can cause stomach discomfort, headaches, and a bad taste in your mouth. In rare cases, spoiled wine can also contain harmful bacteria or chemicals that can make you sick.

If your wine smells or tastes off, it’s best to discard it.

Does alcohol evaporate over time?

Yes, alcohol can evaporate over time, especially if the bottle is not tightly sealed or stored in a warm environment. This can cause the alcohol content of the beverage to decrease and the flavor to become weaker. To prevent evaporation, store alcohol in a cool, dark, and dry place with a tight seal.

Can you store alcohol in the freezer?

While it’s possible to store some types of alcohol in the freezer, it’s not recommended for most beverages.

Freezing can cause the alcohol to expand and potentially break the bottle or container. Additionally, freezing can alter the flavor and texture of some alcoholic beverages, such as wine or beer.

How long does open alcohol last?

Opened alcohol, especially wine and beer, can start to oxidize and lose flavor after a few days or weeks. Hard liquors like whiskey or vodka can last longer, but may also start to lose flavor after a year or two.

To prolong the shelf life of opened alcohol, store it in a cool, dry place and try to consume it within a reasonable timeframe.

A man takes alcoholic drinks from the supermarket


A variety of factors, such as the type of beverage, the amount of alcohol in it, and how it is stored, affect the shelf life of alcohol. While alcohol seldom spoils or becomes harmful to consume, it can gradually lose its flavor and quality.

Store alcohol in a cool, dark, and dry location away from heat, light, and air to maintain the best flavor and shelf life, and aim to finish opened bottles within a reasonable amount of time. It’s better to throw away the beverage and try a new one if you notice any signs of deterioration, such a sour or off-tasting flavor.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian has been an influencer in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years. He not only loves to eat and drink at restaurants on a regular basis, he also knows the business inside and out.