What’s the best way to store a bottle of vodka? It’s an emotive subject and one that is peculiar to vodka. Some swear by storing it in the freezer, while others are adamant you should only keep it on the shelf. Many also ask if it can go bad if left in the heat, like in a car.
So, what’s the best way to keep your vodka and why?
Vodka is shelf-stable and doesn’t go bad easily. This means heat doesn’t damage vodka much and it won’t go bad if you keep on your shelf. But for long-term storage, it’s best to keep vodka in a cool, dark place, especially once the bottle is open. The only reason you may want to store your vodka in the fridge or freezer is to keep it chilled so it’s ready to drink without ice.
Vodka turning bad even in heat is rare but can happen. Should your vodka develop an unusual or foul smell or become cloudy or opaque, you should discard it. Don’t be tempted to risk your health for the sake of a few dollars.
Keeping vodka in the fridge or freezer
Since vodka is a shelf-stable spirit, you can store it pretty much anywhere short term and it will be fine. There is no reason to keep vodka in the fridge other than personal preference. Chilling your vodka won’t help to prolong its shelf life once it is open and it probably won’t chill it enough to make cheap vodka passable. If you want to store your vodka in the fridge, it won’t do the drink any harm.
However, there’s no real benefit either. The vodka won’t be cold enough for the taste to improve, but it will be too cold for mixing the perfect cocktail.
Another common storage location for vodka is in the freezer. Vodka has a high alcohol content, so it doesn’t freeze. It just becomes a little thicker in consistency, icy cold and ready to drink. No ice required!
We have been led to believe that storing vodka in the freezer is the correct method and will help it last longer. The reality is different. If you drink cheap vodka or if you only drink vodka in a cocktail or with a mixer, then the freezer is as good a storage place as any. In fact, for cheap vodka it’s the best place to store it. The low temperature helps reduce some of the harshness and typical burning sensation.
Suggested reading: Does Vodka Freeze Mixed with Water?
However, if you enjoy straight vodka and regularly spend a decent amount on a bottle, storing your vodka in the freezer is actually the wrong thing to do. Drinking your vodka super chilled means your taste buds can’t pick up the drink’s complexity and subtle flavors. If you find vodka too aggressive and harsh at room temperature, try adding a couple of ice cubes instead.
Because vodka is shelf-stable, you can store it in the freezer for a party and then move it back to the cupboard until the next party. The temperature change won’t significantly alter the flavor of the drink.
Vodka at room temperature – does it evaporate?
Although you can keep vodka indefinitely, it does still change with time. One change that affects an open bottle of vodka is evaporation. Over time, some of the contents will evaporate very slowly and this may result in a loss of flavor. If you drink your vodka with a mixer, you’ll never notice, and most people may not even notice if they drink it straight. Although some flavor may be lost, the vodka is still perfectly safe to drink.
Best place to store vodka
Vodka, just like any other spirit, is best stored in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight or heat. Once opened, you should ensure the bottle top is tightly shut to minimize possible evaporation or cross-contamination.
A vodka decanter may look stylish, but it’s not a good long-term storage option due to evaporation and oxidation. While decanting vodka is purely for aesthetics, a pouring spout is purely for practicality. If you run a bar or are holding a party and expect to pour multiple shots, a pouring spout makes for less mess and less waste. However, it’s not a good long-term storage option. Storing a bottle long-term with a pouring spout rather than a lid can result in unwanted additions to your drink such as fruit flies.
How long will a bottle of vodka last open or unopened?
According to Russian tradition, once you crack open a bottle of vodka you need to finish it. By putting the cap back on the bottle securely and storing it in a cool, dry place, you will be able to keep it indefinitely. If the bottle is unopened even better, you have more vodka to keep indefinitely.
While vodka does have a long shelf life, flavored vodka doesn’t always last as well. For example, Absolut Vodka recommends only storing their flavored vodkas for a maximum of 2 years after purchase.
Vodka, like all spirits, will last for years whether the bottle is open or not. This changes when you start to experiment and make your own infused or flavored vodkas. Once you start adding ingredients such as fruit or dairy, then you will need to store the infused liquid in the fridge and consume it relatively quickly. If you notice a bad odor or strange things floating around, ditch that bottle immediately!
Origins of vodka
Now that we talked about storage options for vodka, let’s get into some of its history. Vodka is the national drink of Russia and Poland and was traditionally the drink of choice across Northern Scandinavia, Russia and Eastern Europe. Traditionally vodka was made from fermented cereal grains, but today producers use potatoes, sweet potatoes and even fruit.
The exact origins of vodka aren’t clear, but we know it has been around in its current form since the 15th century. In Poland, it was initially used as a medicine and an antiseptic before gradually infiltrating society to be the casual drink we know today.
It wasn’t until after WWII that vodka started to gain a foothold in the USA through the brand Smirnoff. Vodka then shot to global prominence during the 1960s. It has remained one of the most popular spirits around the world ever since.
One of the features of all spirits, not just vodka, is they are shelf-stable. This was a significant advantage before the invention of refrigeration for the preservation of consumables. That said, it is unlikely that people kept vodka for more than a year at a time. Production volumes were low as the population needed the grain for food.
A high volume of early vodka production would have been on an annual basis, typically straight after harvest. The amount produced would then have had to last until the next harvest.
Traditional way to drink vodka
Vodka is traditionally consumed from a small glass and is either sipped or knocked back in one. Whichever way you choose, the vodka is typically chilled. There are two possible explanations for this.
The first is the climate of Northern Europe. All of the countries that traditionally drank vodka had severe winters with several months of snow. Even without a fridge or freezer, vodka would have been cold during winter because in some locations there is no central heating. The second reason is taste. When you drink any alcohol at a low temperature, the drink seems smoother. Consequently, lower quality vodka becomes drinkable and loses some of its harsh burn. As a significant proportion of vodka was homemade, it would undoubtedly have been a little rough!
Western way to drink vodka
So the traditional way to drink vodka is chilled, but generally, in Western culture, vodka is mixed in a cocktail or with coke, soda or juice. According to the experts, it’s best to use room temperature alcohol when mixing a cocktail as it allows you to best gauge the flavor. You chill the cocktail as you mix it by shaking it or pouring it over ice.
Like many distilled beverages, vodka has a very stable shelf life and won’t go bad, even if it’s been in the heat for awhile. While this may be the case, it is best practice to keep your vodka in a cool, dry area that is away from direct sunlight or away from a heater vent. When you finally crack open a bottle of vodka, there may be some evaporation. But don’t worry because this won’t significantly change the flavor.