Does vodka go bad? I can categorically and absolutely state that vodka does not go bad.
Although it may seem like an excessively straightforward statement, it really is that simple. Nevertheless, it may interest you to know the exact circumstances and conditions behind this claim.
After all, the FDA has made us all a little nervous with their torrent of labels and warnings, and we wouldn’t want to get sick. Here we will outline how and why vodka is practically immune to the same laws that govern other foods, including most other alcohols.
But why doesn’t vodka go bad?
First off, we should define what we mean by “going bad,” because you can take it as one of two meanings. In English, this can imply either that your food tastes horrible or that you can get sick upon consuming it, although the two definitions are often used interchangeably.
Vodka cannot lose as much taste because it’s meant to be tasteless and odorless from the outset. Even though it isn’t exactly without taste, it’s subtle, difficult to define and considered unpleasant by many.
If it doesn’t have much of a taste to begin with, and the taste may not even be desirable anyway, then it’s not very easy or even meaningful for it to lose the taste or start to taste bad.
On the other side, food can go bad due to bacterial growth after being out at room temperature for too long. It turns out that vodka, being 40% ethanol alcohol, is an inhospitable environment for such bacteria, which cannot survive at above 25% alcohol content.
However, many different things are being called “vodka” these days, even such as have a somewhat low content of alcohol. Be careful if your vodka happens to be, say, a 50-proof flavored vodka.
So What Happens to Old Vodka?
Vodka will reportedly begin to evaporate very slowly if it has been opened.
This does not mean that after a few weeks your half-empty liter of vodka will be gone. It can take decades for the quantity of the spirit to diminish significantly.
At some point, more than a decade after opening it, the vodka’s alcohol content may dip lower than the recommended minimum for long-term storage, 25%, through evaporation.
While most of us don’t have alcohol-measuring devices or the knowledge and patience to do it ourselves (you can find out alcohol content by weighing and boiling), if the drink has a funky smell or a very odd taste after ten years, you can safely suspect something is wrong with it. In that case, common sense would dictate that you should throw the vodka out.
What About Heat and Light?
Many alcohol enthusiasts passionately rail against the exposition of their favorite liquors to heat and light. Even for vodka, they contend that a cold, dark place is the best storage area for the spirit.
Vodka should also be closed tightly to protect it against oxidation. As with light or heat, too much air interacting with the contents of the bottle can lead to a change in taste or consistency which is undesirable.
However, everything is relative to the ends you aim to achieve with the drink. While vodka is not tougher than any other alcohol concerning its ability to take heat, light, and oxygen, its taste tends to be of less importance to most people who consume it than, for example, rum or whiskey.
Since vodka can keep its alcoholic kick despite being bashed by the sun or other light and heat sources, 7-year-old vodka may not make any difference to you. If it loses its flavor, most people will just mix it with something else, anyway.
Does the Same Go for Flavored Vodkas?
Flavored vodkas are a whole different beast entirely. You can consider them to be similar to drinks other than vodka, such as wine or whiskey, in fact.
First of all, whether it’s coconut vodka or churro vodka, the taste of the drink is integral to its identity. As the taste can be diluted by time, heat, and light, it is best to drink the product quickly and keep it in a cool, dark place.
Absolut (brand name) recommends that their flavored line be consumed within two years of purchase for best taste. If it’s opened, the chemicals of the flavoring will begin to leave the drink even sooner, so, for the sake of taste, it’s best to consume the flavored beverages soon after opening them.
While flavored vodka is not as sensitive as something like wine or cream-based alcohols, many of which will not last further than a few weeks after opening, it’s still best to buy them right before using them. Leave the emergency situations to plain vodka.
So, does vodka go bad? Well, vodka is somewhat miraculous for its ability to fulfill its duties even when it’s quite old.
If you just want something to spike your soft drink with and all you have is a 5-year-old bottle of the eastern alcohol, feel free to indulge. Of course, I would recommend smelling it to make sure everything is OK.