I’ve been storing all my liquor in my refrigerator and freezer but the bottles are taking up a lot of space. Is it OK to let them sit at room temperature once they’ve been opened and refrigerated? Can I just take them out of the refrigerator and stick them all in a cupboard somewhere, and they’ll still be fine?
Here’s an answer that will make you smile: Yes! For the most part, there’s no need to refrigerate or freeze liquor whether it’s still sealed or already opened.
Hard liquors like vodka, rum, tequila, and whiskey; most liqueurs, including Campari, St. Germain, Cointreau, and Pimm’s; and bitters are perfectly safe to store at room temperature. Essentially every liquor mentioned in this Bar Cart post on stocking your home bar with the notable exception of already-opened vermouth can and should be stored without refrigeration.
In college, I always stored vodka in my freezer because that’s what I’d seen everyone else doing. Poor, naive Casey. Really, it’s only necessary to keep a bottle of vodka frozen if you’re in the habit of doing straight-up chilled vodka shots, and the only time I’ve done that in recent history is under duress (and after a few glasses of Champagne) at a friend’s wedding. I do, however, keep my limoncello in the freezer, because those chilled shots go down much easier.
That notable exception of vermouth I mentioned above is because vermouth is actually a fortified wine. And like regular wine, it will eventually oxidize, so it needs to remain in the fridge once it’s been uncorked. Vermouth and dessert wines like vin santo, ice wine, and the like thankfully have a longer refrigerator shelf life than their regular wine counterparts, and won’t turn vinegary and sour in the span of a few days. But they will slowly start to lose their nuances of flavor, and after a few months—six, max—they’re probably goners.
As for beer, guess what? It’s an urban legend that once a beer has been chilled, you can’t let it return to room temperature or it’ll be skunked. As Binny’s, one of Chicago’s foremost beer retailers, says on its blog, “beer can go from fridge cold to room temperature and back to fridge cold with no ill effects.” So that case of Coors Light that a well-intentioned but taste-deficient friend brought to your last Super Bowl party doesn’t have to take up valuable fridge real estate until the next time the Steelers make the playoffs. It can hang out in a cool, dark corner until desperate times call for desperate measures.
And while it seems like something as potent as vodka or whiskey will last forever, according to the experts, alcohol begins to evaporate and the chemical makeup of the spirit begins to deteriorate after it’s been open for 8 months. For those of you who’ve been hanging on to that good bottle of bourbon for years, it’s time to get sipping.
Or you could just drink everything immediately and then you wouldn’t have to store it. I kid, I kid!