A good bottle of vodka is a vital addition to any liquor cabinet, whether you're a connoisseur who wants to savor it straight or a dedicated mixologist who wants to include it in cocktails. Fortunately, a bottle of vodka can last for a long time before it goes bad. This is especially true if the bottle is unopened.
Unlike wine, which changes and matures in the bottle, spirits such as vodka, gin, rum and whiskey do not change their character after they leave the cask. Because of its high alcohol content, an unopened bottle of vodka will neither improve nor deteriorate. As a result, vodka can be stored unopened indefinitely. Keeping it out of direct sunlight will help avoid fading on the label, which may reduce the bottle's value for collectors who hope to resell it.
The Right Conditions
Vodka is a highly resilient liquor and can survive a range of conditions well. However, although some people chill vodka in the freezer before serving, it should never be stored there for long periods. Distiller Russian Standard warns that storage at freezing temperatures can harm the vodka's natural aroma. You may chill vodka to 41 to 44 degrees Fahrenheit before serving, but it isn't necessary to store vodka chilled. Room temperature is fine.
Once a vodka bottle has been opened, its lifespan shortens somewhat. Spirits expert Ethan Kelley, interviewed on the Kitchn website, estimates that a bottle starts to lose its character after six to eight months. These subtle changes in flavor and aroma may not be noticeable immediately, but you may detect changes after a year. Even at this stage, the vodka is still safe to drink -- it simply won't be at its best in terms of taste.
Open Bottle Policy
Keep an eye on stored bottles to prolong their shelf life. A decreasing level of vodka within a bottle may mean that the cork is no longer properly sealing the bottle and that excess evaporation is occurring. If the bottle is stored horizontally, the vodka may come into contact with the cork, both damaging the cork and altering the taste of the vodka in an unplasant way.
Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.