We all have certain tipples that are associated with the holidays. You might like a festive G&T or a sherry, port, Baileys, peach schnapps, Disaronno, Cointreau, or a Hotel Chocolat Salted Caramel Vodka Liqueur, but whatever your Christmas drink is, you might not plan to consume all the bottles past New Year and then that lonely bottle of Baileys may sit in your cupboard until next year. I mean, how long have you had that bottle anyway? Is it still safe to drink? Let's take a look at how long festive drinks last when opened.
Why we love festive drinks
Festive drinks bring with them seasonal flavours and limited availability. However, their shelf life can depend on many factors, including the type of beverage, storage conditions, and preservatives used.
Traditional festive favourites like eggnog and mulled wine, which often contain dairy and alcohol, have a relatively short lifespan once opened. Typically, they should be consumed within a week when stored in the refrigerator. The presence of perishable ingredients makes these drinks susceptible to bacterial growth, affecting both taste and safety.
Alcoholic festive drinks, like speciality liqueurs and flavoured spirits, often have a longer lifespan due to the alcohol content acting as a natural preservative. These beverages can last for several months, even after opening, if stored in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight.
What's the shelf life of your favourite drink?
- Port: Fortified wines stay fresh for 1-2 weeks after opening. Tawny ports last up to 2 months. Vintage ports need to be supped within 2 days. Pop in the fridge to extend the shelf life, but be warned – they’ll taste like vinegar beyond 3 months.
- Malibu/Bacardi: Rum is like the glitter of the drink's cabinet: it's virtually indestructible. It'll last up to 2 years. Rum liqueurs may last 6 months to 2 years but keep an eye out for mould and the flavour fading.
- Gin: 6 months but high-proof gin can last a lifetime. Best if drunk within a year. Consume flavoured gins sooner.
- Vermouth: Vermouths like Martini are fortified wines, which can oxidise. Drink within 3 months. Unopened, it can last 2 years, stored at a cool temperature.
- Vodka: 18 months. Plain vodka can be kept as long as you want (another lifetime offering) but flavoured vodkas can lose their shine and need to be consumed within the year-and-a-half mark.
- Baileys: 6 months, refrigerated. Cream liqueurs like Baileys and Advocaat have lots of sugar and once opened, the contents deteriorate. Check for curdling before drinking if you've had it a while. Some brands have a use-by date on the bottle.
- Whisky and brandy: Forever and a day. For the more sophisticated palettes out there, whisky and brandy contain at least 40% alcohol, so they can last years. The prime flavour is best within the first 2 years but it's safe to keep as long as you store it properly. Unopened bottles can be kept in a cool, dark place.
- White wine: 2-7 days. White wine goes bad fairly quickly so drinking it faster is all the better (ideally within a day) but, let's get real, who keeps white wine open past an afternoon? Seal with the original stopper and keep it in the fridge if possible. Unopened bottles need to be consumed within a year.
- Red wine: 2 days. Keep in the fridge, tightly sealed after opening. Unopened mass-produced bottles need to be consumed within 5 years. Keep them in a dark, cool area without humidity.
- Sparkling wine: 3 days, sealed with a stopper. The fizz will go once the cork pressure is gone so try and consume as quickly as you can. Non-vintage champagne needs to be consumed within 3 years of purchase.
- Liqueres: 6 months. Any sweetened or distilled spirits with added flavours can be stored for up to 6 months, but keep in mind the advice above on bottles like Baileys.
How to store your bottles
Store your spirits upright and screw those caps on tightly (or stoppers), preventing leaks and metallic leakage from the lid. All drinks should be stored in a cool, dark place away from lights and radiators (and your teenagers). It's actually fine to store them in that forgotten kitchen or utility cupboard or under the stairs, yet most people will opt for a liquor cabinet of some type. Wines (including sparkling) when sealed should be stored horizontally (that's what those wine racks are for) to prevent the corks from drying out. This limits the chance of leakage or the cork disintegrating during opening. Of course, many wines have a screw-on top nowadays, so this advice may not necessarily apply.
Maximise the longevity of any opened festive drinks, by resealing containers tightly and storing them in appropriate conditions. Be mindful of any changes in colour, aroma, or taste, which can help determine if a drink has gone bad. As a general rule, if there are any signs of spoilage or an off-putting odour, it's best to err on the side of caution and discard the opened beverages (and weep!).
Sometimes we all need a tipple to get through the holidays with your offensive great uncle or the crazy nephew who terrorises your dog. Be sure to drink responsibly and make sure to consume within the dates above. But who are we kidding, you'll have it all in the recycling by the 1st of January like a responsible grown-up.Don't forget to check out our post on the official first day of winter, how to embrace hygge this Christmas, and how to keep your pet healthy this holiday (by making sure you're not accidentally poisoning your pet with these festive foods that contain harmful substances).