Article Thumbnail

Is Vodka Immortal?

That Smirnoff bottle may be older than you are, but trust me — you can still put it in your mouth

It’s been another long day in another long year, and you’re thirsty for a big cup of liquor. You check the fridge: Nothing. You scour the pantry: Nope. You peek under the bed: Aha, a jug of vodka!

As you retrieve the vodka, memories come flooding back: It must have been at least a decade ago when you drunkenly stashed it under the bed. But there’s no time to reminisce, because you’re parched and need a drink now. Does vodka go bad, though? Is this bygone liquid safe to slurp?

Good news: You can happily gulp to your heart’s content (or at least until you pass out), because Veronika Karlova of Girls Drink Vodka confirms that vodka never ever goes bad, no matter what it’s made from.

Vodka’s invulnerability is due to its distillation process, which involves heating it in a still, isolating the pure alcohol and removing any inorganic compounds that might otherwise decay over time. All vodka in the U.S. is distilled to 95 percent ethyl alcohol, Karlova says, and alcohol in such high concentrations massacres a broad range of germs, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. All spirits are high-proof enough to avoid contamination, actually (although dark liquors, which are flavored by chemicals called congeners, are more prone to changes in taste and color once their container has been opened). 

Interestingly, though, some countries are stricter about this than others. While vodka in the U.S. is usually watered down to either 40 or 50 percent ABV, Karlova says that in Europe, the minimum strength of vodka is 37.5 percent, beneath which you may run into more expiration problems.

Still, it also helps that vodka is made from very few ingredients (either from fermented grains, like wheat, barley and rye or other delicious foodstuffs like potatoes, grapes, apples and even just plain sugar). That means there aren’t many chemicals in vodka that could spiral out into the food safety danger zone.

In theory, this means you could safely get crunk on the 200-year-old vodka recently uncovered from a shipwreck along the Polish coast, or the 14th-century vodka made by a Russian monk named Isidore, who, according to legend, invented the original recipe for Russian vodka. In fact, the only thing you have to worry about with old vodka is closing the bottle up nice and tight once you’re done. Otherwise, says Brian Donnelly of the liquor blog The Spirits Educator, the alcohol could evaporate. 

Now go ahead and enjoy your re-acquired vod— oh, you already finished it? And you booked a plane to Poland? You got yourself a diving suit, too?

Good for you.