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Your Messy Liquor Cabinet Is Messing Up Your Booze

Wine should be kept on its side, sherry should be kept in the fridge and peach schnapps should be kept in the trash

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that my booze stash consists of a half-empty bottle of 2-year-old vodka in the freezer, a random assortment of maybe three beers in the fridge and a cheap bottle of red wine that was opened at some unknown point in time on the kitchen counter.

I know, it’s sad.

In an effort to transform my liquor cabinet from collegiate to sophisticated, I reached out to Master Sommelier Randall Bertao for some advice about how best to store my booze. Given his profession, we naturally started with wine (which is arguably the booze that’s most prone to going bad). “Laying a bottle of wine on its side is beneficial for bottles that use corks as stoppers,” Bertao explains, adding that bottles sealed with a screw cap can be kept upright. “It’s imperative to keep the cork moist by maintaining contact with the wine — this assists in preventing or limiting the cork from drying out and shrinking, and therefore, allowing air to enter the bottle. The most damaging things to wine are air, heat and light.” That’s largely because aerated wines will inevitably begin to oxidize, causing the flavors and aromas to flatten out.

Bertao is far less concerned with how hard liquor is stored. “Generally, other forms of alcohol, such as whiskey and brandy, don’t change much after bottling,” he explains. “It’s still recommended, though, that you keep them in a moderate to cool temperature.” The general rule of thumb is to store liquor at room temperature; however, fortified wines (like vermouth, port and sherry) as well as cream-based liqueurs (like Baileys Irish Cream) should be kept in the fridge to prevent spoilage.

Above all, every form of booze (including beer) should be kept away from direct sunlight. While the rays won’t necessarily spoil the liquor, extended exposure to the sun can speed up the oxidation process, which again, can change the flavor over time. Researchers from Bacardi even found that bourbon exposed to sun for only 15 days lost 10 percent of its color, and scotch a whopping 40 percent.

As per that bottle of vodka I have hidden away in my freezer, that’s not a problem: There’s no harm in storing hard liquor in the freezer, since the alcohol won’t freeze.

Alternatively, you could just drink all of your booze before it has the chance to go bad. Just make sure to leave enough for a little hair of the dog when you wake up.