Your best bet is to store vodka in a cool, dark place. But we don’t always have that option. So if you store it somewhere exposed to heat, will it taste bad? Does vodka go bad in heat?
Vodka is one of the most stable liquors and can last for years in an opened bottle. However, exposing it to heat will hasten the evaporation of alcohol from the vodka, altering the flavor.
In terms of “going bad,” no, vodka won’t expire the way a carton of milk will a week after its expiration date. You probably won’t get sick from drinking vodka that has endured some hot storage and the resultant evaporation.
But the flavor profile will change when vodka gets exposed to heat. How much it changes will rely on how much heat we’re discussing.
Similar Question: Does Bourbon Go Bad?
Storing Vodka In the Kitchen
People who have bars in their homes don’t often set them up next to the stove, but if you store your vodka in the kitchen area, the ambient temperature will be higher there, due to cooking appliances and activities, than in other rooms.
Storing your vodka there will not have an enormous effect on it, because the temperatures won’t get too far above room temperature, even if the heater is going full-blast on a cold winter’s day.
Storing Vodka In a Hot Car
If you buy a bottle at the liquor store in the middle of summer and forget the bottle in your car, that’s another issue.
The temperature in your parked car can reach upwards of 160° F (71° C). That can drastically heat your vodka and cause the evaporation process to begin before you’ve cracked the seal. There’s also the risk of the bottle bursting.
We’re not talking about an explosion or anything, but heat causes the liquid to expand, so there’s the genuine possibility of a bottle bursting after a long time in a hot car. Not only will your vodka be lost, you’ll have to do some fancy talking to explain to interested police officers why your car smells like it does, but no, you haven’t been drinking.
Like whiskey and most alcohol, an unopened bottle of vodka will have a nearly unlimited shelf life.
When we say “unlimited,” we don’t mean that a bottle of Tito’s will taste brand new in the year 3,000. But 15 years or so? Sure. An unopened bottle could conceivably last up to 100 years.
The problem is oxidation. Oxygen, while it keeps us alive, also kills us and acts as a kind of poison to just about anything it touches. Think of rust— it’s the oxidation of the metal. You have a strong piece of iron, but over time, when exposed to oxygen, it will oxidize and eventually crumble to dust.
Oxidation in vodka isn’t quite that dramatic, but oxygen will change the chemical composition of vodka. That results in lower alcohol content and degrading flavors.
And yes, we’re still talking about an unopened bottle. No bottle of vodka is perfectly sealed, and every bottle from the distillery endures exposure to oxygen. Sealed in the bottle, that exposure is limited, but over several years, it will culminate into an oxidized bottle of vodka.
Once you break that seal, imperfect though it was, you expose the vodka to exponentially more oxygen. However, this doesn’t happen overnight. Vodka isn’t as fragile as that bottle of red wine you forgot to put the cork back on, only to find it was practically vinegar in the morning.
Provided you store the vodka in a cool place, an opened bottle can last 10 years or longer. The oxidation will occur slowly, and even after 20 years, that opened bottle of vodka won’t taste rancid. It won’t taste the same as the first sip out of that bottle, but it won’t have “turned.”
Some people like their vodka cold and keep it in the freezer. That is fine for short-term storage, although prolonged exposure to cold will alter the liquor’s flavors. Freezer-kept vodka won’t freeze solid and won’t cause the bottle to rupture, but it will have a diluted flavor, and it will pour more like syrup than a potent potable.
Light and the accompanying heat can damage the liquid, even in a bottle made from dark glass, so your best bet is in a cool, dark place. Like perhaps a liquor cabinet?
Your liquor cabinet probably has a door on it, which will keep light off the bottles, and while room temperature is perfectly acceptable for vodka storage, as with most liquors, the ideal storage temperature sits between 55° and 60° F (12°-15° C).