Does gin go off? How long does an opened bottle last? Here's our full guide to looking after your gin

Here at Craft Gin Club we regularly get questions from our members about how best to look after the beautiful bottles we send them in our Gin of the Month box. Naturally, nobody wants their precious gin to go off! We collected some of the most frequently asked questions we get asked about how to store and look after your gin; below you’ll find the answers to all of them! Gin-lovers, don’t fear: you will never drink a bad G&T again.

How long does unopened gin last? Will it go off if I don’t open it?

  • Unopened gin has a shelf life of several years - or even longer. So long as the bottle or seal isn’t broken, i.e. no air has been getting in, the alcohol will taste exactly the same when you do finally open it as when you bought it.

  • Unlike wine, bottled gin doesn’t get better with age! In other words, it would be pointless to wait and save the gin hoping it will improve with time.

Where should I keep my gin?

If possible, keep your gin in the fridge or, even better, the freezer. When you serve gin very cold, the mouthfeel is softened, and the texture becomes somewhat silkier, making it an even more pleasurable drinking experience!

Will my gin freeze if I put it in the freezer?

  • Gin won’t freeze because its ABV (that’s its ‘alcohol by volume’ level) is at least 37.5% - too high to turn into ice. So don’t worry about keeping your gin in the freezer, you won’t have any exploding bottles!

  • Try to leave a good hour at least for your gin to cool down, if it has been sitting at room temperature previously.

  • Having lots of ice cubes (and ideally, a chilled glass) ready to go will also help ensure the flavour of your G&T is at its best!

I like how my bottles look and there’s no room in my freezer! Does it matter if I keep my gin on a shelf in my kitchen?

By all means, keep your lovely bottles on display if you don’t have much room for gin to hold a permanent place in your fridge or freezer. However, don’t let it get too warm, or it might oxidise - it won’t become unsafe to drink, it just won’t taste very nice any more.

So don’t keep your gin next to the oven or on top of the fridge, for example. Store it in a cool, dark cupboard or shelf out of direct sunlight if you can’t keep it in the fridge or freezer, and it should be fine.

More importantly, though, gin should never be served at room temperature! So the essential thing is to either use plenty of ice*, or popping the gin (or your glass) in the fridge or freezer before you serve it.

*Contrary to popular belief, using lots of ice in your gin doesn’t dilute it more than just using a little bit; that’s because when you have more ice in the glass, it keeps it your drink colder for longer, meaning it’s less likely to melt into your drink and dilute it.

How should I store my gin to keep it fresh and tasting good?

  • Keep your gin bottles upright if they have a natural cork. If you lie these corked bottles on their side, the alcohol might cause the cork to dissolve a little bit into the gin, making it taste unpleasant. (You won’t have this problem with artificial corks.)

  • Make sure the lid is really tight. Apart from the possibility that the exposure to the air could cause the flavour of the gin to change, you don’t want any of your precious gin to evaporate!

How long can I keep the gin once the bottle is open - will it go off?

  • Here comes the science part! Once your gin bottle is open, the oxidisation process starts. Basically, the gin’s flavour will change (and get slightly worse) very gradually over time.

  • It’s preferable to use up an opened bottle of gin within a year. Although it won’t go off, after a year or more opened gin won’t taste particularly nice. (As if it’s going to last that long!)

  • To slow the process of oxidisation down, keep your opened gin in a cool (or cold) dark place, away from heat and sunlight, and make sure the cap is screwed tightly on.

  • Top tip: you might even want to consider pouring remaining gin from a half-drunk bottle into a smaller bottle (if you don’t think you’re going to be finishing it up soon). This will help slow the process of oxidisation because the gin will be less exposed to the air.

How can I tell if my gin has gone off?

It’s very unlikely that your gin will go off unless it’s been stored somewhere that has made it get too warm, the seal has been broken, or the opened bottle has been left so long between drinks that the gin has oxidised.

That said, you should be able to tell pretty quickly if the gin is off - just have a look and a sniff! If there are any strange particles floating around in it, or it smells strange, pour it away and open a fresh bottle.

Does tonic expire or go off?

It’s rare for tonic water (and similar mixers) to go off. The shelf life for tonic is pretty long - if you have stored an unopened bottle in a cool, dark place or the fridge, it should be safe to drink even after a year! Check the ‘best before’ date to make sure you’re using it within the recommended date range.

Once open, your tonic water will degrade in flavour and lose its bubbles pretty quickly. It’s best to finish the bottle within a day (or a couple of days at the very most). Keep it in the fridge between pours for maximum fizz and flavour.

And that’s a wrap! Hopefully you found that a useful guide to how to look after your gin. For more ginformation (see what we did there), cocktail recipes, gin bakes and more, browse our Craft Gin Club blog.