Alcoholics often come up with excuses why they should drink an entire bottle, six-pack, or even a case of their favorite, cheapest, or most expensive alcohol they can find. The excuses vary, but the results are always the same. They drink until they black out or become sick. In some cases, they lose control and experience a car accident or violent confrontation with one or more other people whose lives they impact immediately and often adversely. Over time, as the excuses grow, they often forget that they’ve made up these excuses and consider fiction to be fact.


One of the biggest myths that many alcoholics share is the idea that if they don’t drink X, Y, or Z type or brand of opened or unopened liquor, then they waste money on something that goes bad quickly. Yet, the reality is that almost every type and brand on the market is incredibly shelf-stable. 

In this guide, we cover the facts about alcoholic beverages in general and vodka, which is one of the most popular go-to drinks for alcoholics beyond beer and wine. We also discuss why it’s time for you or a loved one to throw away this myth and face the facts of addiction.

Do Alcoholic Beverages Go Bad?

In truth, any alcoholic beverage can go bad in terms of odor and overall taste. That said, there’s no evidence of unopened alcohol becoming undrinkable. In fact, marine salvage companies and researchers have found numerous historic, centuries-old shipwrecks that still contain hidden caches of various types of drinks in unopened bottles. 

Grain – and potato-based alcoholic beverages seem to do worse over time than other types of alcohol. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, a 200-year-old bottle of what might have been gin or vodka found underwater was drinkable. That said, most people wouldn’t want to drink it, though, because it had an awful smell. The BBC reported that beers from an 1895 shipwreck, even while kept perfectly preserved underwater in deep, cold, salty seawater, were horrible in terms of smell and taste. Bottles opened in the 1980s had an “atrocious…salty, putrefied smell” and matching taste. 

Grape -based alcohols, such as champagne and wine, seem to do better. Unlike wine, other distilled spirits like gin, tequila, rum, and whiskey, vodka stops aging once it has been bottled. Per Business World, bottles of champagne pulled up from the Titanic that had aged 170 years underwater at the time of salvage still tasted “sweet and fresh.” The wine remains drinkable without any fear of beverage poisoning for centuries. As noted by Atlas Obscura, a 1784 bottle of wine from a collection owned by Thomas Jefferson was described as “perfect in every sense: color, bouquet, taste” when tasted at the time of sale. Even a more than 1500-year-old Roman wine is still drinkable today, but likely has no alcoholic content and would have the same problems in terms of odor and taste as grain- and potato-based beverages.

What About Different Modern Vodkas?

Unopened bottles of vodka (around 40% ABV or 80 proof) made in the last century don’t actually expire due to their high alcohol content. Alcohol itself is a preservative. As long as you store vodka in proper storage below “cool” room temperature, dark place, it lasts unopened for 30 to 50 years before its potency and flavor diminish. These bottles have an indefinite shelf life. However, flavored vodka has a shorter shelf life.

Opened bottles do expire eventually is more likely to experience evaporation than a sealed one. That said, even if you opened a bottle today, it would last 10 to 20 years before losing those two important qualities of vodka people enjoy most. Only open, flavored vodkas fail to stand up to the test of time. The flavor becomes less distinct within three months. If the vodka has an added color, the shade diminishes much faster over time.

Light exposure (direct sunlight) and storage temperature also cause a faster breakdown. Most potency, flavor, and other potential problems occur because oxidation or reactions between the air and the alcohol, sugars, and any other part of the liquid cause a breakdown in the original structure of the beverage. For this reason, many people never buy flavored vodkas and invest in syrups to add to plain vodka.

An Alcoholic’s Myth Proven False

As you can see, vodka and many other types of unopened alcoholic drinks have a long shelf life and last decades without expiring or going bad in terms of color, potency, flavor, and odor. Unlike some other spirits, vodka generally does not come with an expiration date. For most healthy people, an opened bottle of vodka wouldn’t become unpalatable, and only slightly so, until they had experienced almost one-third of vodka’s shelf life after opening it. 

Given that alcoholics rarely live past their mid-fifties, with women surviving the horrific toll that alcohol abuse puts on their bodies slightly longer than men, a bottle of unflavored vodka that you opened today would continue to retain its potency, flavor and subtle alcohol odor for potentially a period equal to or a few years less than nearly half your lifespan. What does this mean? The bottle of vodka you opened today isn’t going to expire tomorrow. There is no reason to “waste not, want not” by gulping down the entire bottle in one sitting.

Anyone in a social setting who insists you’re behaving wastefully by not drinking an entire bottle of vodka while socializing is misinformed about this topic. You might lose some social respect by practicing moderation or stopping entirely after the first drink. That said, you won’t be somehow promoting wastefulness or adding to the modern problem of wasting water, beverages, food, or money. If you’re capable of drinking in moderation, nothing is lost by closing the opened bottle and waiting a few weeks or months to enjoy the taste again.

Caring Professionals Are Here to Help

Sadly, most people who seek this type of article can’t practice moderation any longer. They have genetic, mental health, or other reasons that prevent them from drinking socially without abusing alcohol. These issues often mean that they can’t ever drink alcohol again once they stop without the risk of abusing it again.

If you or a loved one is struggling right now with excuses and an inability to moderate the consumption of alcoholic beverages, please contact our caring team at Long Island Interventions to learn more about how we can help you or them. No one should have to struggle with alcohol addiction. Our society has normalized it in many ways. We can show you or your loved ones techniques to live a much healthier and longer life free of this addiction. We also specialize in other forms of rehabilitation that deal with legal and even illegal drugs that often become the next stage of substance abuse when alcohol stops providing the high an addict craves. Call today for more details.

Published on: 2024-02-26
Updated on: 2024-03-18