It’s one of the most popular spirits for cocktails and it comes in various types and styles. But does gin go off, or does it last indefinitely? And what’s the best way to store it to preserve its flavor?
If you like a refreshing gin & tonic or an ice cold martini — as I do from time to time — chances are you have a favorite kind of gin. And while gin can last a long time, how you store it can affect its taste and quality over time.
In this post, I’ll answer whether gin ever actually goes bad. Plus, I’ll reveal some of the best ways to store gin so you can enjoy it for longer.
What is gin?
Typically made with grain, juniper berry, and other botanicals, gin is a distilled spirit that comes in a range of varieties.
It was first created in the 16th century by a Dutch chemist named Franciscus Sylvus as a concoction to help those suffering from kidney illness. Not long after, the drink became popular in England with both producers and consumers after a dispute with France led to a ban on liquor imports from that country.
Now, London style dry gin is one of the most popular types among gin lovers. But it’s also made in several other variations, each with its own distinct flavor profile. However, most commonly, gin is known for its citrus, pine, and floral flavor notes due to the botanicals used to make it.
Apart from gin and tonics and martinis, gin is also a key ingredient in cocktails like a Negroni, Gin Fizz, and Tom Collins.
How is gin made?
Gin starts with a grain mash, usually from wheat or barley, but corn and rye can also be used. During the distillation process, botanicals are added to the still to give gin its distinctive flavor. And while different kinds of gin are made using various production methods and ingredients, all of them include juniper. In fact, in order to be categorized as a gin, the liquor must use juniper berries.
Other common ingredients added to gin include spices like fennel, anise, and coriander, as well as citrus peel, all of which add to the flavor profile and aroma of the gin.
For the most part, the final product is a clear spirit with alcohol content between 40-47% ABV, a similar level to other hard liquors.
Different types of gin
One of the delightful ways gin sets itself apart from other spirits is the wide range of styles that gin producers can employ. Here’s a closer look at some popular varieties.
London Dry gin
One of the most widely consumed styles of gin worldwide is London Dry. It’s the kind produced by many of the leading gin brands including Beefeater, Gordon’s, Tanqueray, and Bombay Sapphire. Despite its name, this style is produced around the world and it’s the classic gin used in martinis and gin & tonics.
The “dry” in London Dry refers to the lack of any added artificial flavors. Therefore, this style highlights the juniper and other botanicals.
Along with a prominent juniper flavor, London Dry gin also coats the tongue as you drink it, creating a tangy, tart sensation. That’s thanks to dried citrus peels that are added during the production process.
If you’re looking for authentic Plymouth gin, it can only come from one place, the coastal city in southern England that lends this spirit its name.
It’s similar to London Dry in terms of the gin’s flavor, but generally features more prominent citrus and earthy flavors. Those come from the use of dried orange peels and various seeds and roots added during distillation. It also has fruity characteristics which make it a great option for cocktails that use fruit juices.
Old Tom Gin
This type of gin is essentially London Dry with a sweetener like simple syrup or sugar added. Not surprisingly, the result is a sweeter style of gin. It still has the tell-tale juniper notes that gin is known for, but this style also provides a nice balance in cocktails that use more bitter ingredients. A good example is a Tom Collins, which features a generous amount of lemon juice.
Navy Strength Gin
As you might imagine from its name, this style of gin is characterized by its elevated alcohol content. Generally, it comes in at around 57% ABV, a fair bit higher than strong London Dry gins which top off near 47%.
This style was also named for its popularity with sailors in the British Royal Navy, which commissioned the production of this variant. It was essentially designed to be a more potent version of Plymouth gin.
This gin style refers to the type originally produced in the Netherlands. But it also covers some Belgian gins. It’s made from a malted grain mash and then it can be aged in oak barrels for up to three years, which can lend it a yellow hue. Though not all genever is aged.
Genever also comes in two variants, Oude and Jonge (old and young). This doesn’t refer to aging, but rather how it’s distilled. The Jonge style includes more grain whereas Oude uses more malt.
And while it still has noticeable juniper and botanical notes, it’s more muted than those found in London Dry gins.
New Western Dry Gin
This gin variation is much newer than the other types. It was developed in the early 2000s by a pair of entrepreneurs in Portland, Oregon named Christian Kogstad and Ryan Magarian. They were looking to produce a smooth gin with a more subtle juniper flavor.
It has since come to represent an overall type of gin that emphasizes more botanical notes over prominent juniper ones. It can also simply be called American Gin.
Sloe gin is a traditional gin that is steeped with macerated sloe berries, then sweetened. The result is a slightly sweet, slightly tart, botanical alcoholic drink with a pink or reddish color and lower alcohol level, as low as 15% ABV. So technically, it’s more of a liqueur than a gin.
It’s one of the main ingredients in the cocktail Sloe Gin Fizz, which also includes lemon juice, sugar, egg white, and soda.
Does gin go bad?
Unopened gin has a long shelf life — it will retain its original flavor for several years if stored under the right conditions. Even after you open it, gin will not really go off or bad. However, you may notice the flavor or quality of the gin decline slightly over time. But we’re talking years, not months.
A good rule of thumb is to consume a bottle of gin within two years of opening it for peak freshness.
👉🏼 Related: Does Sake go bad?
How to store gin
To extend the shelf life of gin, the best way to store it is in a dry, cool place out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources or temperature fluctuations. So don’t keep it near your stove in the kitchen, for example. Instead, store in a cool pantry, liquor cabinet, or bar area that’s a bit below room temperature.
You don’t need to store an open bottle of gin on its side, but you should reseal it tightly to limit air exposure. The more it comes into contact with oxygen, the faster its flavor and quality can deteriorate.
⭐️ Tip: To limit the oxidation process and help maintain the gin’s quality, transfer gin from a half-drunk bottle to a smaller bottle, especially if you don’t plan on finishing the rest for a while.
Can you freeze gin?
Due to its high alcohol content, gin won’t freeze in conventional freezers as they simply don’t get cold enough. So if you prefer your gin ice cold, you can store it in the freezer for long periods. It won’t affect the quality or taste as long as you keep it tightly sealed.
Gin generally won’t spoil, but the flavor can diminish if it’s stored improperly. That can include storing the gin bottle without a lid or keeping it in a warm environment. Over time, the flavor in old gin may weaken or simply taste off. If you notice an unusual smell or taste in your gin, your best option is to simply discard it and get a new bottle.
You absolutely can keep gin in the fridge, especially if you like your gin drinks without ice. Refrigerating gin won’t harm the taste or texture. But for quality purposes, it needs to be tightly sealed and resealed after opening. That will keep out too much air, which can affect the taste over time.
More liquor answers
Get more answers to questions around various types of spirits. Check the posts below.