Does Tequila Go Bad?

Can liquor actually go bad? 

This is a question most of us have asked ourselves at one point. You may have found a half-empty bottle of vodka or tequila and you don’t want to be wasteful, but you’re not sure whether you should finish it or throw it away. 

Well, we have good news for you! Most alcohols can never really go bad, per se. However, they do have shelf-life, so once you open them they can go bad in certain aspects, like quality.

Let’s look at tequila. An unopened bottle of tequila can last you a lifetime if stored properly. On the other hand, if you open a bottle of tequila and don’t drink it within a certain time, it will probably lose all the flavor and aromas that make it special. This happens due to a chemical process called oxidation.

If you don’t feel like doing tequila shots, but you also don’t want to waste an opened bottle of tequila, there are some other ways you can enjoy it. For example, you can learn how to make cocktails and invite your friends over for a fun cocktail party!

If you don’t fancy cocktails, there are a few other things you can do. You’ve probably heard of many dishes that are made with wine, but did you know that there are also some meals that you can make with tequila? Guacamole with tequila and lime or tequila chicken fajitas are only some of the delicious, tequila-infused meals you can enjoy! 

Related Question: Does Wine Go Bad?


What’s Tequila Made Of?

People have been enjoying tequila for a long time now. Tequila was first introduced in the 16th century, in a small town called Tequila. Today, there are over two thousand brands that make this delicious drink. 

An interesting thing happened during the 1940s when tequila brands were claiming that a certain type of worm in tequila had aphrodisiac and even magical qualities. This was all a part of a marketing ploy and the truth is that the worm is actually present only in tequila’s lower quality cousin called mezcal. 

True tequila is made of a succulent plant called blue agave found in Mexico. There’s a lot of love and patience that goes into tequila making and many of the steps have to be done by hand. The plant alone takes 8-12 years to fully grow and be ready to harvest! 

The intricate process of making tequila is divided into seven steps, and each and every step has to be done carefully to achieve the famous tequila taste. Since tequila is a distilled spirit, it requires some time and certain processes, like fermentation, distillation, aging, and bottling. It’s important that it’s aged before bottling because once it’s bottled, it stops aging. 

Tequila’s been qualified into three main categories, all based on the age and the process of distillation. The categories are Blanco, Reposado, and Anejo.


How Long Does Tequila Last?

This is a tricky question. The thing about tequila is that, unlike with wine, if you store it for a long time, it doesn’t make it more valuable. Once it’s bottled, it will always stay the same as it was in the moment it was bottled. This is because with spirits, once they’re removed from casks and bottled, they simply don’t mature and improve. There’s a lot of scientific explanation behind this phenomenon, but in simple words, they no longer age.

This means that the quality of tequila is determined when it’s made, so once you open a bottle and you’re not impressed with it, no matter how old it is, it has been like that since the beginning. 

While an unopened bottle of tequila can be stored for a long time, once you’ve opened it, make sure to drink it within a couple of months, one year at most. Once it’s opened, tequila retains its peak quality for the first two months before it slowly starts to deteriorate. 

The period of peak quality depends on how you store the tequila and how much of it is left in the bottle. After you open a bottle, the flavor will slowly start to deteriorate, and will most likely be gone within one year.

If you’ve bought or received an expensive bottle of tequila, storing it for years won’t improve the quality. You can still keep it unopened if you’re waiting to drink it for a special occasion, but the quality will be the same as it was when you first got it. 

If you think you won’t drink an entire bottle for more than two months, maybe a good solution would be to try to make cocktails. Tequila is an essential part of many delicious cocktails, so there’s no reason why it should go to waste!

So, the answer to the question of how long tequila lasts is simple –  the shelf life of tequila is indefinite!


How To Store Tequila

Tequila is a distilled spirit, which means you should store it just like you would other spirits like vodka, rum, and whiskey. The best way to store spirits, including tequila, is to always keep it away from direct sunlight and other sources of heat. The pantry would be the best, and the room temperature is okay too. 

This is the best option when it comes to unopened bottles. What causes the issues once you open a bottle is oxidation. In layman’s terms, oxidation is a chemical reaction that slightly changes the compounds in alcohol, and this results in changes in flavor and aromas.

The thing you should do to prevent or reduce oxidation is to always keep the tequila bottle sealed tightly. One simple trick that you can also do to prevent oxidation is to pour the tequila into a smaller bottle. For example, if you drank a quarter of the bottle and you won’t continue to drink it for some time, pour the rest into a smaller bottle so there’s not a lot of space for the oxygen.

The more oxygen in the bottle, the faster the oxidation process is, so pouring it into a smaller bottle will significantly slow down the process. You don’t necessarily have to do this if you plan to drink the entire bottle within a month, because the oxidation happens gradually, so in the first month, you probably won’t notice a decrease in quality.

One more thing that people generally disregard is the position of the stored bottle. With distilled spirits like tequila, you have to pay attention to some minor details. Don’t ever store a tequila bottle horizontally, always keep it in an upright position! This is important because it prevents the liquid from touching the cap. When liquor touches the bottle cap for a long time, it may cause corrosion that affects flavor and quality.


How To Tell If Tequila’s Gone Bad

As we’ve mentioned before, tequila has an indefinite shelf life. It won’t go bad unless there are some external factors that affect it, like not storing it properly. 

That being said, if you have an opened bottle of tequila that’s been sitting in your pantry for some time, it’s probably safe to drink it but the quality might be questionable. Give it a good sniff and if it smells fine, take a little sip. 

If there’s nothing wrong with the smell and taste, feel free to finish the bottle. Again, the quality may not be the same as it was when you first opened it, and depending on how long ago you opened it, it may not be as tasty. But if it still pleases your senses and it seems like there’s nothing wrong with it, just go on and enjoy it! On the other hand, if the taste is not as good as you wish it’d be, make the best of the situation and have a margarita! But, if the taste doesn’t feel right, it’s best to just throw it away. 

When it comes to liquor, like with food, you can always trust your senses. If the smell is off, or it tastes strange or bad, discard it because it’s not worth risking your health. The thing is, humans have great intuition when it comes to sensing whether the food is safe to consume or not. So, just trust your gut and you won’t be wrong!


Final Word

Alcoholic drinks are produced using different techniques and processes, and as a result, they have a different shelf life. When it comes to liquors like tequila, they are considered the most shelf-stable, compared to some other drinks like wine and beer. 

All things considered, it’s safe to say that your tequila probably won’t go bad if you store it properly and drink it within a certain time. However, at some point, if you have an opened bottle of tequila, the quality will start to deteriorate and it won’t be worth drinking. The strong flavors will begin to fade and in a year at most, it won’t be the tequila you know and love!

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