You’ve hung up the decorations, put out the snacks and vacuumed the living room. It’s holiday house party season once again, but before you start taking coats and making small talk you still have one chore left—cleaning out the liquor cabinet.
Let’s take a quick look at your collection. Any unopened bottles of white or brown spirits that have been stored upright and away from sun or heat should be fine, even if they’re decades old. But, unlike wine, once liquor is bottled it stops aging. So that 12-year-old Scotch you bought in Edinburgh 10 years ago is still just a 12-year-old.
Next toss any vermouth that’s been open for longer than three months—store your next bottle in the fridge. Liqueurs should also be thrown out if they were opened more than a couple of years ago. (To make things easier some brands, like Baileys, actually list an expiration date on the bottle.) Sherries and ports are very delicate and once opened last only a few fleeting days or, at most, weeks. Anything older than two months needs to go.
Now the hard part: figuring out which open spirits bottles are still good. Oxygen is no friend of alcohol. The less liquid left in a bottle the faster you should finish it. Take off the cap and take a whiff. Faded or off aromas mean it’s past its prime. Still can’t tell? Pour yourself a dram and take a small sip. If the liquor tastes like a shadow of its former self, chuck it. But if it tastes good, have another drink. You deserve it.