Whether you’re making it yourself, purchasing it, or even receiving it as a gift, drinking moonshine can be the perfect way to unwind after a long day – but if you’re rummaging around in your pantry and find an old bottle, should you be worried that it’s expired? How long does this alcoholic beverage stay good? Does moonshine even have an expiration date, and should you be worried about it going bad?
Here’s what cocktail lovers should know about the longevity of moonshine, whether it goes bad, and how you can tell if it’s not safe for you to drink.
Can Moonshine Go Bad?
This answer depends on what type of moonshine you’re talking about – standard moonshine or flavored moonshine.
Ask most moonshine purists, and they’ll tell you that moonshine is a corn-based, unaged whiskey that’s homemade and high-proof – sometimes up to 190 proof. This is standard moonshine, the purest form of moonshine, and because it’s liquor, you don’t have to worry about it expiring. Even if you’ve left that mason jar of unopened moonshine in your pantry for a year – or five – you don’t need to worry about it spoiling as long as you keep the top on it.
However, if you leave the bottle open, the moonshine may not completely spoil, but it probably won’t store for very long. Opened moonshine can evaporate and develop a different taste than the distinct flavor most people associate with standard moonshine.
And, if you leave it out in the sunlight (even with the lid closed), any moonshine can end up tasting poorly.
This is what most people are talking about when they mention “spoiled” moonshine – due to sunlight or air exposure, the flavor of moonshine can alter and taste “spoiled.” Consuming bad moonshine shouldn’t harm you, but the taste may not be pleasant.
It’s not uncommon for people who make moonshine themselves to experiment with the beverage, especially by adding different flavors. If you’re purchasing moonshine from a store or dispensary, there’s a good chance you’ve run across plenty of flavors – moonshiners have created everything from cherry pie moonshine to apple pie and key lime moonshine.
Flavored artisan moonshine includes flavor additives and sugar, and if it’s a fruit-infused moonshine, you may see pieces of the fruit in the actual drink. When fruit moonshine is in a sealed container or jar, the alcohol will preserve the fruit and keep the flavor more concentrated – although most people end up discarding the pieces when they drink it.
However, if you open your flavored moonshine and leave the top off, it does have the potential to go bad. The alcohol in your moonshine will evaporate, and any fruit in the jar may start rotting if the jar is open for long enough. The alcohol evaporation process still won’t happen anytime soon, and it could take years for an open container of moonshine to evaporate completely.
Which is Better For Long-Term Storage?
If you’re buying or making moonshine and you know that you’ll want to store it for several months or longer, you’re better off going with standard moonshine. Because flavored moonshine often contains pieces of fruit or added sugars, it’s usually a good idea to consume it within the first two to three months of purchasing.
Standard moonshine doesn’t have the add-ons, and as long as it’s not stored improperly, you can count on it to last for several years.
What is the Best Way to Store Moonshine?
Although plain moonshine spirits won’t spoil like some alcoholic beverages, there are good (and bad) ways to store it – especially if you want it to remain good for long periods.
While other alcohols are kept in wooden barrels, you’ll want to keep moonshine in a glass container and away from direct light– the darker the storage location, the better. Glass containers help preserve the characteristic flavor of moonshine. That’s why it’s common for people to make and store moonshine in glass mason jars.
Storing moonshine in a cupboard or pantry is always a good option, and if you’re looking to keep it for extremely long periods, some people may even put their moonshine in the fridge. This is especially true for flavored moonshine, which may keep better in your fridge.
Like most alcoholic beverages, you’ll also want to keep moonshine away from significant sources of heat. Moonshine has an extremely high alcohol content, and if it’s exposed to a high heat source, there’s the risk of a fire.
How Do You Know if Moonshine Is “Spoiled”?
Since poor storage techniques can “spoil” the flavor of traditional moonshine if it’s left out in the sun or exposed to air for long enough, how can you tell if your moonshine is spoiled? Whether you’re dealing with flavored or standard moonshine, identifying “spoiled” moonshine isn’t usually too difficult – and it all comes down to smell.
Standard moonshine doesn’t have much of an odor, although you may be able to smell hints of corn or alcohol if you’ve got a sensitive nose. Flavored moonshine can have a slightly stronger smell, depending on how robust the fruit flavor is.
However, if you’ve got spoiled moonshine, the most significant indicator is a rancid, rotting smell – especially with flavored, spoiled moonshine. If you open a jar of moonshine and it has a pungent, rancid odor, the taste is probably just as bad.
Although moonshine may not spoil in the same way that eggs or milk does, improperly storing a batch of moonshine can negatively impact the taste – even to the point where it’s undrinkable. The good news is that this process doesn’t happen quickly. Most moonshine types, especially standard moonshine, takes years to spoil, so you don’t have to worry about throwing out a jar just because you’ve left it in the sun for ten minutes.
As long as you keep your moonshine in a dark cupboard or the fridge, you should be able to count on your supply of moonshine lasting up to several years.