Christmas drinks guide: How long can you keep that bottle for?

13th Dec 18 | Lifestyle

5 things you need to know about the shelf life of popular festive tipples.

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At some point during the party season, most of us will be gifted a bottle of booze.

Of course, sometimes it doesn’t matter what’s inside the bottle and we’re just happy to let the festive fervour flow.

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But what if you’ve held it back and decided to save it for best, or turned your nose up at the label, shoved it in the back of the cupboard and are wondering if it’s still fit for duty.

To get the lowdown on the shelf life of drinks from Christmas past and present, Dean Euden from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) reveals all…

1. Sherry

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On the 11th day of our tonic advent calendar, we do the skinny with Double Dutch Drinks Skinny Tonic. But rather than pair it with gin, we've gone for sherry! The Lustau Amontillado is fairly dry and nutty, with some woody elements shining through. Whilst it's great on its own to sip, the tonic adds a modern touch to drinking it, particularly on the warmer days coming up – add a few drops of chocolate bitters, top up with tonic and OMG! Who said sherry was for fusty dining rooms and your granny? PS, we all need to drink more sherry. Because where else will all the whisky, rum and dark spirit producers get sherry barrels from to age their spirit? #cocktailco #cocktailhour #tonicadventcalendar #gintonic #tonicadvent #lovetonic #toniclovers #ginandtonic #gandt #crafttonic #christmascountdown #yourtonicmatters #sherry #sherrycocktails #howtodrinksherry #sherrylover #lustau #lowsugar #lowsugarlifestyle

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Lighter styles of sherry, such as a fino and manzanilla, will last a very short amount of time once opened, are best kept in the fridge and drunk within a few days.

Olorosos and amontillados would have been open to oxygen and ‘breathing’ in production, so they’re more robust. Amontillados should be fine for more than a month, whilst oloroso can last two months, perhaps a little more.

Pedro Ximénez, with its high sugar content, can last more than a year after opening, and all sherries will fare better kept in the fridge.

2. Port

Port, of any style, will be affected by oxygen as soon as you open the bottle and will start to change the profile fairly quickly. It’s true that higher alcohol and sugar content will offer some protection, as will refrigeration, but ideally the bottle should be finished within two weeks of opening.

Bear in mind, older vintage ports can be delicate and will be more prone to rapid degradation once opened. As a rule, I’d look to finish a bottle within 48 hours or less… and given that you’ll likely be sharing the port amongst family and friends, this shouldn’t be a problem!

3. Spirits

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You can relax with spirits, they have a high alcohol content and will last a long time once opened. What will happen though, is the flavours and aromas will diminish over time due to the oxidation.

For the short term (months), the effect will be barely perceptible. However, over the long term, you will notice the spirit tasting more subdued and flatter than before.

4. Liqueurs

Liqueurs aren’t much different from spirits in many ways, as they’re generally fairly high in alcohol, with most having a significant sugar content. As with any open bottle, oxygen will affect flavour over time, and keeping a liqueur for years will do nothing for it.

It does get a little more complicated with dairy based liqueurs, though for many cream-based liqueurs, they can last for up to 18 months after opening.

If you’re making a Snowball cocktail, Advocaat should be used much sooner, ideally within a month.

5. Light wines

Unsurprisingly, they wont last long once opened, two to three days at most, and again – if it’s an old bottle, expect it to degrade quicker. Sweet wines will last a little longer due to the sugar content, but they will lose many of the complex and lighter flavours and aromas if you keep them for too long.

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For champagne and other sparkling wines, remember that as soon as you pop the cork, the carbon dioxide will be making its way out of the bottle and into the atmosphere. If you seal it with a good quality stopper, it will help, but it’s best open it and share it with family and friends whilst it still retains its fizz and vitality.

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