If you have a well-stocked home (and by well-stocked, we mean full of booze), you might keep bottles of vodka in your freezer. This seems to be somewhat common practice. Many of our parents did this, and we never questioned it. Since vodka doesn’t really freeze (at least not in a commercial freezer), you keep vodka in the freezer so that when you serve it, it’s chilled and refreshing, like a glass of water. It makes sense – so why don’t we do the same for whiskey?
Here’s the thing, sticking any spirit in the freezer has its benefits. As the temperature drops, the viscosity (thickness) of a liquid increases. That means after vodka hangs out in the freezer for awhile it has a better texture. According to Claire Smith of Belvedere, “[vodka] becomes more viscous, richer. It coats the mouth.” The same can be said for any spirit (or liquid, really). However, with that viscosity comes a tradeoff: the muting of flavors and aromas.
As a spirit gets warmer, it releases more volatiles, compounds that easily vapourize. We know that if a spirit is too hot, the smell of pure alcohol can be overwhelming (see: why we put ice in our whiskey). However. when a spirit is too cold, the aromas and tastes might seem downright non-existent.
Now for vodka, this isn’t a huge deal, because in general vodka has less flavor and odor than whiskey. We’ll just say it: vodka is less complex than whiskey. It has less impurities. That doesn’t mean vodka is bad. Hey, it reportedly gives you less of a hangover than whiskey. However, to the average person, if you lose some vodka flavor, well, you’re not losing much. However, much of enjoying a dram of whiskey is taking in the nose (the same goes for wine, which is why we also don’t recommend freezing it).
Says Kevin Liu, Chief Cocktail Maker at The Tin Pan, “There are comparatively fewer volatiles in vodka, while the whole point of aging whiskey is to create desirable volatiles.” He adds, “[The whiskey doesn’t lose any volatiles, [they’re] just harder to detect when you have cold whiskey. Putting [whiskey] in the freezer and then taking it out will have no effect at all.” In general, spirits that have hung out in a barrel longer will have more depth than vodka, so it’s best to keep them out of the freezer.
Although you can keep vodka in the freezer, you can just as easily keep it (and the rest of your spirit collection) in you liquor cabinet, hanging out on a table, or wherever. To understand the shelf life or your booze (sealed and opened), check out our handy guide here.