First things first, you won’t see an expiration date on a gin bottle, so that suggests that at least as long as the bottle hasn’t been closed then it’s not going to go bad. And this is broadly correct – as long as you don’t keep it on top of a radiator or sitting in a south-facing window. Basically, if you keep unopened gin away from sources of light and heat then it’s going to be ok. As long as you don’t drop it.
Alcohol is one of the best preservatives around – this has been an established fact for centuries. Admiral Nelson’s body was pickled in cognac to keep it preserved on the journey back to Blighty.
However, heat and light will cause chemical changes inside any bottle of gin, open or not, and heat in particular will cause evaporation of the alcohol – clearly a worst case scenario for any gin fan. A dark cupboard is best for unopened bottles; once you’ve cracked the seal there’s no reason not to keep your gin in the fridge, which has the added advantage of making your ice melt slower in the glass when you make your G&T.
Here are some storage recommendations to keep your gin’s aroma and taste as fresh as possible for as long as possible:
Store the gin unopened until you’re going to drink it (talk about stating the bleeding obvious)
Store your gin as cool as possible – the ideal temperature is around 6ºC.
Store gin in the dark to protect it from damaging UV rays.
If you haven’t been doing any of these things with your gin, don’t panic – it’s still fine to drink. Gin doesn’t go off and it’s still going to be absolutely safe to drink (in moderation, obviously). The worst that can have happened is that you’ve lost some flavour nuance, intensity or alcoholic strength, so it might taste a bit different from a freshly-opened bottle.
To answer our question, then: Can Gin go bad? Not really, but it can lose a bit of its lustre if it hasn’t been stored properly. Not an ideal scenario, but it’s not going to hurt you. And once the bottle’s open it will inevitably but slowly change in character – so don’t hang about.