Open your fridge and take a peek inside; chances are, the only alcohol stored within its frosty confines is a bottle of bubbly or white wine and a bottle of vodka tucked deep into your freezer. If you're a wine- or cocktail-lover, something's not right. While spirits, liqueurs, and bitters can all be stored at room temperature, many other bar cart essentials need to be chilled once the bottle is opened lest they develop off flavors or even become moldy. Here are the most common culprits:
- Simple syrup: Whether homemade or store-bought, simple syrup and other syrupy substances like gum syrup, orgeat, and shrubs need to be refrigerated or they will get moldy. If refrigerated, simple syrup will last at least a month once opened, if not longer — toss it as soon as it becomes cloudy or moldy or otherwise looks off.
- Brandied cherries: While true maraschino cherries, like Luxardo, should be stored in a cool, dark place like a cupboard, as their syrup will crystallize if refrigerated, brandied cherries last longer in the fridge; toss them if they become moldy.
- Wine: Chances are you're already storing leftover Rosé and white wine in the fridge, but don't forget to give an open bottle of red the same treatment. Though most red wines are served at room temperature, they will quickly develop off flavors unless refrigerated; simply pull the bottle out of the fridge about 30 minutes before serving. Once opened, wine should be consumed within a few days; if you don't think you'll finish the bottle in that time frame, try one of these ideas for giving old wine a new life.
- Vermouth: Ever wonder why martinis rarely taste as good at home? Spoiled vermouth is likely the culprit. It may be stored among liquors and liqueurs at your favorite bar, but that doesn't mean you should follow suit. Unless you're going through bottles of vermouth (whether sweet or dry) at a bar's pace, keep it in the fridge. When available, we buy smaller 375-milliliter bottles, as even when refrigerated, vermouth should be replaced monthly.
- Sherry, port, and madeira: Like vermouth, these fortified wines do not have a high enough alcohol content to keep fresh without refrigeration. While these wines technically have a shelf life of about a month once open, more delicate varietals like fino or amontillado sherry will oxidize and lose their luster quickly and should be consumed within a week; any remaining wine can be used for cooking.
- Lillet, Cocchi, and other wine-based aperitifs: Essentially fortified wines with added botanicals, these will keep their flavor for a month or two if refrigerated but will spoil much quicker at room temperature.