Wine may get better with age, but what about liqueurs and other bar essentials like simple syrup? The truth of the matter is, it all depends! While spirits (not just the spooky kind) last virtually forever, that vermouth, not so much. Check out our expiration guide and learn exactly what to toss before 5 o'clock rolls around . . .

  • Spirits: These guys, well they last forever — to a certain extent. Although spirits do not get better with time, they usually have a high enough proof to subvert spoilage. While oxidation and evaporation will naturally occur, the best way to store them is in a small bottle and in a cool, dark place. The taste may change ever so slightly, but only the most serious of cocktail connoisseurs will be able to notice the difference.
  • Fortified Wines: Fortified wines like vermouth, port, sherry, and madeira are basically just wine with an extra dose of alcohol, and like any bottle of wine, they should be stored in the fridge if you aren't going to finish them that day. Here they will last for about three weeks. They may not taste as good as the first go-around, but they are still great for cooking.
  • Liqueurs: Similar to spirits, most liqueurs have enough alcohol content to last "forever." Liqueurs do have a high sugar content. If you are planning to keep them, be sure they are tightly sealed and keep an eye out for sugar crystallizing on the bottom, in which case you should toss. Cream-based liqueurs like Bailey's Irish Cream and Amarula should be consumed within a year of opening. You don't necessarily need to refrigerate them, but it's not a bad idea, either.

Keep reading to find out how long simple syrup, bitters, and other bar ingredients last.

  • Simple Syrup: Simple syrup keeps in the refrigerator for about a month, but don't worry — it's so easy to make that you'll be able to whip up a new batch in mere minutes.
  • Mixers: When it comes to mixers, be sure to follow the expiration date on the bottle, and once opened, refrigerate. Club soda, ginger ale, and tonic water should be consumed shortly after opening so they don't lose their fizz, which is why we recommend stocking individual-size bottles.
  • Bitters: Thanks to their high alcohol content (most are in the range of 40- to 45-percent alcohol), bitters last nearly as long as spirits, though their flavor may mellow slightly over time. Toss them if they lose their aromatic punch, but otherwise, feel free to hang on to your burgeoning bitters collection indefinitely.
  • Brandied Cherries: Everything is better with a cherry on top. Give your drinks that final touch with homemade brandied cherries or luxe maraschino cherries; once the jar is opened, they last refrigerated up to two weeks.
Photo: Emily Bibb