I usually see bars keeping spirits at the room temperature. However, I have heard that some people tend to keep them in the freezer. Alcohol doesn't freeze, and having ice cold spirits readily available might be convenient.

I use hard liquor for both cocktails and to be drank without mixers, on the rocks.

So the question is: does it make sense to store hard liquor in the freezer?

More info:

  • I understand that cocktail recipes are adapted for spirits kept at room temperature, as introducing ice dilutes the drink. So the result might be different with very cold spirits.
  • I live in the tropics and the kitchen (where I keep liquor) is not air-conditioned, so the room temperature is frequently at around 30C and might not be appropriate, which is another reason why I ask this question.
  • 1
    Some liquors are meant to be served cold, others not. If you want to drink the applicable ones at a colder temperature, go for it! One way or another you won't harm the liquor by cooling it down. – Canadian Coder Oct 25 at 18:19
up vote 4 down vote accepted

This mostly comes down to personal preference. Think about it this way: beer can be served at room temperature or cold, but when most people (in the US) ask for a beer, they want a nice cold brew. Go to a place like Germany and their beer may be served at room temperature.

One overall benefit of storing any liquor in the freezer would be making it smoother on the way down -- it eases any burn on the throat. This can apply to just about any liquor, though some types of liquor have noticeable differences in taste when served warm vs cold. A couple that come to mind are:

  • Cognac (specifically Salagnac)
  • Deep Eddy Lemonade
  • Fireball

During the Hennessy shortage of 2017, many customers at our store had to look for alternatives. Those who didn't go for Remy Martin went for Salagnac. When cold, Salagnac has a very similar taste to Hennessy. When warm however, this isn't as much the case.

Both Deep Eddy Lemonade and Fireball have stronger, sweeter flavors at room temperature. When cold, the sweetness isn't as much of a smack in the face, and with fireball the flames seem to more along the lines of a smolder.

You do not put bourbon or scotch in the freezer. Both are intended to be straight or on the rocks. It doesn't make the liquor go bad in any way, but is seen as heresy and you may be shunned by friends or family. There is a noticeable difference in the taste notes of smoke and oak, so it's best to leave these ones out.

When it comes to the bar, it just makes more sense to have the alcohol out on display. It shows the customers what they can have, multiple bartenders don't have to fight for control of the freezer, and a large portion of their sales are from mixed drinks which are served with ice anyway.

  • 2
    In Germany beer is not usually served at room temperature. – Martin Schröder Oct 29 at 13:35
  • I've never been to Germany myself so I based it off of other Americans visits and google results. But in any sense, I was just trying to make a point. I guess another example would be candy bars. You can store them in the freezer or eat them at room temperature, in either case it's a personal decision. – Mercifies Nov 5 at 0:46

Does it make sense to store hard liquor in the freezer?

The short answer is: It depends on the liquor and the individual.

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 vaporize. 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. - Why Do We Put Vodka In The Freezer, But Not Whiskey?

I don't generally like my spirits that cold. One exception is drinks where the flavor of the liquor is largely overwhelmed by the mixers being added to it. If, for example, you are making a batch of cold bloody marys, using ice-code vodka means you don't have to dilute the drink as much with ice cubes.

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