How long does sloe gin keep?

Sloe gin is a popular alcoholic beverage made by infusing sloes (the fruit of blackthorn prunus spinosa) into gin. It has a rich ruby red color and a sweet yet tart flavor. Sloe gin is traditionally drunk as a winter warmer around the holidays, but it can be enjoyed year-round. Many people who enjoy the unique flavor of sloe gin wonder just how long an opened or unopened bottle will keep once purchased.

Does sloe gin go bad?

Like any alcoholic spirit, sloe gin does not really go “bad” in the sense of spoiling or becoming unsafe to drink. The high alcohol content of sloe gin, usually around 20-30% ABV, prevents microbial growth that could spoil the liquor. As long as the bottle remains properly sealed, sloe gin can be kept indefinitely without worry of foodborne illness.

However, there are some changes that can occur over time after a bottle of sloe gin is opened. Oxidation from exposure to oxygen can slowly degrade certain flavor compounds in the gin, muting the vibrant sloe fruitiness to some degree. The sloe gin may also lose some aroma and develop more bitter, medicinal notes if aged for too long after opening. While not dangerous, these flavor changes mean very old opened bottles of sloe gin won’t taste as good as a fresh bottle.

How to tell if opened sloe gin has gone bad

There are a few signs that indicate an opened bottle of sloe gin is past its prime from oxidization:

  • Loss of the rich red color – Fading to a brown or orange tint
  • Diminished fruity aroma
  • Less pronounced sloe flavor
  • Development of unpleasant bitter, acidic, or astringent tastes
  • Appearance of sediment or cloudiness

An easy way to identify oxidized sloe gin is to compare it side-by-side with a freshly opened bottle. The differences in aroma, taste, and appearance should be apparent.

How long does unopened sloe gin last?

Unopened bottles of sloe gin have an extremely long shelf life. The gin is protected from deterioration processes like oxidation and evaporation by the airtight bottle seal. Sloe gin can remain at peak quality for many years if stored properly when still factory sealed.

Here are the general guidelines for maximum shelf life of unopened sloe gin if stored correctly:

  • Plastic Bottle – Up to 2 years from the bottling date
  • Glass Bottle – Up to 10 years from the bottling date

Higher quality small batch sloe gin aged for several months to years before bottling will typically last on the longer end of these timeframes. Mass produced young sloe gin may start declining in quality closer to the 2 year mark.

One thing to keep in mind is that very old unopened sloe gin may not taste the same as when it was initially bottled despite still being safe to consume. The fruitiness may fade over more than a decade of aging even before opening. This isn’t a food safety risk, but could diminish the overall drinking experience.

How to store unopened sloe gin

To get the maximum shelf life out of bottled sloe gin before opening, proper storage is key. Here are some tips for storage:

  • Keep away from direct sunlight and heat sources
  • Store upright in a cool, dark place around 55-75°F if possible
  • Maintain humidity around 50-80% to avoid drying out the cork
  • Don’t allow to freeze as expanding ice can crack the bottle

Cellars, wines fridges, and climate controlled cabinets are ideal storage places for high end sloe gin you intend to keep for many years unopened. Avoid leaving the bottles out on countertops or anywhere warm.

How long does opened sloe gin last?

Once a bottle of sloe gin is opened, its shelf life is diminished compared to an unopened bottle. This is because oxygen can now interact with and degrade the compounds that give sloe gin its flavor. There are a few guidelines for maximum shelf life after opening:

  • Glass bottle about 1/4 full – Up to 2-4 months
  • Glass bottle about 1/2 full – Up to 1 year
  • Well-sealed plastic bottle – Up to 1-2 years

Higher alcohol content and chill-filtered/laboratory produced commercial sloe gin will last on the longer ends of these timeframes after opening. More artisanal types with less alcohol and filtering may only taste good for the shorter duration.

How to store opened sloe gin

To extend the shelf life of opened sloe gin, follow these tips:

  • Replace cork or cap tightly after each use
  • Store upright in a cool, dark cabinet
  • Don’t store on countertop in bright kitchen light
  • Once below 25% full, consider transferring to smaller bottle to minimize air exposure
  • Never return unused gin from a glass back into the bottle

While refrigeration can help limit oxidation, this isn’t necessary as long as you keep the bottle away from heat sources and light. The key is minimizing exposure to excess air and oxygen as much as possible.

How to revive oxidized sloe gin

If you notice your opened sloe gin has taken on some unpleasant oxidized flavors, there are a few tricks you can try to improve the taste:

  • Stir in lemon or lime juice – The citric acid will help balance bitter notes
  • Add cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves – Warming spices complement sloe well
  • Mix with tonic water – Creates a simple gin and tonic with some fizz
  • Blend into cocktails – Masks off flavors when combined with other ingredients
  • Use for cooking – Adds depth and fruitiness to sauces, marinades, etc.

While oxidized sloe gin won’t taste exactly like a fresh bottle, it shouldn’t go to waste either. Get creative with using up gin that is past its prime before opening a new sealed bottle.

Does sloe gin need to be refrigerated?

Refrigeration is not required for properly storing sloe gin before or after opening. The high proof spirit is shelf stable and will not grow mold, bacteria, or other pathogens when kept at normal room temperature.

However, refrigeration below 40°F can help slow down chemical reactions that lead to flavor deterioration from oxidation. If you have space in your refrigerator or liquor cabinet, chilling sloe gin will help maximize quality and shelf life compared to leaving it out on the counter.

Sloe gin will also form chill haze when refrigerated, causing it to turn cloudy. But this has no negative impact other than appearance, and the haze will clear up again when brought back to room temperature.

How to freeze sloe gin

While refrigerating sloe gin can extend its shelf life after opening, freezing is not recommended. The sloe gin can remain safely frozen for an indefinite period, but freezing causes irreversible changes to the alcohol’s overall quality:

  • Dilution from ice crystal formation
  • Muting of the fresh fruit flavors
  • Possible leaks if bottle/cap expands and cracks

Never place a bottle of sloe gin in the freezer to avoid these damaging effects of freezing. And always allow any accidentally frozen sloe gin to completely thaw and regain room temp before opening to prevent leakage.

Signs your sloe gin has gone bad

On very rare occasions, even an unopened bottle of sloe gin can go truly bad and become unsafe rather than just slowly declining in flavor quality. Here are some signs your sloe gin has become contaminated or spoiled:

  • Mold growth inside the bottle
  • Layers or chunks of sediment
  • Strong vinegar-like aroma
  • Cloudiness and curdling
  • Effervescence and bubbling inside bottle

Sloe gin displaying these warning signs should not be consumed. You can help prevent contamination by always promptly refrigerating gin after opening and using clean tools free of bacteria when serving.

Frequently asked questions

Should sloe gin be decanted?

Decanting sloe gin is not required, but can help improve its flavor right before drinking. Exposure to air softens bitter notes mellows out the alcohol bite. Simply pour the sloe gin into a clean glass decanter or pitcher and let sit for 10-30 minutes before serving.

How long does homemade sloe gin last?

Home infused sloe gin has a shorter shelf life compared to commercially distilled options, lasting around 6-8 months after the end of infusion. Refrigeration and proper storage help extend homemade sloe gin’s shelf life after opening.

Can bad sloe gin make you sick?

Sloe gin does not spoil in the traditional sense. However, very improperly made homemade sloe gin could potentially cause illness from contamination. Commercially bottled sloe gin should be shelf stable and not a health risk when expired.

Can sloe gin be used in cooking?

Yes, sloe gin adds vibrant fruit flavor when used to deglaze pans, poach fruit, marinate meats, or enhance desserts. Its sweet yet tart taste works well in savory and sweet applications. Just avoid high heat cooking to prevent burning off the alcohol.

How long can sloe gin be aged before bottling?

Sloe gin makers often cellar sloe gin in wooden barrels for 3 months up to several years before bottling. Longer aging adds woody depth but reduces the berry fruitiness. Most aim for 6-12 months barrel time as optimal for flavor.


With proper storage and care, both opened and unopened sloe gin can remain pleasant tasting well beyond a year past purchase. But it’s best enjoyed within 2-4 months of first opening for peak flavor. Keep an eye out for fading color, lack of fruitiness, bitter off tastes, and sediment build up as signals that your sloe gin is oxidizing and declining in quality. Avoid freezing, sunlight exposure, and heat to get the most longevity out of every bottle of delicious sloe gin.

Leave a Comment