We’ve all been in that position when we’ve found a bottle of alcohol hidden in the depths of your kitchen cupboards, and you’re wondering whether it is safe to drink. In the instance of this bottle being moonshine, there doesn’t seem to be a universal time limit for the illegal drink.
Although different sources will say different things, the answer for whether moonshine can go bad or not is clear – a bottle of unflavored moonshine, much like other plain spirits, has an indefinite shelf life. A flavored bottle of moonshine is likely to have a shorter shelf life, however.
If you’re wanting to make sure you can safely drink the bottle of moonshine that has been lingering in the back of a cupboard for who knows how long, here is everything you need to know about moonshine!
What is the shelf life of moonshine?
The majority of moonshines have an indefinite shelf life, so in most cases, you don’t have to worry about the quality of the moonshine or any potential health risks if you find an unopened bottle of moonshine that’s been in your cupboard for ages.
If the bottle of moonshine had been opened, however, the shelf life is shortened to 6 months.
The reason why an unopened bottle of moonshine can last for so long is because of the distillation process. Unlike a lot of alcohols, moonshine is distilled with zero sugars, which means that the liquid cannot spoil. Anything that contains sugar has a limited shelf life, which is why moonshine with added flavors (or any other flavored spirits for that matter) can go bad if left on the shelf for too long.
However, keep in mind that not all moonshines are processed and distilled in the same way. The making of moonshine is a controversial and complicated process due to the illegalities of the drink, so unless you have made the moonshine yourself, odds are you could be drinking a moonshine that isn’t 100% pure.
Commercial moonshine is usually flavored with added sugars, which contributes to a shortened life span. Unopened, these moonshines are said to last years, but for the sake of safety and quality of the drink, it is recommended to drink them quickly.
Signs of when a moonshine goes bad
If you’re worried that your opened (or unopened) bottle of moonshine has gone bad, here are the warning signs to look out for.
The biggest sign that indicates your moonshine has gone bad is the taste. It won’t do you any harm to open the bottle of moonshine and have a sip. You will know if it’s off, because the taste will be foul. Taking a sip of moonshine to check if it’s gone bad should only be safe if the moonshine has been stored, sealed, and distilled properly.
Keep in mind that if the moonshine had been stored without a lid, and therefore exposed to oxygen, this will affect the taste of the moonshine but won’t necessarily mean it’s gone bad.
However, if you notice the color of the texture of the moonshine looks different to normal, do not proceed to drink it. If in doubt, make sure to complete the spoon test. The spoon test works like this: pour some moonshine into the spoon and set it alight.
A blue flame will indicate the moonshine is safe to drink, while a red or yellow flame indicates that the moonshine contains lead, which means it cannot be consumed.
Is it dangerous to drink bad moonshine?
There’s a reason why moonshine is illegal – the distillation process of making moonshine can be easily tainted by deadly metal particles. Even if moonshine has an indefinite shelf life, there’s no telling if a particular bottle will be deadly or not.
If you’re new to moonshine, there are two chemicals to be aware of: methanol and ethanol.
Methanol is a colorless alcoholic substance that is the simplest alcohol in the world. Even in the smallest of doses, methanol can be extremely dangerous and potentially even deadly when mixed with ethanol.
Ethanol, on the other hand, is a simple alcohol that is safe to drink in small amounts. If you drink too much ethanol quickly, this can be dangerous, leading to stomach pumps as an example. This is why ethanol must be consumed in small amounts, such as with a mixer or as a shot.
In a good batch of moonshine, there should be no traces of methanol. In a bad batch of moonshine, there will be traces of methanol, rendering the safe ethanol poisonous.
What does methanol do?
When consumed, methanol breaks down into formaldehyde, formate, and formic acid. In the simplest of explanations, methanol can cause permanent blindness as it targets the optic nerve. This mostly happens when it is consumed, but it can also occur during the distillation process.
In the worst cases, methanol can be deadly. This is because it is difficult to tell whether a liquid contains methanol or not, because methanol has no flavoring.
The risk of methanol in moonshine is the reason why it is illegal. If you are to buy a bottle of moonshine, it must be purchased by a reputable and respected dealer who has followed the distillation process correctly.
How to store moonshine
As with any spirit, it’s not safe to drink an entire bottle of moonshine by yourself, which is why you need to know how to store it properly to drink it safely later.
If you’re wondering whether moonshine must be refrigerated, there is no wrong answer to this. Some people like to refrigerate their moonshine to keep the alcohol cool and away from sunlight, but there is no evidence that proves that unrefrigerated moonshine is bad for you.
However, this only applies to pure moonshine, as an opened bottle of flavored moonshine will need to be refrigerated to extend its shelf life. This is because the coolness of the refrigerator slows down the oxidation process, which slows down the spoiling of the sugars within the flavored moonshine.
Keep in mind that this only applies to opened bottles of flavored moonshine, as an unopened bottle of flavored moonshine can last for years regardless of whether it is in a refrigerator or not.
In terms of what to store moonshine in, it doesn’t matter if you store it in plastic or glass. Moonshine won’t burn through plastic unless an open flame is nearby. For long-term storage, however, stick to a glass container.
It’s always best to keep moonshine away from direct sunlight. This is because the UV rays will penetrate through the container (whether it’s plastic or glass), which will essentially “cook” the moonshine and shorten its shelf life considerably. This is why people usually keep their moonshine in the back of a dark, cool cupboard.
What about moonshine in the heat?
So, we’ve explained why moonshine cannot be exposed to direct sunlight. But what about heat?
As long as the moonshine has been proofed, sealed, and stored properly, it shouldn’t matter the temperature of the storage space it resides in.
It won’t go bad in the traditional sense, instead, the flavor of the moonshine will be affected. This is because the heat will separate the chemicals inside moonshine to make a new configuration, resulting in a change of flavor.
This won’t be a problem for those who don’t care about the taste of moonshine. For those who do, however, you will need to store the moonshine in a cool and dark setting. A wine cellar or cool basement is best for this.
Can I freeze moonshine?
So, we know that moonshine changes flavor in the heat, but what about the cold?
Moonshine has a high ABV content of around 40%, which means that it requires a very, very cold place to properly freeze. A regular freezer probably won’t do the trick, as moonshine requires a temperature of -235 °F to freeze completely.
Even when it does freeze, it’s more likely that the water content in the moonshine will freeze way before the alcohol does, which will only result in a stronger moonshine with a higher ABV content.
Can flavored moonshine go bad?
While pure moonshine has an indefinite shelf life, flavored moonshines have a much shorter shelf life. Pure moonshine, like other pure spirits, is distilled for so long that it contains 0% of sugar concentration, so it won’t spoil.
Flavored moonshine, on the other hand, relies on sugar for the flavoring, which means it will spoil eventually. This sugar content can come from either artificial sweeteners or the sugar from fruit.
What about moonshine mixed with fruit?
Moonshine mixed with fruit will have a considerably shorter shelf life than pure moonshine. If unopened and stored correctly, it can last several years. If opened, the shelf life is shortened to around 3-6 months in the refrigerator. People often forget about the sugar content in fruit, which is only heightened during the distillation process.
The reason why moonshine mixed with fruit goes bad quickly is because of evaporation. Once the container or bottle has been opened (or if it has been restored), the exposure to air will cause the alcohol to gradually evaporate. This can take a while, but the results will be obvious over a few years, where the contents will just disappear.
The evaporation process will only be sped up if the flavored moonshine is exposed to heat and light, which will work to lower the alcohol content and weaken the taste.
Exposure to air also leads to oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that changes the atomic makeup of moonshine, which causes flavored moonshine to taste sour. It will also shorten its shelf life.
So, there you have it. If you have stored your bottle of pure moonshine correctly and purchased it from a reputable dealer, the shelf life of the alcohol is indefinite.
If you store your flavored moonshine in the same way, the shelf life is around 2-3 years. Once opened, the flavored moonshine’s shelf life is shortened to around 3-6 months due to the sugar content and exposure to air.
The world of moonshine is a fickle and complicated one. As it can be difficult to tell whether a bottle of moonshine is bad or not, some people will risk their health to see whether the alcohol is safe to drink.
The importance of buying and consuming moonshine from a reputable dealer cannot be understated. Moonshine must be distilled, sealed, proofed, and stored properly to prevent the risk of the moonshine going bad. Even worse, it’s difficult to find out whether the moonshine contains methanol or not, which causes blindness or even death.
There are plenty of risks to take when consuming moonshine. Just make sure to follow the strict rules of saving open and unopened containers of moonshine!