Sooner or later, the experienced barman asks the question, “Can liquor be frozen and safely stored in a freezer?”
The answer depends on what kind of freezer is available and what type of liquor is to be frozen.
Liquor is not that easy to freeze even when all the stars align, and the answer is an unequivocal “Yes, this bottle of this particular liquor can be frozen.”
The end result is still not guaranteed to be perfect.
In this article, I discuss the particular case of vermouth and whether or not vermouth can be frozen.
Can you freeze vermouth?
You can freeze vermouth, this is correct. Most people should be able to freeze vermouth in their freezers. If vermouth doesn’t freeze, this is typically because the freezer’s temperature isn’t low enough to freeze the vermouth solid. Vermouth will chill and get slushy–that’s easy–but it won’t freeze solid until below its freezing point. Furthermore, because sugar lowers that freezing point, the sweeter the vermouth, the lower its freezing point. The quickest and most straightforward way to freeze vermouth is to use liquid nitrogen.
Background information on freezing vermouth
Water freezes at 32°F. Pure ethanol (the type of alcohol in vermouth) freezes at -173°F.
So it is reasonable to assume that vermouth will freeze somewhere between the temperatures of 32°F and -173°F.
For example, a Noilly Prat French vermouth bottle has an alcohol content of around 18% alcohol by volume and therefore freezes between 19°F and 21°F.
Most freezers can go as low as 0.4°F.
However, even though the average freezer is cold enough to freeze vermouth, I certainly do not recommend leaving an ice tray of vermouth in your freezer.
The problem is, vermouth (and other liquids, too) can taste peculiar when left exposed in a freezer.
Most people cannot notice their freezer’s smell because cold air degrades the human sense of smell.
Yet, even though the average person cannot perceive the freezer’s odors, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
It certainly doesn’t mean the smell and taste of exposed vermouth won’t be affected.
By the way, it won’t do to simply freeze vermouth in its bottle because frozen vermouth expands.
Vermouth expands–a lot–far more than its container’s ability to accommodate the expansion.
The result of leaving bottles of vermouth in the freezer unopened is shattered bottles of vermouth.
The secret here is to decant (or drink) about a fifth of the bottle before freezing it.
Alternatively, freeze the vermouth in an ice tray until the surfaces of the cubes have frozen.
Afterward, transfer the entire tray into a large-enough Ziploc bag for a couple of days until the vermouth is frozen solid.
Unfortunately, freezing doesn’t completely stop the vermouth from oxidizing.
Exposed vermouth oxidizes, which alters its delicate flavor.
Since ice cubes have a large surface area, use a vacuum sealer to reduce exposure.
Without a vacuum sealer, it would be necessary to accept a low-oxygen environment in a sealed Ziploc bag to achieve similar results.
To prevent the cubes from melting, first decant the cubes of vermouth into a Ziploc and slowly lower the bag into the water as close to freezing as possible.
As more and more of the bag goes under the water, continually squeeze the air out of it.
Keep pushing more of the bag under the water and getting rid of more air until only the zip is exposed.
Zip up the bag slowly, pushing the remaining air towards the open corner until the Ziplock bag is completely sealed.
Now, the vermouth cubes are in a relatively low-oxygen environment that will at least help slow down its further deterioration.
Even if successful, there’s a problem using frozen vermouth
Vermouth is, of course, one of the supreme mixers in the cocktail world.
Because it is likely to be used in a mixture, keeping it out of the freezer is better.
One reason is that the ingredients in a drink should never be the same temperature as the ice in that drink.
If this is not the case, the ice will not melt as fast as it should, and there will be less water in the drink than expected.
Without even realizing it, experienced cocktail makers actually know instinctively how much dilution is desirable in all their favorite recipes.
Also, chilling can dull the taste and aromas of a mixer.
Vermouth’s role is to be aromatic in cocktails. I normally keep my vermouth in the fridge, and it normally tastes just great.
I’ve found that vermouth keeps for about a fortnight in the fridge. (Although, to be fair, it doesn’t always make it through to the end of the run, if you know what I mean.)
Not everyone is a boozehound, so if vermouth bottles tend to stick around until their contents go stale due to lack of consumption, try buying smaller bottles.
Another option is to experiment with new cocktail mixtures. I am quite partial to sweet vermouth and diet tonic water–first, fill a third of a tall glass with the sweet vermouth, then pour in the chilled diet tonic all the way to the top.
Another popular cocktail is high-quality vermouth on the rocks, mixed with carbonated water and a slice of lemon or orange peel.
Honestly, it doesn’t do much for me, but a surprising number of women seem to find the drink delicious.
Do home freezers freeze alcohol easily?
The average temperature of a home freezer attached to a fridge is 0.4°F.
This temperature is sufficient to freeze food and ice but not enough to freeze an average 80-proof bottle of liquor.
Chest freezers can achieve much lower temperatures, and 80% liquor may freeze, but 100% alcohol is extremely unlikely to.
Frequently Asked Questions About Can You Freeze Vermouth
Why is vermouth frozen more often than whiskey?
Barrel-aged spirits, whiskeys, beer, ales, and ciders should not be stored below room temperature. The volatiles that gives them complex flavor is more noticeable at higher temperatures. On the other hand, vermouth is a pure spirit with fewer volatiles, so it can taste better if stored frozen.
Is freezing vermouth into ice cubes possible?
sitting exposed in the freezer, vermouth ice cubes are not as tasty or welcome in a cocktail as they sound. Rather than ice cubes, it is far better to freeze vermouth into slush and use it as a slushy ingredient.
Afterword: Can you freeze vermouth?
I have successfully frozen vermouth bottles in the past without any fuss or bother.
At first, I used to let vermouth thaw out naturally.
However, one day, my impatience boiled over, and I discovered that I could give the bottle a good shake when it was only partially thawed.
This gave me slushy vermouth, making a fantastic and imaginative addition to many cocktails after that.