There are still questions to be answered about alcohol, such as, “Does tequila bring me down or jazz me up,” and “Can sticking to one type of drink help prevent me from getting sick?”
Then there’s the old perennial, “Can alcohol actually go bad?”
How safe is it to keep fruit in alcohol if alcohol can go bad? And even when appropriately stored, how long is it safe to keep?
How long can you keep fruit in alcohol?
Kept in alcohol, fruit can keep for between three and four weeks in a dark cupboard. Every few days, gently shake the container to keep the contents activated. After about a month, move the container into a fridge that will keep for approximately another three months. In all, reckon on safely keeping fruit in alcohol for about four months.
Does alcohol go bad?
It’s hard to believe that alcohol should go bad, especially as alcohol tends to get more expensive as it ages. People even have a tendency to compare fine wines to anything that gets better with age.
The general impression folks have is that alcohol won’t go bad, meaning that alcohol won’t make people sick due to bacteria.
That’s correct because ethanol destroys bacteria, so rubbing alcohol is a useful tool for fighting infections in cuts and wounds.
The way that alcohol can go bad is that the drink it’s in can taste terrible and can make you feel awful.
Alcoholic drinks can smell pretty terrible, too, such as some fermented West African drinks, which, frankly, smell indistinguishable from poo!
An alcoholic drink’s shelf-life hinges on what type it is. Craft beer, vodka, whiskey, and rum are made differently, and each reacts to oxygen, temperature, and light differently.
How to keep fruit in alcohol
Bit by bit, without not even noticing, I became a little paranoid about bottling and canning stuff.
I heard all these horror stories about people who had contracted botulism, a horrible illness that I didn’t know could be fatal.
Furthermore, keeping fruit in alcohol sounds wonderful, but there is the small matter of being aware of proper methods to protect the investment in money, time, and energy.
It’s no good going through hours of preparation only to find that something has gone wrong and the infusion is worthless.
Once I came across Rumtopf (rum-in-pot), a German method for preserving fruits in beers and liquors, I was sold.
Rumtopf preserves fruit in alcohol for longer than other methods. I can make Rumtopf infusions in spring and drink them quite happily the following winter.
The Rumtopf method involves layering fruits, sugar, and alcohol until all is covered.
There are no difficult recipes to follow, no weird and wonderful timing calculations, no need to worry about acids, spoilage, lids, or–most importantly to me–botulism.
Essentially, this is the Rumtopf method:
- Assemble the list of items to use
- Add layers of sugar, fruit, and alcohol and keep going, layer-by-layer, until the container is full. I use one part sugar, two parts fruit, and three or four cups of alcohol.
- With this method, the intermingling of fruit, sugar, and alcohol takes time, even as long as six months. So, as with all alcohol-fruit infusions, I store the container in a dark, cool place and… wait.
- Eat, drink, and make merry when the time comes.
Stuff I use for adding fruit to alcohol (Rumtopf method)
These are the items I use when bottling fruit into alcohol:
- Booze. Some folks use rum, but I prefer virtually anything else, especially vodka. Any range of alcoholic content is suitable, from 5% in beers to serious liquors in the 50-75% range.
What I end up using depends on how adventurous I feel and what previous experience has taught me.
I try to be experimental, always looking for the next huge success, because I don’t want to get stuck in a rut. That said, I have my specialties at which I am really good, such as my strawberries in vodka delight.
- Bowl. A nearby bowl is especially handy for chucking away discarded stems from leaves, pits, skins, and other items.
- Fruit. I find that most fruits keep very well in alcohol. My favorite is strawberries, but I also like apricots, peaches, mulberries, and plums.
However, some fruits are hard to work with, like mushy fruit like bananas. Watery ones like watermelon are also indifferent in strong liquors, but they can be splendid in beers.
- Knife. A razor-sharp paring knife is a must. It is important to deskin the fruit with as little damage to its flesh as possible.
- Boiling water in a pot. I use a pot of boiled water to soften the skins of apricots and peaches.
The quantity of water is just enough to cover the skins but not enough to need boiling down for a long time; otherwise, whatever flavors in the skins will be lost. Learning how to soften skin this way is a bit of an art, but it comes with practice.
- Sugar. I have found that there is zero advantage to using higher quality, expensive, or even worse, artificial sugars.
Nowadays, I stick like glue to regular sugar for all my bottling and canning.
When asked, I reply that people who suffer from any sugar allergies shouldn’t be eating fruit in the first place and that, unfortunately, my alcohol-fruit infusions aren’t suitable for them.
Container. I use non-porous containers like mason jars and ceramic crocks. If they are large enough, I even use ordinary jars that had once held foods like peanut butter, conserves, or jams.
My usual process is to clean the jar or container thoroughly, often putting reused ones through several cycles of washing and rinsing. (The worst thing that can happen is for a bottle of fruit-infused alcohol to be left with a lingering after-taste of soap.)
After washing, rinsing, and drying the container, I pour boiling water into it and let it stand for three or four minutes. I repeat this process a couple of times and then cap the container.
At this point, I consider that the container is clean and sterilized. I always try to use the container as soon as possible, so I don’t have to sterilize it again.
Frequently Asked Questions About How Long You Can Keep Fruit in Alcohol
What fruits soak best in alcohol?
Frozen beer-soaked watermelon, frosting-covered strawberries in champagne, strawberries in vodka, and cherries in bourbon.
Does alcohol give fruit a stronger flavor?
Alcohol does not give fruit a stronger flavor. However, the more fruit is in the solution, the stronger the flavor of the fruit, which some people mistake for being stronger flavored fruit.
Afterword: How long can you keep fruit in alcohol?
It seems counterintuitive to believe that alcohol should go bad, especially since alcohol tends to get more expensive as it ages.
Yet, both alcohol and alcohol-infused fruit can go “off”. When refrigerated, fruit will keep in alcohol for about three months.
Daniel Iseli (Head Chef)
Hi, my name is Daniel and I am passionate about cooking. I have been cooking for the past 20 years and am happy to share my best recipes and cooking-related knowledge with you.