Posted on November 19th, 2021
At its core, cleaning a liquor cabinet is all about critically analyzing your collection of bottles and cans and deciding what stays and what goes. It’s about getting rid of all the old stuff and half-filled bottles you’ll never touch again and deciding what you’re going to buy to replace them.
When you think about it this way, it is easy to imagine that all you’ll be doing is removing open bottles from your collection and replacing them with new ones. This couldn’t be further from the truth, because in most cases, you may actually be able to keep what’s in the bottle even if it is open.
In this guide, we’re going to take a closer look at how to properly clean your liquor cabinet, allowing you to reduce waste in your home and upgrade your bottle collection in the process.
Step 1: Taking care of the basics
There are a few basic tasks that you need to take care of as you start cleaning your liquor cabinet. Let’s get started!
Dust, dust, dust
This is as simple as it sounds; take an old piece of cloth and dust that cabinet. Dust the bottles, under them, and around them. If you haven’t cleaned your liquor cabinet in a while, there’ll likely be quite a lot of dust buildup. This should take care of that.
Wipe everything down
Wipe down your entire collection, bottle by bottle. Use a slightly moist microfiber cloth. Remember, just moist will do, not too wet or soapy.
Get rid of what you don’t need
As you dust and wipe everything down, look at each bottle critically. How old is that bottle? Did you even remember you have it? Are you going to drink it any time soon? Generally, if you haven’t touched it for more than a year, you probably never will. If you have been neglecting that bottle for a while now, it is best to put it out of its misery by either giving it away or throwing it out.
Protect your collection
For the longevity of your collection, your liquor cabinet should keep bottles, not an assortment of random items. If your cabinet is full of hoarded items, consider giving that area of the house a good declutter. Ideally, your liquor cabinet should be an actual cabinet in a cool area of your house, away from direct sunlight and drastic temperature changes. If this sounds like what you already have, you do not need to do anything else.
However if your liquor cabinet is in an area where there is light or where the temperature fluctuates frequently, you may want to move it somewhere else. Keeping bottles cool and dry, with no direct sunlight exposure is the key to helping them keep for a long time. Temperature fluctuation and sunlight are liquor’s worst enemies. They alter the color and taste of the liquid, reducing the shelf life of that precious bottle you spent so much money on.
Step 2: Restock as needed
After cleaning and relocating your liquor cabinet, as well as throwing out what you don’t need, the last thing you need to do is restock your essentials. Grab your favorite mixers, spirits, tools, and even the right glassware. After this step, you will have successfully cleaned and revitalized your liquor cabinet!
How should I know what to keep and what to get rid of?
If you haven’t opened the bottles, you can keep spirits for years. Any bottle that you have not opened and have always kept out of direct sunlight should be good to keep for decades. This is great news for long-time collectors, but if you are a casual drinker, ask yourself why haven’t you opened that bottle in all those years?
If the bottle is open, oxidation will have started to take place. The less booze there is in the bottle, the more oxygen content it has, and the faster oxidation will take place. Evaporation will also occur, albeit more slowly. Any bottle that you neglect for several months will degrade significantly.
If you want to save a bottle, first sample it to make sure it still tastes good. Then transfer it to a smaller bottle and seal it tightly.
- Look for a cloudy/milky quality to the liquid as this is the most indicative of spoilage. If a bottle is closed tightly and does not look milky, you can keep it indefinitely. Be on the lookout for any sugar crystalization, though, as this could attract fruit flies.
- If the bottle is opened, but still not milky, you can keep it for up to a year. More than that and you are probably never going to drink it anyway, so your best bet is to get rid of it.
- Remember to look for the milky quality. If you have an unopened bottle that is starting to look cloudy, check the expiration date. Get rid of it if that time has passed.
- For any opened bottles that look milky, make sure to ditch those within 6 to 8 months. Be sure to keep them refrigerated the entire time if you don’t want to risk a bout with food poisoning!
Bitters typically have very high alcohol content. They are also key ingredients in most cocktails and can last for a very long time. So whether you want to keep them or replace them, you are safe to proceed as you please.
The most important thing when it comes to beer is how you store it. Most beers will expire within 6 to 8 months on the shelf. They can last up to 2 years if refrigerated. If you open a beer and you can’t hear that ‘psst’ sound, it’s likely going bad. Taste one or two beers to find out if they are OK. If they aren’t, either pour them out or give them away. Any bottle that you don’t really plan on drinking by yourself can make the perfect drinks to put out at your next house party!
Not all wines age well. Wines with good aging properties have a good structure. Some of the best ones are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Riesling. If you have not bought a bottle of wine for its aging properties, drink it sooner rather than later.
If the bottle is open, or if you taste it and find that it has gone a little off, take it to your kitchen and use it for cooking or turn it into red wine vinegar.
They say liquor lasts forever, but as you can see, this is not always the case. Cleaning your liquor cabinet provides the opportunity to elevate the quality of your collection. Plus, it is the perfect way to discover what you really like, and what you were just keeping around for no reason. This exercise will help you reflect on who you really are, and make your collection a closer reflection of your personality!