This is the year you finally decide to make proper cocktails at home. Your bar cart is stocked with the best gin and all the ingredients for a negroni, and you're ready to get shakin'.
Guess what? You've already messed up. Because one major ingredient in a negroni is going to spoil quickly if you don't get it in the fridge, stat.
Base spirits like vodka, gin, and whiskey — once you start making cocktails, you'll start using phrases like base spirits too — don't have to be refrigerated, but anything wine-based will oxidize and go rancid at room temperature. If you've ever left a bottle of re-corked wine on the counter for a week, you know the despair of musty-smelling, funky-tasting booze gone bad. And if you're investing in an aperitif like vermouth, you want to make them last for as many cocktails as you can.
We chatted with Meaghan Montagano, the bar director and general manager at NYC's Casa Pública to find out the alcohol that you need to refrigerate — and ways to use it up more quickly. (Hint: it involves more drinking. A hardship.)
There should be an extra step when making a Manhattan: Put the vermouth in the fridge. Oxygen hits the liquid immediately after the bottle is opened. Whether it's dry vermouth (maybe you're making a Fifty-Fifty Martini), sweet red vermouth (for Negronis), or the in between bianco (for a new twist on a Negroni), it needs to go in the fridge. Montagano notes that the sweeter reds will last a little longer, but don't let it go longer than a month. "If you go to a dive bar and there's Martini & Rossi on the bar, you know your Negroni will be trash," she adds. To know if something has gone bad, be sure to taste a sip when you first open the bottle. It should be bright and complex. As it oxidizes, it will be flat and dull, and when it's really bad, it could smell like a wet dog. This rule applies for any wine product.
Sherry and Port
Sherry is tougher to give a time frame on how long it can stay in the fridge, but it should definitely be cold as long as you have it. Montagano suggests buying a smaller bottle, like a 375 ml, to test out how much you'll use it. Fortified wines typically last the longest — Pedro Ximenez, a hearty, sweet dessert Sherry, could go for three months — but some more delicate varieties like Fino could spoil after a week. The same applies to Port, another fortified wine.
Marsala and Madeira
If you have a little Marsala or Madeira wine as an after-dinner drink, tuck it away in the fridge afterward. The good news is that if you use that same Marsala to cook chicken Marsala with later, you'll have a little wiggle room to let it sit for a month or two in the fridge. "The alcohol component is broken down and reduced, so as long as it isn't completely oxidized, cooking with it is probably fine," Montagano explains. The flavor just won't be as bright. The same rule applies to that bottle of white wine sitting in the fridge for a few weeks — use it for clam sauce if it hasn't turned!
Apertifs Like Lillet and Cocchi Americano
French Lillet is a smoother, floral, citrusy aperitif that you can drink on its own or in a Bond-approved Vesper martini, while Italian Cocchi Americano is more bitter and better paired simply with club soda and orange. No matter which you prefer in your Corpse Reviver No. 2 cocktail, they both need to stay in the fridge. Montagano recommends either over ice with a lemon twist. Lillet Rouge (red) will last the longest — up to a month — while the Blanc and Rosé styles will only go for a few weeks. Alternatively, Cocchi Rosa, the red-wine-based aperitif, will last longer than the white varietal.
Spike your eggnog with Baileys or Kahlua, but put it in the fridge. It's probably already there — because who wants to drink warm Baileys?! — but just in case, we need you to know. Montagano recommends trying El Dorado Golden Rum Cream, which is made with aged rum and has a toffee-like flavor.
Now that your fridge is going to be full of aperitifs and fortified wines, don't use them only for cocktails — try a glass on the rocks with a twist of citrus. Low ABV drinks are popular in Europe and ideal for day-drinking. And if you'd rather go big, make a punch or sangria when something is starting to turn.