An uncluttered liquor cabinet in time for New Year’s Eve

With only five days left before New Year’s Eve, many people’s minds are already turning to their next round of celebrations. I’ve already started to think about the holiday — what resolutions will I make, what silly hat will I wear to the party, and what specialty drink will I have?

In the celebratory spirit, I thought it might be appropriate to talk about keeping an uncluttered liquor cabinet. Similar to traditional food pantries and linen closets, most liquor cabinets have a bad habit of things going into them faster than items coming out. Before you know it, you’ll find you have three open bottles of vermouth, two dripping bottles of Rose’s lime juice and another of the grenadine, and five bottles of the exact same type of gin. (Well, at least this is what I found lingering in my liquor cabinet.)

Start by pulling everything out of your liquor cabinet and setting it on your dining table. Group like items together — shakers with shakers, vodka with vodka, etc.

Now, evaluate what you have. Unless you are a serious socialite, you probably don’t need to own three martini shakers or nine bottles of rum. Pull out any excess or expired pieces. (Expired? Remember that vermouth is made with wine, so after a few months lingering open in your cabinet it starts to taste “off.” I haven’t found evidence that it’s actually bad for you, but its flavor is definitely shot by the time it’s been open for a year. Bailey’s can curdle, and some sweet liqueurs will fade.)

Pour down the drain any liquor past its prime. Freecycle or Craigslist extra bar utensils (now is a great time to do this as other people are gearing up for their NYE gatherings). And, start calling your friends throwing end of the year parties to see if they might want to take extra bottles off your hands. Either that or decide to throw a party yourself to work through the extras.

When putting bottles of liquor back in your cabinet, consider these storage tips from the article “What is the Shelf Life of Distilled Spirits?“:

Tips for increasing liquor shelf life:

  • Keep opened bottles sealed tightly. Use the original cap, a replacement cork or the wine corks that also take the air out of the bottle.
  • Never store liquor with speed pourers unless you’re using them, these allow air to get inside the bottle.
  • Avoid exposure to extreme heat or cold. Also, keep your liquor cabinet away from an exterior wall.
  • Avoid bright, direct light.

Similar to how you sorted items on your dining table, return items to your cabinet storing like things with like things. Put shorter bottles in front and taller bottles in back so that you can always see what you’re storing.

Also, check out the fun book Ultimate Guide to Spirits and Cocktails. Have fun starting the new year with an uncluttered liquor cabinet!


Don’t forget! If you’re in the Chicago area, join Erin and some of the Unclutterer staff at The Book Cellar on Monday, December 28, any time between 4:00 and 7:00 p.m.

18 Comments for “An uncluttered liquor cabinet in time for New Year’s Eve”

  1. posted by Bevin on

    Wait… what? People have enough booze left over to necessitate decluttering? 😉

    Seriously though, good advice. I didn’t know that about vermouth!

  2. posted by julia on

    Vermouth…I use only small amounts of it but have never seen a small bottle of vermouth for sale. Too bad; a lot gets wasted when it’s time to throw it out.

  3. posted by Elaine on

    people… have trouble finishing booze? ‘splain please. I don’t understand this concept.

  4. posted by Shana on

    Indeed. Where’s the (slightly tongue-in-cheek) suggestion that you drink the duplicates and old stuff? (I guess it’s only fair for Erin to get a new-mom pass just this once. :))

    Good news is that vermouth is cheap. It’s the higher-priced short-shelf-life stuff that’s problematic….

  5. posted by Kathryn Fenner on

    @Julia– you can enhance a lot of recipes with vermouth–white or red. Think about the kinds of foods that get better with a shot of wine and some herbs….Chicken, fish, pork….Beans (like pintos and navy and black beans) can be made really special with some top quality butter or oil and a shot of vermouth….sauces….

    I was grinning with the notion that one could probably find some appreciative folk on the street instead of pouring spirits down the drain, but that would be wrong….

  6. posted by infmom on

    Just toss ’em all. Why start every new year feeling like the bottom of a birdcage? 🙂

  7. posted by Mama T-Mag on

    @Julia Ask! The owner of my liquor store can get me anything. And his favorite thing is little bottles of everything because they are easier to sell. If you don’t like it your only out a couple bucks. If you like it he’s got or can order a bigger bottle. Ask if small bottles can be ordered.

  8. posted by Elizabeth on

    Ha ha ha! I pre-empted this article by several weeks when for some random reason I decided to go through my collection of bottles sometime around the start of December. Spirits not a problem. Tons of wine and champagne (mostly gifts which I have yet to get through). And for some completely unfathomable reason 6 (!!!) bottles of different types of mulled wine that I seem to have accumulated over the years without noticing. Time does not seem to have destroyed them yet, though.

  9. posted by Elizabeth on

    Oh and quick tip (apologies if you already know this). But if you have opened a bottle of wine and can’t face finishing off what’s left remember that you can freeze it (red or white) in ice cube trays and then use the individual cubes to flavour gravies, sauces, stews etc.

  10. posted by OogieM on

    Store opened cream spirits (Bailey’s and Emmets) in the refrigerator. They last a longer time that way.

  11. posted by kate on

    @ Elizabeth….Thank you for that tip about freezing wine in ice cube trays. I had no idea…and I just keep it around forever until it turns into vinegar and I eventually pitch it.

  12. posted by c on

    Another great way to combat liquor cabinet clutter is to create or choose a “signature cocktail” or two for your party; you can even print up a cocktail menu with two or three items. It means someone might have to play bartender, but it also means far less waste, and a swankier environment.

    Plus, if you plan wisely, you can use up what you have an excess of, control what new bottles your bring into your home —or both!!

  13. posted by Jackie Pettus on

    The Bailey’s label says to store it at 41-77 degrees F, but since it has cream in it I keep it in the refrigerator after opening. On the other hand, maybe I ought to toss it. I think it’s the same bottle I’ve had since 1980!

  14. posted by Onepot on

    Um, no. There’s healthy traffic in AND out of our booze cabinet; none of that things-going-in “faster than items coming out.” So, as an uncluttering strategy for the new year for anyone who struggles with this issue, may I recommend drinking more.

  15. posted by Kay Okay on

    Great reminder – thank you! I don’t drink so it’s always what friends have brought over in there, and I really should have it cleaned up and know what is in there before my next gathering.

    I have full unopened bottles (that were gifts) that I think are fine to bring as hostess gifts to upcoming hostesses who I believe will appreciate them. Your comment about expiry is really important. Before I re-gift any, I will double check ageing details so I don’t bring anyone some vinegar!

  16. posted by Nat on

    I’ve been told by a Glenfiddich rep and on a separate occasion by a maker of brandy that the hard stuff like scotch, vodka, rum, etc. doesn’t go bad because of conditions or age like wine. It does help to keep it sealed if it has been opened, probably to keep the flavor from being wasted on the air. In fact, on Christmas, we had some 30 year old blended scotch that was sitting around dear late Grandpa’s (died in 1987) attic that tasted just fine.

    Re: vermouth–try cooking fish with it or maybe wherever you need to cook with white wine. It helps take out the too fishy taste.

  17. posted by chacha1 on

    Our biggest problem is with clear liquors that are stored in the freezer. They’re best, we think, when very cold; but we very rarely want a very cold drink! So here we are with gin, vodka, and cheap tequila cluttering up the bottom bin of the freezer.

    Guess we should follow Onepot’s advice and drink more (liquor)! Usually it’s just a glass of wine with dinner. But clearly, we are shirking our decluttering responsibilities.

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