Many people keep vodka in the freezer. This makes the vodka nice and cold, but does not freeze it. Does vodka freeze? Is storing it in the freezer a good idea? Here are the answers to the questions.
Does Vodka Freeze?
Vodka does not freeze in a home freezer. The reason is its high alcohol content. In most countries, vodka is 40% alcohol, 60% water, with traces of flavoring or impurities. The European Union specifies vodka be at least 37.5% alcohol, while the U.S. permits a certain amount of sugar and citric acid in the spirit. In all cases, the alcohol, sugar, citric acid, and flavorings (if applicable) all contribute to the phenomenon called freezing point depression.
In vodka, freezing point depression lowers the freezing point of the liquid below the freezing point of the pure solvent (water). Basically, the alcohol and other molecules get in the way of water molecules, keeping them from forming ice as easily.
Freezing Point of Vodka
If it gets cold enough, vodka does freeze. Its freezing point is -16 °F or -26.7 °C. This is quite a bit warmer than the freezing point of pure ethanol (−173 °F or -114 °C), but lower than the freezing point of water (32 °F or 0 °C). Meanwhile, the average home freezer is around 0° F (-18° C). This is plenty cold enough to freeze beer or wine, but not cold enough to freeze vodka or comparable spirits, like tequila, gin, rum.
How to Freeze Vodka
If you can’t put vodka in the freezer to freeze it, how do you do it? There are three easy ways of getting vodka cold enough to solidify:
- Store vodka outside when it’s really cold (below -16 °F or -26.7 °C).
- Add dry ice to the vodka. Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide at a temperature of −109.2 °F (−78.5 °C). The solid carbon dioxide undergoes sublimation into carbon dioxide gas. This carbonates the vodka, gives it an acidic flavor, and also chills it so much that contact causes frostbite.
- Pour liquid nitrogen over vodka. Liquid nitrogen is −320 °F (−195.79 °C). It boils off, leaving solid vodka. Note this is cold enough that it causes immediate frostbite.
The bottom line is you can freeze vodka, but the solid spirit is too cold to handle, much less taste.
Is It Okay to Freeze Vodka?
So, is it okay to keep vodka in the freezer? Is it alright if you actually freeze it?
Storing vodka in the freezer is a great method of chilling it since most people drink vodka “neat” or without ice. That being said, over-chilling the spirit is not recommended because it affects the flavor and texture. Ideally, drink vodka at a temperature between 32 to 39 °F (0 and 4 °C). This is at or slightly above the freezing point of water. When it gets very cold, vodka thickens. Also, the aroma and flavor become less complex because the volatile compounds don’t have sufficient energy to get into the air as much. If you’re drinking cheap vodka that tastes medicinal, this can be a bonus. But, if you splurged on a great bottle of vodka, store and serve it at the proper temperature for an optimal experience.
Actually freezing vodka won’t hurt the spirit, but the liquid expands as it freezes. Potentially, this expansion can rupture the container. But, if you somehow make vodka ice cubes, the only real danger is frostbite. Let vodka thaw before consumption.
Freezing to Enrich Vodka Alcohol Content
One situation when freezing vodka is useful is “freeze distillation”. You pour vodka into a bowl or other open container, place it in the freezer, and chill it. Once the vodka is cold, add one or more ice cubes. The ice cubes act as seed crystals for growing more ice. This attracts free water from the vodka and crystallizes it out as ice. The result is a spirit with a higher alcohol content. Freeze distillation works best with (really bad) vodka that starts out lower than 40 proof.
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