Spirits in the Freezer and Decanting Wine

By / Magazine / December 16th, 2011 / 3

Should I really put spirits in the freezer?

A better question is: Why would you want to? Assuming you’re not going shot for shot with the Russians over the title to some Siberian oasis there aren’t too many good reasons I can think of for you to want your booze ice-cold.

Most hard liquor is drunk mixed, and a well made cocktail (no matter how simple) is the liquid equivalent of a fine tuned recipe at your favourite resto. If the balance of ingredients and temperature go north or south, what should be an act of brilliance could become an epic fail. A straightforward shaken not stirred martini aside, too cold hooch will only disrupt the subtleties that make a classic cocktail, well, classic.

Sure, any spirit worth its 40 per cent alcohol by volume can stand the strain of the icebox without fear of freezing. That said, while gin and rum gain nothing whatsoever from time in the deep freeze; whisky (no matter how you spell it) can earn a hazy hue when exposed to even the main body of a refrigerator. (Though still fine to drink, they won’t look as pretty in the glass.)

Chilling doesn’t harm pedestrian tequila, and some might argue it would even help the medicine go down when thrown back with a lick of salt and lime. Fine tequila must be treated with the respect it deserves and should never wind up next to your frozen dinners.

Vodka is really the only spirit that can hold its own in the cold. By nature it’s a flavourless libation that, if anything, becomes easier to stomach when it’s über-chilled. Again, I’m talking shots here: too chilly and your cocktail will crap out.

What has to come in from the cold is any spirit under 40 per cent. Flavoured anything (which typically runs around the high 20s) will turn to slush or, if left in hibernation too long, might even explode all over your peas and carrots.

Back to vodka. If, like me, you’re a connoisseur of neutrality your tipple of choice will come with a cork stopper rather than a screw cap. Unless you live in the little house on the prairie your fridge is self-defrosting. While cork is secure enough to keep the liquid from leaking out if you store it on its side, put your overpriced bottle in a modern freezer and the defrosting element will suck out the alcohol past the stopper like water through a straw.

Which styles of wines need to be decanted?

It depends what you want to happen and what wine you’re about to crack. Those in the know claim that at least 85 per cent of all the wine bottles bought are in the recycle bin within 24 hours. So, the majority of red wines on the market today have been designed for immediate drinking — right out of the bottle if you must. White wines are rarely decanted.

That means if you’re a casual wine drinker who buys for the occasion at hand rather than one in the future, the days of needing a decanter, other than to show off in front of the in-laws, are pretty much over. (The only caveat would be if you decide to buy big and drink today. Transferring the wine into another container will soften it up for easier tippling.)

Now, if you have a cellar full of those ageable red wines that are still being produced (and the willpower to leave them alone) you’re going to need to call your decanter into action at some point; primarily to separate the sediment — that’s created as red wines develop in the bottle — from the matured juice.

That’s what most people think of when they hear the term decant: an easy process of holding the neck of a bottle over a candle (that’s why they call it candling folks) or alternative light source (i.e. a flashlight) and transferring the contents into another receptacle; stopping just as you see the sediment start to creep up the vino stream.

Older French (Bordeaux, Burgundy etc.), Italian (Barolo, Chianti etc.), big-boned California Cabs, Aussie Shiraz, and, of course, vintage Ports are all decanter worthy at some point in their long lives.


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on Alliant.net to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

Comments are closed.

North America’s Longest Running Food & Wine Magazine

Get Quench-ed!!!

Champion storytellers & proudly independent for over 50 years. Free Weekly newsletter & full digital access