What Is the Freezing Point of Alcohol?

Is Your Beer, Wine, and Liquor Safe in the Freezer?

illustration showing freezing temperatures of various types of alcohol

The Spruce / Bailey Mariner

Can you store liquor in the freezer? Is your beer safe outside on a cold winter night? These are common questions, and the answer depends on the beverage's alcohol content. In general, liquor will not freeze though beer and wine will, though it's not always guaranteed.

What Is the Freezing Point of Alcohol?

Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (zero degrees Celsius), and the freezing point of pure ethanol alcohol is -173 degrees Fahrenheit (-114 degrees Celsius). Alcoholic beverages are a mixture of both alcohol and water (in some cases, sugars and other additives), which puts the freezing point of your alcoholic beverages somewhere in between the two liquids.

The exact freezing point of any beer, liquor, or wine is dependent on its alcohol by volume (ABV, or proof):

  • The lower the alcohol content, the warmer the freezing point and the quicker it will freeze.
  • The higher the alcohol content, the colder the freezing point and the longer it can stay in the freezer.
The Freezing Temperatures of Alcohol
Type ABV Freezing Point Notes and Examples
Beer 3% to 12% 28 F (-2 C) Not recommended for the freezer beyond a quick chill.
Wine 8% to 14% 23 F (-5 C) More than an hour or two in the freezer and you are putting the wine at risk.
40-Proof Liquor 20% 22 F (-7 C) Includes many low-proof liqueurs like Irish cream. If left in a really cold freezer too long, these may get slushy (it's rare) and permanently change the texture.
64-Proof Liquor 32% -10 F (-23 C) A liqueur like amaretto and a flavored whiskey like Fireball fall in this range. These should be OK in the freezer.
80-Proof Liquor 40% -17 F (-27 C) Includes most standard base liquors like gin, vodka, whiskey, etc. You're clear for the freezer!

Note: These freezing points are not exact, particularly with the beer and wine. A small variation in the alcohol content will not make a big difference, but if it's close, the chances of freezing are high. Use the temperatures as a general guideline, and don't push the limits.

Best Alcohol to Freeze

The temperature of the average home freezer that's attached to a refrigerator is zero degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius). This is cold enough to freeze your food and ice but not cold enough to freeze the average bottle of 80-proof liquor. A chest freezer can become much colder: There is a chance that 80-proof liquor will freeze, though 100-proof liquor will likely not.

Why Is Vodka Often Frozen But Whiskey Isn't?

Whiskeys and other barrel-aged spirits are rarely stored cold because the volatiles that give them complex flavors are most noticeable at warmer temperatures. Vodka, on the other hand, is a very clean spirit and has fewer volatiles, so it can actually taste better when very cold. Experts say that the optimum temperature for premium vodka is around 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Going lower than that with cheaper vodkas can produce a smoother drink and reduce some of the burn.

Alcohol You Shouldn't Freeze

Beer and wine have significantly less alcohol than liquors, and they will freeze. Placing a warm beer or white wine in the freezer for a quick chill can bring it down to drinking temperature quickly. Just don't forget it in there!

While the entire contents of the bottle will not freeze right away, the water will. This creates a slush out of your beverage and can ruin the flavor. Frozen wine, for instance, may be best reserved for cooking rather than drinking.

More importantly, beer and wine are bottled under pressure to maintain freshness and/or carbonation, and water expands as it freezes. When left in the freezer too long, corks and caps may bulge or burst, the glass could crack, and aluminum cans will explode. This creates a nasty mess that will require deep cleaning your freezer.

Tip

To chill glass bottles of beer, wine, or soda faster, wrap the bottle in a wet paper towel and place it in the coldest part of the freezer. Within a few minutes (10 minutes for wine), you will have an ice-cold drink without the slush.

Storing Alcohol Outside in the Winter

If you live in a cold climate, you have done it... Guests bring beer and wine to a winter party, but there's no room left in the fridge. However, there is a snowbank outside, and it is a giant cooler, right?

This is the perfect scenario for keeping your drinks cold, and it works fine for the few hours that the average party lasts. You just need to keep an eye on beer so it doesn't go to slush, and remember to bring the drinks inside before the temperature really drops for the night. If you forget, you could end up with a giant beer slushy instead of a snowbank, and that's just a waste of good beer.

Don't Leave Drinks in the Car

When you are rushing around—particularly during the holidays—it can be really easy to forget about that great bottle of wine or the extra six-pack you stashed in the trunk. You may return in the morning to a big mess if the temperature gets too low overnight. When you compare the temperature chart above with the low temperatures possible in winter, you know that even your 80-proof whiskey is in danger at times.

On the coldest nights of the year, place your liquor, beer, and wine in a place where you will notice them when getting out of the car. The same goes for soda, which can burst even faster than alcohol (soda's freezing point is around 30 degrees Fahrenheit). Cleaning a frozen, sticky car in the middle of a snowstorm is not fun.

The Key to Spiked Frozen Desserts

If alcohol doesn't freeze well, how do frozen treats spiked with liquor work? The answer is quite simple: balance. In these, it's more about the flavor than the alcohol's effects.

To make booze-filled goodies like poptails, spiked granitas, and ice creams, you need to keep the amount of alcohol low. Too much liquor—particularly anything over 40 proof—and it will not freeze.

  • With ice pops, it is best to keep the mixer to alcohol ratio at 4-to-1 or lower. The same is true when freezing spiked granitas (Italian ice).
  • In the case of fruit sorbets, a solidly frozen dessert is not the goal. Sorbets are best when soft and creamy, and liqueurs are often used to keep them from freezing completely.
  • When you want to make spiked ice cream, the general rule is to use 1/4 cup of 80-proof liquor per 1 1/2 quarts of ice cream.